Building Relationships

“There is no beauty in domination. Control is a cheap substitute for partnership.”  

Anna Blake

 Relationships matter!  We have shared before some principles taught in an equine coaching program that offer solid wisdom for our human connections.  In a relationship:

  • If it’s not good for both, it’s not good for either.
  • A healthy relationship is a safe place…even for ignoring or resisting.
  • Asking clearly aids in building communication–and ultimately connection.
  • When you are being ignored, gently increase the pressure until you are heard.
  • When you are resisted, quietly stand your ground.

Practicing those theories is HARD WORK.  It requires self-awareness and self-restraint.  The first is our job; the latter is a fruit of the Spirit!

My horse, Gretchen is a good instructor for someone like me who doesn’t like to push people; she ignores me really well.  She’s not rebellious or even ‘resisting’–she simply does her own thing.  Allowing her to stay in her isolated state is unhealthy for her–and creates a potentially dangerous situation for both of us.  So, I have been investing time in our relationship.  Learning what to ask and how to ask with firm gentleness is part of my curriculum.  As we work, my conviction for the potential of learning relationship skills with animals grows:

Our world is full of unhealthy, broken relationships.  Failing to connect with God has eternal ramifications.  Failing to connect with family and friends robs us–and them–of the richness God intends for life.  God has given us all things that we might enjoy them…and give honor and praise to the Giver!

HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS – HORSES, HOMES & HEAVEN!

Relationship requires give and take, communication, and sharing.  Our world increasingly promotes isolation and self-gratification.  Technology simplifies the stuff of life and complicates the connections of life.  Abundant living, though, can only be found in connection:  first with God and then with others.   God created humanity because His nature is love–and love has to have expression and reciprocity. We love because He first loved us…all love that does not originate in Him finds its roots in self-satisfaction.

True relationship involves meeting the needs of both.  Before that can happen, there has to be shared communication and respect.  The horses help us see the components of healthy connection with greater clarity.  In the Lifemanship model, “Ignoring” is described as an attitude that says (in response to a request), “Not really interested, and I can take this amount of pressure all day.”  “Resisting” includes any number of behaviors…but there is no doubt that neither cooperation or ignoring are in progress.  Relationships require cooperation to reach a connection that benefits both and meets needs.

So, here’s a quick run down of how Miss Gretchen is teaching me to relate more effectively to her, to myself, to others and most importantly to God:

TIME together is a necessity.  The fact that I want to connect with her has no bearing on the reality of getting to know one another.  Thinking about her while I am busy doing something else does not build our relationship.  That same truth applies to marriage, parenting and friendships.  It applies to our relationship with God.  Relationships require investing ourselves.  Establishing priorities that honor our relationship commitments is no easy task.  We live in a busy world always calling us to do more.  Time connecting deeply–first with God, then with others allows us to enjoy life more abundantly.

AWARENESS is another critical component of relationships–and abundant living.  It is so easy to live without awareness.  Being ignored is the extreme of no awareness on the part of the one we seek to connect with.  But that is just an extreme:  a lack of awareness happens all the time!  My stress or perceptions of how we are progressing have a direct impact on how I relate to Gretchen.  Whether I am afraid, insecure or distracted by something else changes how I interact with her.  On her side of the equation, awareness about her signs of stress and confusion are also vital.  Tuning in to my part in a relationship–and diligently seeking to look through the eyes of my partner is key to connection.  God cared so much about it, He came in human flesh.  Jesus knows our struggles; He can relate to us.  In Him, our awareness of others and ourselves increases.

COMMUNICATION is individual, and clarity necessary.  Gretchen and I are learning one another’s language and misunderstandings happen.  Sometimes I am not always certain what I want…and when I am unclear, she will share my confusion.  The first guiding principle of Lifemanship helps me here: ‘Whatever I ask must be good for both of us.’  That principle gives me a goal and courage.  I’m not as timid about asking for what I believe is best for all.  The same is true in our relationship with God and others.  Every instruction of God is for our good and His glory.  It is a beautiful model for relationships!  Learning to speak with consistent clarity is a challenge to aspire toward.

GOALS are a destination to move toward, not a requirement to demand.  Building relationship is a journey toward shared goals.  What I ask of Gretchen, I ask for the purpose of growing our relationship.  The length of time it takes to get where I want to go is part of the journey.  In our connections with God and others, the same is true.  I want to spend time with the Lord not to gain some new insight that I can share–but to know Him more fully.  I want to spend time with my husband…my children…my friends, so I will know more of what is on their heart.

