Express His Glory in Your Life

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

Heartsong AART

Birthing a new program feels like extended labor.  My gratitude to those who labor with me and listen as I seek to articulate the vision of my heart.  I wanted to share part of the labor with you for feedback, prayers and interest.  We have a new booklet, A.A.R.T., Animal Assisted Relationship Training, which outlines the sessions currently in development to aid in discipleship.

This piece of Heartsong will grow with other animals but the heart remains the same:  to see Christians LIVE out the calling God has placed within them.  Future endeavors include a children’s workshop of “Buddies or Bullies” that will use the characteristics of bunnies to point out bullying tactics.

Coming up in June there will be a Servant’s Fair aimed at helping more folks enjoy the opportunity of growth found in serving others.

Later this year, a Joy in the Journey workshop will help people capture their personal stories and see God in their lives.

For now, though, here is a sample of what A.A.R.T. will provide:

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 connecting 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.

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. AART activities help us see through our facades. Scriptures focused on identity in Christ & being treasured by God. (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, reins and lead ropes. Extending those truths to the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices is the goal of the coach in the follow up. (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. (Eph 2:10)

Spring!

Spring-time brings out the hidden gardener in most everyone.  The tender green buds on trees and the first flowers make our hearts sing–and anticipate the joys of summer.  The visions–and memories–of long summer evenings, splashing water and fun with friends.  There is a longing in our heart for simple connection with others.

Spring reminds us of summer’s possibilities.  God made our hearts to long for what is right and good.  Connection with others is one of those good things that often goes wrong.  God created humanity because He craved relationship.  The challenge is that in this fallen world most everything conspires against honest, loving relationship.

With Christ, the challenges of relationships become spring-time possibilities!  Improving our relationships with others propels us deeper into relationship with the Father.

We love because He first loved us. 

Trying to do relationship without the love of God creates sickly, broken connections.  A relationship can only be as healthy as the sickest person in it.  We can’t bring health to others; that is an individual choice.  But we can show the way.

The only way to a healthy life with healthy relationships is tending the Garden of our own souls…and thereby making disciples of others as we go!   

garden

In Genesis 2:15, we see God’s plan for humanity:  tilling and protecting the garden.  Partnering that with Jesus’ teachings in Luke 8:4-15 instructs me in pursuing healthy relationships.

The parable of the sower in Luke is used typically in a salvation context.  Considering it as transformational  truth helps us fulfill our purpose of caring for the world God has placed each of us within.  God has placed each of us in a unique garden, with individuals He loves and longs to have in relationship with Himself.

Christ, the Sower, came into the world to seek and save the lost—and destroy the work of the devil.  He tells us, “So send I you.”  As the Sower, Christ said some seed falls on hard, dry ground; some falls on rocky places, some on weeds and others on good soil.  In the parable, the Word was heard in every case.  The results varied.

As the keeper of my heart, the gardener of my soul, I must ask myself:

  • Where am I hard and dry?
  • Are there rocks – hurts or sins blocking my fruit?
  • What weeds of treasure, pleasure and worry are crowding out the Word?

The people in my life will reveal the answers to every one of those questions.

Look around at the people God places in your path.  Listen to the reactions of your heart to the folks you want to love—and be loved by.

Where do you feel hardness?  Is it in response to a mother’s words that feel like criticism or perhaps a spouse’s disregard for you?  Will you let the shield of Jesus absorb the hurt and His love flow from the wound?  Or will you give place to the enemy and respond in the same spirit of unkindness that wounded you?

What rocks become visible?  Are you throwing stones or feeling the blows of accusation?  There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Unconditional love is the beautiful, unique attribute of Jesus Christ.  He alone can heal 3920658201_f1654af939_zhurts.  Relationship with Him will align those who walk contrary to the Law.  Feel His love, show His love and watch how He connects hearts.

And then there are those weeds…those things we love that are so much lesser than Him.  People get in the way of getting what we want and relationships die.  Sometimes the weeds show up as good things we desperately desire—and will do whatever we must to have them.  They drag us from His presence.  Sometimes they appear as problems we cannot solve…but we kill ourselves with worry trying to do the impossible.

Relationships are God’s idea because they partner with Him to transform us into the likeness of Christ!  Embrace the spring-time possibilities.

Are there ways we can pray with you for His glory

to be seen in your life this year?

Why won’t he listen to me?

Jump, Scooby, Jump!

She’s four.  She’s been on a horse for about four hours in her life.  She knew what he could do.  She knew what she wanted to do.  She spoke clearly and told him so.

