Musings From A Musical Mind

Archive for the ‘Respect’ Category

What Else You Got?

Cover of "Love Is A Decision"

Cover of Love Is A Decision

We have good manners (or at least we should) we have possessions and things and we have potential to be the best we can be.

But we are living in a society with failed marriages all around us.  They fail – even when people have all the above things in spade.

We get married because we’re in love.

We are well-mannered, and well-meaning – even bringing material things and all kinds of potential with us.

And still – many marriages fail.

So I ask the question:  WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?

Love – check

Good manners – check

Well meaning – check

Some material possessions – check

WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?

You see – every marriage that fails – started out with these things too.  Yours is no different.  Or is it?

I have learned a few things being married almost 30 years.  It takes much more than just love, good manners, material possessions and well-meaning to make a good strong lasting relationship – that can go the distance.

WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?

When the bottom drops out – life goes sideways and things aren’t fun anymore?

When crisis touches your family – financial security goes out the window and illness comes to stay?

When you have nothing else to give and the emotion of love is gone?

Here are some practical things to think about when contemplating marriage or in trying to better yours.

1. Love – ah the very word just makes us all warm and tingly, right?  It is something that great songs and Hallmark movies are made of.  “Love is all you need” and “Love means never  having to say you’re sorry” blah blah blah.  Nice sentiments – they sound so good and sing well – but they are NOT true!    I wish it was.  And there was a time not so long ago that I really thought love would be enough – but it was not.  Love is great but it can only take you so far.  Love is the great leveler – but it can also mess with your emotions and blind you. It is not enough when emotions can be fickle – and that feeling of romance and newness wears off eventually with anyone – especially in a long-term marriage.  This can be a  problem for people – if they don’t feel it anymore. Love – is a decision, therefore – not just an emotion.  It is an act of our will.

2. Friendship is wonderful and much more solid.  And friendship in marriage is a must. How many times have I heard that a couple was “in love” but as time wore on – they discovered that they did not even really know each other well – and they were startled to find out that they were not even friends.  When the emotion of love and romance wears thin – you must have something left to fall into – something safe and comfortable.  A friendship of heart and soul can save you when your marriage goes through a rocky patch – as all marriages do.

3. Respect in a marriage is also a must.  Many partners lose respect for each other when times are not exciting anymore – they withhold love – aren’t friends and don’t like each other anymore.  This leads to so many problems – the first and foremost is a sabotage of their own relationship.  Respect is given – as well as taken.  You must respect your spouse – but they  must also respect you.  And it is hard to hold that line – if you yourself are not respecting them.  How many times over the years have I seen couples talking badly to each other – even in public.  That is not good.  But you must be the first to respect. If you show kindness and proper respect for them – they will not be able to help but return it.  But you cannot have it only one way.  And respecting  means supporting your partner through good and bad times.  Finding a way to encourage the hopes and dreams of him or her and being that safe person that they can trust when life goes sideways.

4. Lead with your head and your heart will follow.  If you always allow your heart to lead you – you will be in trouble – as the heart is fickle and changeable – like the emotion of love.  We can feel love for many different people we have chemistry with. That doesn’t mean it is real. This is a hard one for many to deal with.  A long-term relationship isn’t always going to give you “tingles” – and if you get bored easily or need excitement 24/7 –  then long-term marriage isn’t for you.   But normally something needs to happen in you first.  You can’t always change things for the better – but that is the place to start.

5.  Be the person of integrity and character that you expect your partner to be. Living a life of character is hard.  We are not perfect and slip and fall in so many ways.  It is a daily choice – and sadly I have not always lived up to this – and maybe you have not either.  Don’t give up.  If you blow it – Jesus forgives – get up and try again.  He has promised to be with us on our daily journey and He will be there to help and guide us – giving us words of encouragement through His word and speaking softly to us through prayer.  He understands that it is hard to go through life without temptations – in fact we need to know that THEY ARE COMING.  No one is immune. Brush yourself off – and begin again – each new day is another chance to get it right.

5.  Don’t play the “blame game”.  That’s way too easy – and such a cop-out!  “They don’t respect me” or “They’re withholding” or “They don’t understand me” or “They don’t meet my needs” – are very common things that are said when going through a serious problem.  Instead of blaming – try finding out what is happening inside of you.  Have you stopped respecting them?  Have you withheld to punish or teach a lesson?  Have you failed to understand because they don’t understand you?  Do you meet their needs?

6.  Be the best person, lover, friend and confidant that you can be.  It starts with you.  Marriages still fail – but not usually when couples are sensitive to each others needs – putting their feelings and needs ahead of your own agenda and even your own happiness.  What you sow into them – in love, compassion, understanding, respect and friendship it WILL COME BACK TO YOU. And you CAN turn even a bad marriage around.  You can rekindle a dying relationship – bring a spark of life because of attention and determination – disciplining your heart and your mind to honor and love first – and let the feeling comes later.  Wait for it – it will come.

When couples wants to get married because “they’re in love” – this needs to be our question for them:

WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?

God Bless

Silent Night

During exercise Joint Resolve 26, in Bosnia an...