COURAGEOUS HUMILITY is a powerful concept Gretchen teaches me over and over again.  I don’t like to be wrong–or ask for what is unreasonable–or do things poorly.  But I’m learning right alongside her.  I don’t know her well yet; there’s tons I don’t know about horsemanship.  BUT relationships don’t require perfection; they do require courageous humility.  Being willing to be wrong…willing to be a fool for the purpose of growing your relationship is RIGHT!  Forgiving mistakes is part of bonding.

To learn more about how horses can help you sing the song God has put in your heart more clearly, check out:  Heartsong AART!

What one aspect of this can you apply today to your connection with God…with another?

 

Do you live a divided life?

ct studd only one life

Confusion is a tool of the enemy.  God is a God of order and peace.  He says what He means, He means what He says…and He offers us a choice to believe it or not.  Our choices have consequences.

We live in a confused and chaotic world because so many choose not to believe what the Word of God states.  That truth is truth for believers and non-believers alike.  For those of us in the Church, some of society’s confusion seems so extreme we are tempted to judge with condemnation and criticism instead of speaking with a clear, gentle voice of truth.  The heart of God breaks for those confused about such a clarion issue as gender.  The rejection of the clear Word of God, (Genesis 1:27, 5:2; Mark 10:6) creates chaos at many levels.  There are more subtle rejections of the  Word of God that create equal chaos.

Circumstances. Experiences. Opinions. Desires. Needs.  The temptation to elevate any of those to ruling power in our lives often overcomes believers.  We elevate those things–our selves–above the Word of God and allow our thoughts to be clouded.  “I can’t…” is a phrase that is only accurate if it partnered with “I can’t do anything without Christ.”  The mind–and the power to choose what we allow into our mind–is a transforming gift given by the Creator to humanity.  Every circumstance, experience, opinion, desire and need offers us an opportunity to seek the will of God and step out in faith.  This world is the proving ground for the glory of God…He loves to work in the fragile, imperfect, fallible clay vessels of humanity.

Choosing to believe His promises, HIS WORD, in the midst of life prevents divided living.  The choice is for ALL of His Word–not just the pieces we like. God is not divided.  He is love and He is wrath.  His Holiness if complete…it does not include any unrighteousness.  He cannot be impure and pure at the same time.  Neither can we.  We are to live wholly in the redemption of the Cross…wholly in the life of Christ that lived upon the Word of God.

Departing from the pure wholeness of the Scriptures creates divided lives of chaos and confusion.  It prevents unity in the Body and clouds the glory of God.  We are not called to create unity but to keep unity in the Spirit–and we do that as we walk in the Word.

Do you know who God created you to be?  

Do you know your design and your destiny?  

God wants you to.  He wants you to know it and to live it…so others will do the same.

DESIGN AND DESTINY

The Power of Choice & Change

The Serenity Prayer…do you remember it?

  • Serenity to accept what can’t be changed.
  • Courage to change what can be changed.
  • Wisdom to know the difference.

Often, we fall into self-pity instead of choosing to accept responsibility for what we CAN change!  That keeps us from ever reaching serenity…or developing courage.  Instead of seeking wisdom–which begins with reverence for God–we listen to our world, but:

We live in a confused culture that idolizes independence, develops dependencies and prefers the blame game to the challenge of change. 

Choice is powerful!  It is the greatest God has given.  Awe for the gift and the Giver delivers us from every difficult.

Take time to consider what needs changing in your life.  All of us fall short of the glory of God; we all have areas that God points to.  Don’t run from it.  Run into it!  Will there be pain in change?  Most likely!  Will there be greater–unproductive pain–if you do not change?  Undoubtedly!!  Perfect love casts out all fear.

AWARENESS

What aspects of my life are out of line with the goodness of God?

Galatians 5 is a great filter to identify those areas.  Where are you not feeling joy…or peace?  Or where is there tension?

ASKING

Let the Holy Spirit work the Truth into your heart.  The enemy wants you run from the awareness; he’ll pour out guilt and condemnation.  In the name of Jesus, tell him to leave.  Then listen to the Holy Spirit.  Conviction is His work.  Conviction that leads to change pierces your heart but draws you to the grace and mercy of God.  The Holy Spirit speaks with love that transforms.  Listen to His loving voice and ask for the next step you need to take to align that area of your life with the Father’s will.

ACTION

Love is a verb and obedience to the will of the Father is nourishment for our lives (John 4:34). The Scriptures are clear that God guides us.  The earthly reality is equally clear:  we don’t always like what He says, so we CHOOSE to ignore Him.  This us brings us back to where this entry began:  CHOICE.

We have the choice to align our lives with God or not.

Every choice comes with consequences.  Choose Life!

An extra treat for your enjoyment:  the rest of the story on the Serenity Prayer!

 

 

FIT FAITH Pool Parties

Want some exercises to do in your pool this summer?  Why not host a Fit Faith Pool Party?  If you have a pool, it can be at your home.  Or a YMCA pool reservation is also an option.