Scooby, who loves jumping, ignored her.   17579988_1435669199829684_1360804793_n

Her voice became more insistent until the words were a plaintive plea:  “Jump, Scooby,
Jump.”

Scooby walked on, unperturbed.

Finally, frustration flooding and tears spilling, she cried out, “Why doesn’t he listen to me?”

Kendal spoke the words every child of God has cried at some point or other.  We know what God can do.  We know what we want and we ask clearly, repeatedly…and nothing changes.  Hearts broken, frustration overflowing, we lash out at being ignored.

Like Kendal, we fail to realize God won’t do what we are not ready for.  It is not that He disagrees with our request; He just knows the time is not right.  God recognizes our weaknesses even when we don’t.  He feels that our faith muscles need strengthening to keep us balanced in the grand actions we request.

God never withholds what is best and He never gives what will harm.

Next time your heart cries out, remember Kendal and whisper a thank you!

Choices Empowering Change

If you missed the first two segments, you may wish to begin with Real Relationships Are Messy and Healing Relationships.

Continuing our look at relationships, leads us to consider how choices and change relate to our connections.  God did not make a mistake with providing choice in the Garden of Eden.  It was and is part of the grand design for healthy relationships…and you’ll remember that was His purpose from the beginning.

One choice, though, changed the dynamics of this powerful privilege.  Choosing what God prohibited separated humanity from the source of life.  God’s response was not to remove the privilege of choice but to narrow the options, change the environment and use choices to guide His precious creation back to Him!  All of life is designed to help us make choices that lead us back to relationship with God.  Unfortunately,  in every area of life, there is a way that seems right to man but leads to death.

The first choice to reject the words of God and choose what He prohibited actually removed the privilege of choice.  It enslaved humanity to the natural world.  The freedom of choice does not come until freedom in Christ is found. Without Christ, we are slaves to self, vulnerable to the Enemy and condemned to seemingly good choices that lead to death!

Scripture is abundantly clear that fallen humanity cannot choose life or return to God without Christ.  The only living choice natural man has is the choice to receive Jesus Christ or not.  It is the most critical choice of our earthly lives; it determines our eternal destination and opens the door to abundant living in this land.

Warning:  Not to decide is to decide…choose Jesus.   

With Jesus in our lives, the privilege of choice in earthly matters provides power and provision for vibrant relationships and abundant life.  The Poverty Bible defines impoverished as those without choice.  That’s a thought-provoking definition!  The matter of choice (versus slavery) affects every aspect of life, not just relationship with others.  Pursuing knowledge of God, His purposes for us and His ways empowers us to choose well.  God neither enables us nor overpowers us.  He guides us well and understanding His ways helps us with our earthly relationships.

Choice is like mercy; it is something we like to have but often don’t like to give to others.  The tendency to want to control others is almost universal.  Our intentions are often good; we want the best for another but lack the fortitude to endure until the other person learns to choose well.  There is no alternative, though!  Relationships are destroyed and individual growth hampered when we seek to control others.  God’s design is perfect and empowering others to make good choices for change is His way.

Healthy, mature individuals must take responsibility for choices that create balance in every realm of their life:  relational, physical, mental, moral and spiritual.  In an unhealthy relationship one person takes responsibility for making choices for another.  Sometimes they take that responsibility by enabling the person to continue making poor choices.  Other times, one will bully another into making the right choice with threats and punishments.  Empowering someone requires allowing natural consequences to create pressures that move a person toward better decisions.

God designed the world so that every realm of life would point us back to Him.  Pressure points us to the correct path.  Relationships often falter because inappropriate amounts of pressure are employed.  How much is enough?

As little as possible.  As much as needed.

Seek the wisdom of God as you allow the pressures from choices to create change in the lives of others.  The responsibility to pursue balanced relationships in the relational, physical, mental, moral and spiritual realms cannot be abdicated or usurped.  It is personal and individual.  Along the way, trust God to bring the perfect amount of pressure to bear to catch attention and draw to Himself.  Don’t get in way; simply seek His face and walk faithfully toward Him…and pray for others to do the same.

A great ‘rule of thumb’ for every choice is this:

Will this bring honor to my Savior? 

Choose well.  He is worthy!

Do you have someone you need to empower?  What steps will you take to do that?  Follow this website or like the Facebook Page to receive notice when the next piece of this series publishes:  “Setting Goals”

 

Real Relationships are Messy

Love.  Family.  Friends.  There is nothing like the holiday season to expose the imperfections of relationships.  Our ideals are so high; our desires grand.  The television commercials and social media shares leave us thinking everyone else has more love and better relationships than we do.  Take heart!  Real relationships don’t always look beautiful…and sometimes they don’t feel lovely either.  The truth is:

Real relationships are messy!