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Just saw a true story called ‘Silent Night’ starring Linda Hamilton – set in WWII time – Germany.  It was a story from a little boy’s perspective just before the end of the war.  A German mother and her son fled to a family cabin away from their German town.  Just as they were settling in – three American soldiers broke in and used the cabin for a ‘hospital’ for a wounded soldier.  Then shortly after three German soldiers came upon the cabin.  The woman (Elisabeth) insisted that they keep their weapons outside if they were to use her cabin for shelter – calling it a ‘neutral zone’ – and amazingly THEY DID!

I was touched by this story of strength and courage from this woman – who at first feared for her life and the life of her son – but who ended up literally bringing peace and love into that small cabin  preparing a meal for them and taking care of the wounded man.  The atmosphere and influence of a warm and caring woman – was felt by all the men.  And they all changed that night.  The war was left outside for Christmas – and common ground between the men – fighting on opposite sides was discovered.  It was Christmas Eve and as Elisabeth prepared soup for the hungry men – each of them had something special to add to the meal from their rations – and one American officer even had ‘presents’ – chocolate for the young boy and young German soldier (about 15 years old) and a french soap wrapped in a little box for Elisabeth – which very much moved her.

What could have been a very tragic and bloody night for all of them – ended up being a very different night in that cabin as they exchanged words and stories with each other.  And later the young German soldier sang ‘Silent Night’ beside a modest little Christmas tree.   It was a night that Elisabeth and her son remembered for the rest of their lives.

I was thinking about this remarkable woman as I watched this.  Would I have been so brave?  Could I have brought peace into a hostile situation?  Can one person really make a difference?  Yes.  I believe they can.  I believe I can.  I believe you can too.

Are you one that brings peace in the midst of a storm?  Do you bring a calming effect to people in your world?  A healing balm?  An atmosphere of true humility and graciousness?  Do you seek out good in everyone – can you look past the ugly things – try not to blame or cast judgment?  Only think the best and try to encourage, embrace and love?

I pray that you will be one to shine your light – make difficult things better – lighten the load for others that carry a heavier burden.

After all – this is the Gospel Message.  Good News.  Great Tidings of Joy.  Jesus came to redeem, love, and win back what was lost.  You and me.

 

I am praying special blessings on you this day after Christmas!

 

God Bless

 

 

How To Find And Keep A Woman

Sean Connery at the 2008 Edinburgh Internation...

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I was challenged today (and I love a challenge) by my friend and pastor, Stephen Collins – to write an article to ‘piggyback’ on my article from yesterday, ‘How to Find and keep a Man’.  This time – this one is for all you men out there – wanting to learn some basic ‘secrets’ about women.

Greg and I have been reading the book (our 10th time or so) “The Truth Will Set You Free – But First It Will Make You Miserable” by the late Jaime Buckingham.  In one chapter he talks about the subject of virility of men – and baldness in particular. His writing is humorous and insightful – hearing what men really think about their manliness – how loss of hair affects their feeling of youth and purpose, and dealing with insecurity – either correctly brought on by others – or self-imposed.

I stopped Greg in the middle of the chapter – and said, “Why are men so hung up on losing their hair? – Some of the best looking men – in my opinion have no hair at all!  Patrick Stewart of ‘Star Trek Next Generation‘, Chris Daughtry, of the band, ‘Daughtry’ – Andre Agassi, Vin Diesel, Billy Zane, Bruce WillisSean Connery – to name just a few.  These men exude confidence – and that has NOTHING to do with whether they have hair or not.  And no woman would say they are NOT sexy.

Anyway – I digress.  Back to the subject at hand.  If you are a man – how do you understand, and more importantly win a woman and keep her?

Women aren’t so complicated.  I think there has been much dialogue on this topic over the years.  I think they are more emotional than men are for sure – but basically there are some basic needs and a smart man knows how to meet them.  And a smart man – has just learned to listen more and learn from others who get it wrong.

What should you be looking for?  If you want a long-term relationship – here are some things to watch out for.

1. A woman worth having is one that can adapt to change. I say this because there are many changes throughout life and marriage.  This is the woman who can love you past your enlarging mid-section and loss of hair.  The woman who thinks you get better looking as you age.  The one who will not get squeamish at the first sign of change, both physically or emotionally.

2. Make sure she has a great sense of humor. You’re going to find that this one quality may save your marriage some day.  Can she laugh at herself?  Take a joke?  Not take herself or you too seriously?  Then you may have a winner here.  So many women start out with a sense of humor – but quickly lose it when life becomes serious.  And nothing can make you lose it faster than having children, family issues, financial stresses, external relationships and aging.  Some woman lose it and never get it back again.  The ability to laugh is HUGE.  If she is great fun to be around and can see humor in anything – you may have a winner.  Don’t give her a reason NOT to laugh.  Give her permission to see the ‘lighter’ side of life.