Working out in the water makes the work of daily life easier…and working out in the water is fun.  

EVEN BETTER:

Paul says, ‘Physical exercise is good but training for godliness is even better.’ (1 Timothy 4:8)

There are lots of faith parallels to physical exercise.  

Heartsong Ministry is all about discipleship…growing in our faith walks.  Seeing spiritual truth in the natural world helps me walk more consistently in the Spirit.

Why not give it a try?  

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Loosen up Stiff necks  & Sore Joints
  • Strengthen weak muscles and aching knees.
  • Improve your cardio-respiratory function
  • And learn the faith parallels to each of those!

WaterART© is not ‘just’ water aerobics…it is functional fitness!

Every party is tailored to the needs of participants.  Choose the muscle/joint focus that interests you and schedule an hour of FIT FAITH FUN today.

Schedule your party today!

Where is peace?

The Serenity Prayer has spoken to hearts for decades.  The author is often listed as ‘Anonymous’ and frequently the second stanza is eliminated. The longing for peace transcends time and culture.  Sometimes, though, the piece is attributed to certain theologians or martyrs of the Christian faith–which takes one a little closer to the truth of its history.

As it always does, well-researched history provides us a deep richness.  There is even humor in the fact that the author is often listed as anonymous.  I’m quite sure he wouldn’t care–for he knew where real serenity was found.  Living that way produces greatness that can never be lost.    Check out the fullness of his writing and then I’ll share the rest of the story:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.   

The author was Reinhold Neibuhr.  an American theologian, pastor and social activist in the 1900s.  One of the millions whom Neibuhr influenced was the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another Christian whose life & faith has strengthened millions.

Serenity is found, as Mr. Neibuhr says, when we trust God and surrender to His will.  Living with trust & surrender produces eternal fruit…even if others don’t have a clue!

Do I matter? Does anyone care?

It is the question we hate feeling:  Do I matter?  Does anyone care?  We spend much of our lives seeking activities and relationships that give us an affirmative answer.  There is only One who can answer that to our complete satisfaction.  The only One who can answer it is the One who created us.

Animals are amazingly helpful in leading us to the Answer.  You don’t need to come to an A.A.R.T. session to experience the power.  Use your own pets…even observe on in the wild and ask yourself some questions.  Come on an AART discovery with me!

ABCS of Safety, Security & Significance

In the Garden of Eden, the choice to reject God’s one command cut humanity off from the Need Meeter. When we seek to meet the needs that God built into us…instead of seeking Him…we sin & become captive to that sin. Restoring connection to the Father begins the process of healing…and fulfillment…and loving ourselves. From childhood to senior citizen, we must find how Christ is the answer we seek and understand how to apply that answer to diverse situations.  It isn’t a ‘one and done’ process.  Life gives us new challenges DAILY.  Living fully means knowing IN THE MOMENT, every moment, who we are in the eyes of God.

Acceptance by God restores IDENTITY for individuals.  It provides strength for life in a changing world. When roles or actions give a person identity, they never learn the unique design God gave them. “Who am I” is a necessary question because the answer gives stability.

Animal-assisted Insight

  • How & when did you become a ‘pet parent?’
  • Are they conscious aware of your  care & provision?
  • Does their awareness of your effort change your care for them?

God-sightings:

  • What does God do for you that you may not have noticed?
  • How does awareness of His provision change your view of your worth?

Scriptures:                  Psalm 139:13-14

Belonging to God restores boundaries that provide safety and security. In the natural world, safety is an increasing concern from childhood to old age. Involvement with animals requires learning to be observant of body language and danger zones. It is easy to appreciate the value of fences, leashes and lead ropes. Let’s extend those truths to things we face daily:  the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices.

Animal-assisted Insight:

  • What ways to do you protect your pet?
  • What happens when they break through those boundaries?

God-sightings:

  • What ways does God ‘limit’ His children?  Where do you feel limited TODAY?
  • How does He make us aware when we break through those boundaries?

Scriptures:                  Psalm 46:1

Calling of God restores purpose to lives. The Word tells us God has created us for good works…and for connection to Him. He treasures His children and cares for them. Using the natural needs of animals (nutrition, coat & hoof care, exercise), coaches draw parallels to caring for the body as the temple of God and caring for others.

Animal-assisted Insight:

  • What needs do you meet for your pets that you tend to neglect for yourself?
  • What do you expect from them?
  • Are your animals meeting a need for you that they are not designed to meet?

God-sightings:

  • Christ died so we could take our needs to God:  What needs do you take to God?
  • Are there things you know God desires for you that you do not press toward?
  • What need are you facing today that you are trying to meet on your own–or even with your animals?

Scriptures:               Ephesians 2:10