I believe they are meant to be…and God wants to transform the mess into a beautiful message of real love and real relationship.

Our lives are meant to be full of relationships. God, who is love, created humanity in His image for connection.  His image is marred in each of us but His loving pursuit of us is unfailing.  The vast difference between ourselves and the heart of God is revealed when we are in relationship with others.  Relationships show us where we are not like our Creator and inspire us to know Him more—and be more like Him.

God is the author of relationships, and the only source for success in relationships.    He is Creator and Sustainer.  His fervent, faithful love for each of us reveals our need for Him and shows us what it looks like to love others like He loves.

Committed, connected relationships don’t just happen.  Connection with others inevitably leads to hurt feelings and difficulties.  Relationships require attention, intention, effort and even sacrifice.  That is as it should be!  When relationships cause us distress—as every relationship will—there is a beautiful opportunity unfolding.

Do you recall how Jesus’ response to the accusers of the adulterous woman transformed the lives of all involved?  He simply wrote in the dirt.  As we walk through life, we must let Jesus write in our lives…whether we are the accuser or the accused.  Nothing anyone has done to me is greater than what I have done to the Lord of Lords.  In fact, when we sin against another, the sin pierces God first.   In relationship with others, we must train our eyes to look at Jesus first.  When we come to Jesus with our relationship issues, whether anger or hurt, He will reveal something within us that still needs transformation!

Rather than look to Jesus, our natural response to relationship problems is to lash back, make accusations, or hide in shame or self-protection.  Hurt people hurt people but healthy people help people.  The law of sowing and reaping is a vital relationship principle, but it is one that Jesus can alter!  In the natural realm, seeds of resentment produce a crop of resentments.  Anger breeds anger.  Seeds sown from the flesh and unholy spirits destroy lives and relationships.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil — and taking offense is a bait straight from Satan!  Refuse the bait and partner with Jesus to destroy the devil’s plans.

Scripture tells us that vision and understanding give us restraint.  Restraint is a powerful tool to employ in relationships.  Those tv commercials and Facebook posts are an idealistic vision.  Real vision comes from the Word.  Even in this godless age, many know John 3:16…

”For God so loved the world, He sent his only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Father loved that Son whom He sent…that’s a bit harder look at love to embrace.  We like love that rescues.  We shirk love that sacrifices in such a profound way.  Even those who are willing to receive hurts to themselves resist allowing their loved ones to suffer.

We want loving relationships that give us only sweetness, and that is neither realistic nor beneficial.  Sincere love for another involves sacrifice and suffering on both sides FOR eternally good purposes!

Loving others is the spiritual service of a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Relationships matter!  As 2016 comes to a close and a new year dawns, let’s spend some time looking at God’s plans and purposes for the relationships we enjoy in our lives.  We’ll begin with exploring how to expose roots of bitterness to the light of love!  Follow this website or like the Facebook Page to receive notice of the next entry.

Finding Real Love

Human love is fraught with problems that come from our human nature–selfishness, self-centeredness and a lack of faithfulness.  We say “I love you” and really mean “I love how you make me feel.”  The only way we can really love is to receive the love of God and let it pass through to others.  True agape love–the love that is God–is beyond our human abilities.

It intrigued me to discover that only Peter expressed his love directly to the Lord.  We often talk of ‘loving Jesus’ but the Scriptures do not record many such expressions.  There are many commands to love God and discussions of love, but stating love directly is a different story.   You may recall that the disciple Peter saw himself as totally committed to Jesus prior to his arrest…and then he betrayed him three times. It’s also interesting to note the kiss Judas betrayed Jesus with came from ‘phileo’ love–the love that is based on shared interests.  When Jesus restored Peter, he asked him:  “Do you (agape) love me?”  Three times Jesus asked about Peter’s love.  Twice he asked Peter if we agape loved him, and Peter replied, “I phileo love you.” Finally, Jesus asked him if Peter phileo loved him.  Jesus knows our limits and he agape loves us…he meets us where we are at!

The gift of love from another can give us a glimpse of the faithfulness of God’s love.  Make no mistake:  love matters.  We are called to love and do the best we can.  But true love only happens when it flows from the Creator.

We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer,[c] that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

1 John 4:19-20

Celebrate those who love you.  But most of all celebrate the One who is love and made it all possible..

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.

 

 

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