3.  Beauty is fleeting – don’t choose her because she’s ‘hot’. Now I KNOW I’m treading on very thin ice here – so I will just say that the curvy blond that you fall in love with – just may put on a few (okay – maybe more) pounds after having children and may NEVER look like she once did when you first met her.  Now for some of you men – this is a real problem. I’ve even seen it in some members of my family – the man will INSIST that the woman always be on a diet – or NEVER cut her hair.  All in the attempt to keep the woman the way he first saw her and fell in love.  News flash:  Women always know if you love her just the way she is – or if you have conditions on your love. Even is she pretends she does not.  Don’t be one of those men.  Love her exactly the way she is.  And communicate this clearly with how you treat her.  She should always feel like she is the most precious and beautiful woman in the world – to you.  If you do not – believe me – she knows.

And when you have found her – the perfect woman – here are some tips on how you can be sure to keep her.

1. Treat her with respect. She is not the housekeeper or the cook – or *gasp* – your property. She is your partner.  And although I believe the woman sets the tone for respect in the relationship – (please see my article from yesterday) it is also the man’s responsibility as protector and head of the house to set the tone of respect with the woman he loves.  This will do a couple of things.  First, if a woman is treated with the proper amount of respect from her husband – she will do ANYTHING  for him.  And I mean anything.  And secondly, you will become the ‘hero’ in her life and you will feel like a better man because of her.  You will be able to leap tall buildings with a single bound – all because of giving her the proper respect.  If a woman is disrespected by the man who is supposed to (and who has signed up to)  love, honor and cherish her, she will quickly withhold love, respect and honor from him.  I have seen this happen in too many marriages.  You cannot afford to disrespect and dishonor your woman.  It will have terrible repercussions on you for years to come.  And she will not love you physically the way you want or need her to.  Woman are funny that way – they must be emotionally cared for first – before they can give physical love. It is much easier for you men to separate the emotional from the physical.  Remember – she is not a man – or one of your guy friends and you cannot treat her disrespectfully (like you do with your friends) and then expect that she will respond to you in a passionate way.  Woman’s brains do not work that way.  They do not compartmentalize ANYTHING.  Everything touches and affects EVERYTHING else.  All things must be right and healthy in her world first – before anything else.

2. Listen to her heart. This sounds so silly to most men.  Good grief – I married her didn’t I?  Why do I have to ‘listen’ to her?  She’s so emotional – she just needs to think and be more like a man – then all would be well.  This kind of thinking will get you into big trouble.  And as I stated in my last article – if you don’t think she’s worth listening to – or find her valuable enough to hear what’s going on in her heart – then someone else (who has learned the emotional secret to women better than you) will be there – willing and able to step in for you.  Don’t be stupid.  It happens ALL THE TIME.

3.  Encourage her hopes and dreams. Any woman worth having and keeping has hopes and dreams – some that she’s afraid to even speak out loud – but they are there.  Let her talk about them.  Key in on her and let her tell you about them.  Don’t interrupt – or worse yet –  be too busy for her.  Make the time to really listen.  Don’t try to ‘fix’ or dictate your own agenda.  Most men make the mistake of trying to ‘set her straight’ – or trying to ‘fix the problem’ because men are problem solvers.  Women don’t always need a problem solved – they just want the right to be heard.  And they need someone to understand them.  When you – her husband won’t do this – you are setting yourself up for HUGE problems.  Treat her like she is the most valuable thing in the world – and she will return it.  That’s a guarantee.

Woman love ‘little things’ done for them or with them in mind.  They love getting notes, gifts, flowers – it doesn’t really matter – it’s the thought behind it that really melts us.  We are deeply moved by a sensitive man who will move heaven and earth to be with us – and like my pastor and friend, Stephen said to me yesterday – ‘a man will run through a brick wall’ for the right woman who loves him and respects him.  So true.  And likewise – a woman with the love of a man like that – will do anything for him.

I love it when Greg will call me up when he’s out on a business call – and say, ‘I’m on my way home – are you available to have a coffee break with me?’  OH YES!!  I also love dates – either long evenings together – dinner and a movie – or just going somewhere together and taking a walk and talking together.

I know I am probably leaving many things out – but these are the most crucial to keeping a woman.  A smart woman knows a good thing when she has it – even if she may sometimes forget.  Be that man who reminds her – by treating her like she deserves to be treated.  This is the best way to ‘affair proof’ your marriage – when this happens so much today.

I pray God’s richest blessings on your relationships!

God Bless

How To Find And Keep A Man

Cover of "He's Just Not That Into You"

Cover of He's Just Not That Into You

In this day and age where it is common for couples to have marital problems and get divorced based on those problems – I thought I would write an article devoted to some well-known ‘secrets’ about finding, loving and keeping a man.

1.  Find a man who thinks you are the sun and the moon and most of the galaxy as well. I love the movie, ‘Run Away Bride’ – where Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts – ‘you need someone who can’t wait for you to wake up in the morning – just to hear what you’re going to say’.  If you have a man like that in your life – you are blessed.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be loved like that.  Greg thinks I’m cute when I first wake up in the morning too!  Greg’s strong stubborn love has literally kept our marriage in tact – when we hit a rough patch.  This is the kind of love you want.  Don’t settle for anyone who will not die and even take the fall for you.

2. Looks are deceiving. A shy guy that is hard-working and has integrity beats the ‘hot’ guy that some girls have to have.  They totally miss the nice man with the kind eyes who will move heaven and earth for them.  Looks never impressed me – if they were there – then it was a bonus – but it was not a deciding factor for me.  Look deeper.  Dig.  You may just find a diamond in the rough.  Choose someone who will protect your heart and never make you cry.  Those men who don’t protect your heart and make you cry are not worth it. Choose someone who prefers you to every other woman he has ever met.  Imagine growing old together and raising a family with him.  Someone who will never look at anyone else the way he looks at you.  Someone who you can trust.  Forever.

3.  Choose someone with a similar background and faith. I believe there is enough struggle in marriage that you should not intentionally give yourself another one.  When someone comes from a similar home and faith – you have that to draw on when times are tough – when raising children and especially teenagers – it takes wisdom and perspective from both sides.  And sometimes your similar faith in God is all you have.  Give yourself every advantage when wanting your marriage to work – long-term.

About 4 years ago I purchased the book ‘He’s just not that into you‘ because I had heard great  things about it.  It reveals the truth behind the verbal and non-verbal phrases and excuses men use when they are ‘just not that into you’.  Because it is written by a man – and how they think   I decided that my daughter needed to have this book.

She had been through some difficult relationships – and was not picking up on the ‘signals’ of non interest early on – therefore propelling herself back into the misery of ‘first time – shame on you – second time – shame on me’ syndrome.

I have some of my own things I wish to modestly submit – having had a few years experience with men.  30 to be exact ♥

1.  You must develop a deep friendship.

Having a friendship with Greg saved our marriage when it went through a dry patch and emotionally hit rock bottom.  He was always first and foremost my best friend – and that saved us.

2.  Expect that things are not always going to feel romantic. If you expect that your marriage will be  always be romantic and based on ‘feelings’ – and I’m talking about passion and intimacy – and feelings of happiness and well-being -you are going to be very disappointed.  If you or your partner gets bored easily and cannot ride things out –  then you may as well pack it in.  Long term marriage isn’t for you.  Very quickly the ‘thrill is gone’ when couples live together – have irritating habits – have children, bills, family problems – and life in general goes sideways.  Feelings like, “I love him – but I’m not in love with him‘ or ‘I don’t feel it anymore’ – are very normal – and it needs to be addressed as such.  When this happened to me – I thought there was something horribly wrong with me – not realizing that you won’t always feel like it.  Some days you won’t even like each other very much.  NORMAL!  I wish somebody would have told me this.

3. Treat him like a King – and he will treat you like his Queen. The woman sets the tone in the home – and with a man.  Even in friendship – it is usually at the pace of the woman.   So – be the first to respect and honor – and it will be returned – how can it NOT be?  A man worth marrying and having in the first place – wants to fall hopelessly under your ‘spell’ – and die in your arms.  We woman tend to get grouchy and ‘naggy’ all the time – instead of growing wiser and adapting to the simple needs of our man.  And I say simple – because men are not as emotional as woman and can compartmentalize issues and relationships in their lives easier than we do.  The basic needs of a man – that include (and are not limited to) food and sex –  and a fundamental need to be admired.  The person that they most want to impress is you!  So you must admire them!  If you don’t – someone else will.  I guarantee it.  Strip a man of his manliness and pride – and take him from being your ‘hero’ and reduce him to a mere shadow of a man by nagging or belittling him – and you are in for SERIOUS issues.  There will be emotional removal, physical absence and much more.  Women have a need to be cared for, listened to and told they are the most wonderful and beautiful woman in the world.  If you don’t listen to her heart – emotionally care for her or express your feelings for her – there are FIVE guys waiting in the wings – lined up to tell her what you will not. And very soon – you will be emotionally shut out.  Don’t let that happen to you.

4.  Bring the fun back into the relationship. I’m proud of my many relationships with my guy friends – we laugh and have fun!   Woman bring a ‘child-like’ quality to the men in her life – and to the man she is married to.  I love to hear ‘you make me laugh’ from my guy friends and especially my husband. He loves that I tease him and love to have fun.  And when he teases back – I know he likes me.  I have enough guy friends in my life including a son and son-in-law – to understand that when they tease – it means you are IN!  And just as women set the tone in the home and for her children – I believe that a woman sets the tone in a love relationship.  Set the tone through humor.  Humor and  laughter can ease the tension of a stressful work day and external stresses in his world.  Make his world a safe and fun place – lighten the load with laughter.  Discover what it is like to have fun again!  Go on dates.  Laugh at each other.  Lighten up!  Enjoy each others company – even when just eating a meal or watching TV.

and finally

5.  Be honest with each other about everything. Trust each other enough to tell each other the truth.  It’s a sad thing when there is no ‘safe place’ to confide – either because when tried – it was quickly dismissed as trivial or not important – or because you stuffed things so deeply you don’t know how to share them.  Try to work through that fear and work on  being completely and totally honest.  A man will respect you for telling the truth – no matter how much it hurts.

God Bless you and your relationships!

Being The Right Person

Love for Arts

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When we’re young we think we’re going to find the ‘perfect’ person to fall in love with – and eventually (hopefully) they will love us back – and then want to get married.

This is on a woman’s mind from very early on.

Love is the great ‘romantic’ idea.  She wants someone who will adore and love her – move heaven and earth to be with her – and be her ‘hero’.

Men have something very different on their minds when they start thinking about the opposite sex.  It is not usually about ‘love’ or romantic thoughts – and they can compartmentalize feelings (or lack of them) in lieu of physical attraction and sex.

When love finally hits a man – goes straight to his heart and he cannot get that girl out of his head – then he knows he is in trouble.  For good.  And he tries to be everything he can be – to say and do what he must for ‘win’ her.

She is looking for someone to save her – complete her and love her.

He is looking for someone to love him – respect and adore him.

There’s nothing wrong with this – it’s normal and natural.  But what I’ve learned through life is this:  Finding the right person is not nearly as important as being the right person.

We can enter into a love relationship expecting someone to make up for our lack.  To ‘fill in’ where we are not strong.  To be able to save us from our past.  No one can.  There is no perfect person – at least I’ve never met one yet.  And if you enter in to love or marriage thinking this – you will be very disappointed.

I’ve even heard of women (and men) saying, “when they marry me – I’ll be able to change them”.  You can’t.

Change in behavior can seem to be happening when the relationship is new and exciting – but long-lasting change is impossible.  No one changes anyone else – permanently.

Oh we see it on TV and in the movies – some of the best literature has it in there too – the ‘wild – untamed’ man – who falls helplessly in love with a woman and is willing to change for her.  And while I put great faith in love and the power of it – ultimately you are setting yourself up for a fall if that’s what you believe.

Develop a friendship with your partner.  Friendship is an easy give and take.  Ask  yourself, “would I still be their friend if I wasn’t involved with them – didn’t love them – wasn’t married to them? – Do they make me laugh?  Do I want to know them deeper and spend more time with them? – Am I the kind of person that they would want as a friend?”

Be the right person.  Fix things that are going on inside of yourself – insecurities, bad habits and negative patterns.  Expecting someone else to swoop in and ‘fix’ your troubled mind and heart is not realistic.  And you cannot ‘fix’ theirs either.  The longer that you are married – the more you realize this truth – and accept it.

There are people in whom we have chemistry with and are very compatible. There’s no denying this fact.  Those that have a better chance of making it in love and marriage are those from a similar background with many things in common.  But this does not guarantee – it just makes it easier.  Choose someone who is easy to be with – and that you can picture yourself growing old with. Someone who doesn’t require so much work.

Say to yourself, “Can I be happy with this person for many years to come?  Can I accept them – flaws and all?  Without them changing?  Is there anything I cannot live with?”

These are important questions.  They are simple – yet revealing.  If we take the emphasis off of them – and any expectations we may feel – then we can concentrate on the really important thing: ourselves.

Imagine what a great world this would be – and what healthy growing marriages there would be if everyone accepted this fact – and stepped up – saying, “I’m going to take personal responsibility for me”.  And leave it there.

I challenge you today:  God is the only one who can change hearts.  He is in the business of deep healing – from the inside out.  Allow Him to do His job with you and others.  Don’t depend on others (even your spouse) to complete you and fill you up.  That’s God’s job.  And His alone.  He will not fail or disappoint you.  He is the one who will help you to be all you can be in a relationship – and to be the right person. You can count on it.

I am praying for you

God Bless

Who’s In – And Who’s Not

We live in a culture where it is important to ‘belong’.  We have all been either ‘in’ or ‘out’ when it comes to the ‘clubs’ of our society – like church groups – country clubs – gyms or sports arenas.  Even as children we gravitate to those most likely to accept us and either start our own ‘club’ – or long to be with the ‘other kids’ who seem to have a better ‘club’ than we have.  We all want to belong.  We all want acceptance – even as children.  We want to be noticed and to ‘fit it’.  Sometimes sacrificing ourselves in the process – because being with the popular kids – or the ones who are ‘in’ is far superior to us than being on the outside looking in.

Unfortunately we have also done this as adults.  We’ve done it in our churches.  We’ve done it as Christians.

It looks something like this:  New person comes and joins my ‘club’ and now I feel threatened.  Maybe they will take something away from me.  Maybe my friends will like them better.  Maybe they will be funnier than I am – maybe they will be better than I am.

We had a situation years ago in our church – where we had a thriving music ministry – choir, orchestra and worship team.  This ‘club’ involved about 100 people on any given Sunday.  It was hard work to keep the thing going, new people were encouraged to be a part – but looked at somewhat suspiciously.  Eventually those involved took on the identity of the ‘club’.  When changes were made and even drastically cut down – those that thought they were ‘in’ were threatened and challenged.  Suddenly church did not become about the ‘big picture’ – or about new people finding Christ – as it became about the ‘club’.  It was their identity.

For years we have defined who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ as far as our Christian faith is concerned.  Some feel it necessary to have a firm grasp on just who is accepted as part of the ‘club’ and those who are never welcomed in.  Those divorced, from a bad family, those involved in moral failure or substance abuse would not be a part of the club.  It was not said in so many words – but everyone just knew. I mean – ‘they really aren’t very spiritual, are they’?

Is is ever possible to really hate the sin – but love the sinner?  Do we put feet to this by allowing them into our ‘club’ – into our ‘world’ to break bread with us?

We live next door to a lesbian couple.  They are the nicest human beings you will ever meet – and though we ourselves think homosexuality is wrong and contradicts everything we know to be true as far as the Bible is concerned – we really like these ladies. We love them.   We know these women would be shunned by others of our faith and it makes us sad.  They would only see the shame and sin – they would never be able to see them.

We also know of others who are shunned, ignored and made to feel ‘out’ instead of ‘in’ – because of those judging them have much emotion – bad feelings or personal prejudices – nothing more.  They are judged on a feeling or on the physical appearance. Or because they don’t believe like we do. I think we have to be very careful – when we have a ‘club’ that is exclusive – and restricts because of small mindedness and agenda.  In doing so we give the silent message to all – “I’m better – I have the only truth – there is no other way to see it than my way”  This is dangerous indeed and it is how cults are formed – and why Hitler had so much power and influence over people.  It is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

We need to embrace people – especially those that are different from us.  There is much we can learn from other cultures and even other denominations.  I believe we may have a surprise when we get to heaven and find our Catholic brothers and sisters – even the Baptist and Lutheran standing beside us!  How small our little ‘club’ will seem then.  God sees the ‘big picture’ – he is not about denominational walls – he is about the heart.

Let’s not make the mistake of judging others – especially the heart and motive that only God can truly see.  He is the only judge – and in the end the truth will revealed.  Someday it may be revealed to us – that very person we don’t like – and that we’re not allowing ‘in’ to our ‘club’ – God is whispering, ‘they are my favorite‘.

Our job is to love, encourage and be an example to others of the love and acceptance that we received from Christ – when we stood before Him and said, “I’m in”.  Let’s bring a whole lot of others with us – as we change this dying world – with our love.

Who’s In?  You are. Remember – you are God’s favorite.

God Bless

When Love Is Not Reciprocated

It is easy to be self-sacrificing in friendship when it is reciprocated

We’ve all been there. We have friendships that either ‘work’ or they don’t. People that come and go in our lives – and things we can’t understand. And like Bob Cratchit says in “A Muppet Christmas Carol” – ‘Life is full of meetings and partings’ – so true – but it is still hard to reconcile ourselves to that point sometimes.  I like the ‘meetings’ – but I’m NOT crazy about the ‘partings’.

Friendship in its most basic form is this:

Two hearts that are connected by a common unseen element – where love and respect is shared. Secrets are safe and trust is earned and kept. You know you will not be betrayed because they understand you – and you understand them. And you encourage each other – cheer each others accomplishments and hurt when they hurt.

My good friend Deanna said it best the other day – ‘a friend has no hidden agenda – a friend listens and loves’.

When you have a trusted friend – you don’t even mind carrying stress and burdens from them – especially when you know that they are doing the same for you. You know who the ‘real’ ones are. The ones who stick around – don’t get squeamish at the first signs of ‘trouble’ or ‘drama’. They are the ones who are able to ride it out – and they stay. Offering words of comfort and life – just the very thing we need at the time. They don’t do it for them – they do it for you.  They don’t judge or lecture – they just simply love.

But what happens when friends don’t understand? They seem to be judging – or they do and say something weird? For no reason?   Oh you know what I mean – something great happens to you – and they don’t cheer you on – but decide to go ‘silent’ on you.   Even when you always seem to be ‘cheering’ them on!   What happens when you don’t feel that things are ‘reciprocated‘? What then? When you’re worn out trying to figure out why trust was broken – and misunderstandings take place?  What happens when it isn’t possible to simply ‘talk it out’? When things are complicated and there is no trust or understanding any more? What then? And what happens when they disappear for no reason – at least not one that you can understand? And no explanation is offered? Someone who you just knew would be a friend forever. What do you do?  How do you react?

I don’t know about you – but I choose my friendships carefully. I have been known to give my trust away to wrong people and it has made me careful. But I am also aware that I have a memory like an elephant. Sometimes it’s a curse and not a blessing – and can easily make me ‘self protect’ rather than giving people a chance.

Jesus tells us that we need to love others as ourselves. We need to ‘turn the other cheek’ and to forgive many times – even if we don’t want to. Even if we don’t understand. Even when it is NOT reciprocated. Especially then. He instructs us to do this – not for them – but for us. There is healing in forgiveness – and a release that happens in our own heart – when we simply do this.

It is interesting to note – that in these times of rejection and hurt – in the silent treatment from a friend – or someone I thought was my friend – the powerful words of Jesus come back to me – and I come to realize that sometimes my love is a selfish kind of love.

A kind of love that says, “I will give – if you give back – I will show compassion – if you treat me right – I will cheer you on – only if you cheer me on – I will love you – when you earn my love.”

It is sobering. It is sad. And – it is true. For all of us. At the base of each of us – is an ugly selfish sinner – capable of terrible thoughts – wrong motives and hurtful agendas. We are hopelessly ‘prone to wander’. Our only hope is the love and grace of Jesus – given freely to all who will ask. On our own we mess it up pretty badly. Jesus knew we would. That’s why He came. To save us from ourselves. To clean us up and set us on the right path – even after we ‘blow it’ – even after things seem so hopelessly lost. Even when there is nothing else that we can do. It is then that He steps in and turns even the most hopeless situation – around. He does the work in our own hearts. He gets to the root of the problem. The problem is not everyone else – It starts with me.  OUCH!!

As I write this I am aware that I am struggling with my own ‘issues’ in my life – some that are resolved and some unfortunately – that are not and may never be. Some within my power to fix and others – out of my hands. It isn’t up to me. So I – hope and pray. And I work on me. Maybe some day – I will get it right.  With God’s help – I’m sure going to try – but I’m going to make mistakes – I’m going to get my feelings hurt – I’m going to self-protect and I’m going to accuse – because it feels better to blame – than to point the finger at myself.

I believe I need to have an attitude of true humility when reaching out to my friends – the ones I have in My life now and cherish – and my new friends that I haven’t even met yet. I need to expect that there are going to be times when I will not understand what is going on – and I’m going to try very hard to look into my own heart for hidden motives and agenda – instead of blaming others.  And when I do reach out to others I need to let my attitude toward them be an attitude of giving – without expecting anything in return. To love them unconditionally – just as Christ has loved me – no matter what. And if Christ can accept me – with all my flaws and imperfections – then I can also be free to love you – with no fear of rejection – and with no guarantee that your love will be reciprocated.

I also want to say – that although I love everyone – there are only certain ones that will be close friends – those that I will let into my confidences and my world.  And those that will do the same.  And those I will not.   And those  ‘others’ – either through something that has happened – or something unhealthy that I sense –  it is not wise to continue to heap on myself ’emotional’ abuse from them.  Those  that I thought at one time were my friends.  Sometimes I have to assigned them ‘an outer orbit’  – while continuing to love them as Jesus would.  And sometimes – I have to be okay with that – hard as it is.  And leave it there.

I want to appreciate life’s blessings – EVERY DAY – and the wonderful people who are in it. I want to know that I can be a giver – even when it is not returned to me. And when it is – I know I have found another good friend and ‘gift’ from God.  It’s like God smiling and whispering, ‘you’re finally getting it – now treat them right!’

And I’m happy to report that after living this long – I’m finally getting it – and I have many wonderful friends in my life who have all played such an important role on my continued journey.  Strong men and women who I am in daily communication with – who inspire me, lift me up and reciprocate friendship and love – in the most basic form.  I am blessed.  And I pray that you too – would be equally as blessed with a love that is reciprocated.

God Bless

Laughter, Listening and Liking each other in Marriage

I posted something today on my facebook page about laughter and it got me thinking about marriage and laughter.  There are many reasons why a marriage fails – even those that start out with good intentions.  Oh sure, there are outside forces that hit you blindsided – we all know about those things – and finances (or lack of them) can also be a key contributor to failure.  But more than these I believe that at the very root of the issue is this:  Married couples forget to laugh. Now I’m not talking about the little chuckle you get from something funny one of your kids did today – or a funny email or status update on facebook from one of your friends – or even a great humorous story – I’m talking about laughing with each other – sharing a joke together – or a secret and poking fun at the other and finding it so funny!  When was the last time your spouse made you REALLY LAUGH? When was the last time – YOU were funny and not so serious?  Life is serious enough without adding to it – and sometimes you just need to take a ‘chill pill’ and just laugh.  Laugh at the absurd – laugh at the ridiculousness of your situation – laugh at the irony of life – enjoy your spouse and find something together to laugh at!  A healthy married couple smiles and laughs all the time.

Another reason marriages are in trouble is this: Married people forget how to listen. You’re so used to that person – after a while if they’re not saying anything worth listening to – we tune them out. It is an art form to learn how to listen well – but well worth it.  We were a marriage that had forgotten how to do this – I didn’t feel I had my husband’s full attention anymore – he had forgotten how to listen to me and meet my emotional needs.

Develop a healthy sense of humor with your spouse and listen to them – really listen. If you listen long enough – believe me – you will bond with them again – you’ll be able to share secrets and find that laughter too.  It will be there – decide that YOU will not wait for them – decide that you are going to turn your marriage around.  Get your ‘mischievousness’ on!  You will ignite something in your spouse – a passion that you forgot was ever there.

And finally – I think the reason that marriages are in trouble is this:  Somewhere along the way – you forgot to like your spouse. You say, “Oh – but you don’t understand – I wouldn’t ever think of leaving them” – You may even say that you ‘love’ them – in the traditional Christian way (of course) and if push comes to shove and they really tick you off and you’re at the end of your rope you might consider murder – but NOT divorce – NEVER!  You say, “Not me!   This would never happen to us!  But I don’t have to like them – I’m committed.” HOGWASH!!  You are setting yourself up for a failure with this attitude.  What if someone comes into your life that really likes you – admires you – and treats you like your spouse doesn’t? There’s a fine line between tolerance and indifference – don’t be foolish.  It happens all the time.

I like my husband.  I didn’t always feel this way.  Oh I suppose I got used to him – he is an excellent man in every way – good father – wonderful friend to many – but for me – I had forgotten to like him.  So like many of you out there – I had a choice to make.  Do I want to start over and learn how to like him again – find the laughter and the reason that I picked  him in the first place?  Can it be done?  We’re used to each other – but do I really like him?  It took many months of talking and really listening to each other to discover that we were solid as good friends – even if we hadn’t been married to each other.  We had to rediscover that again – we had to ‘date’ again to make that connection – and we DID!  And you can too.  I can honestly say now that I not only love Greg – and am committed – but I also like him.

I found this very cute and humorous video on marriage from the comedic and married team of Stiller and Meara – married over 50 years.  It’s adorable and has some great truths in it – they use laughter in their relationship and they have also found that they actually like one another after all the years together.

God Bless

Roots and Wings

Several years ago – after living in our present home for 2 years – we had a major problem with our sewage pipes.  And naturally, like most any disaster – if it’s going to happen – it will be when you have company.  Our daughter’s boyfriend was here from California where he was stationed as a United States Marine.  We were happy to meet Jack and were excited that he came up here to see her for a weekend.  As soon as we picked him up from the airport and dropped by quickly at our home – they were off to a mutual friend’s church party – and left Greg and me at home to do some last-minute chores.  It was a Saturday night and I was trying to finish up some laundry and was working in my office when all of a sudden I heard a peculiar gurgling sound coming from the guest bathroom just down the hall from my office.  I got up to investigate and the gurgling noise became louder until water bubbled up from the toilet and started spilling out ALL OVER THE FLOOR at a rapid pace.  I screamed for Greg who was upstairs and he sprang into action trying to ‘plunge’ whatever had backed up in the toilet.  We could both see that it was a far worse problem then just a simple clog – the water just kept coming – spilling over onto the floor – spilling out into the hallway and making a HUGE mess EVERYWHERE!!  I had every towel I owned in the hallway to mop up the water.  We called someone to help us and thankfully we knew someone in the plumbing business.  Because this was late at night (of course) the problem did indeed have to wait until the next day – so we mopped up the mess as best we could after the water slowed down to a stop and told everyone NOT to flush ANY toilet in the house.  This was not a good weekend to have a guest!  Luckily Jack had family in the area and was not staying at our house over night.

The next day our wonderful friend (John Beck) came over and donated his time and equipment – a hose with a camera on it – to dig up and diagnose the problem in our front yard.  It was temporarily ‘fixed’ – but a week later would you believe it – the same thing happened – and back John came only this time it was a water line with the same problem – ‘roots’.  This time the WHOLE YARD had to be dug up to run a new water line – And by ‘dig up’ – yeah – well you get the picture.  It was determined that because of all the trees in our yard (we love our shady trees in the summer) we had a ‘root’ problem.  Roots were growing in not so great places – like our sewage pipes and water line – thus creating a nasty back up for the sewage line anything thicker than water.  And for the water line – the same back up and mess all over the house.  Yuck.    Roots had to be cut and our pipes were FREED!!!  Yay!

Two years ago we had the same problem.  It was an emergency of the same magnitude and our friend no longer had the equipment or was in that line of business any more – so we needed to hire someone to come.   It was REALLY EXPENSIVE and we took every precaution since then to make sure it NEVER happened again – including pouring things into the drain to dissolve the nasty roots and to discourage them from growing back.  But those roots are persistent – and it seemed that no matter what we did – they kept coming back!

So today while getting ready to go to church – Greg heard the familiar ‘gurgling’ and ‘bubbling’ sound coming from the downstairs bathroom again – and he thought, “Oh oh” – I was happily taking a shower upstairs and was oblivious to his rushing around downstairs and out the front door – taking a look at the pipes to access the backup.  As soon as I was out of the shower he informed me that he was going to have to rent something – and soon or we were going to have the same problem.  Long story short – after church we rented a snake with cutters on it to insert in the pipe and ‘cut’ the roots and clear the clog.  It worked like a charm – and was ever so much cheaper than hiring someone – like we did 2 years ago.

Roots.  What to do – what to do??  They are with us – they attach themselves to us – we cut them down – they grow back.  They are persistent.  They follow us.  And if roots are grown in the wrong place – they cause damage and clogs – and need to be cut and re-directed.

Roots in human beings are similar to those in trees.  If they are well nourished and have the right ‘direction’ shown to them – then they grow straight and strong.  Roots are the things that grow beneath the surface – the things you can’t see.  You can tell a healthy tree by its roots.  It is not so easy to see this in a person – or is it?  Is there such a thing a ‘bad roots’?  Can they hinder our growth and development?  Can our past affect us?  Prevent us from getting everything we need in this life?  Sometimes because of the ‘voices’ from the past we do not continue to reach and grow – and explore things for ourselves.  The teachings of childhood are always in our heads – good or bad.  We can actually be ‘stunted’ instead of going our own natural way.  Those ‘voices’ can clog our minds until we are not sure what we believe anymore.  Is it because we are taught that?  Is it our belief?  Can we risk believing something different – or new?

Roots – are good things – If you had loving parents and leaders/mentors in your life that spoke great things into your life and instilled beliefs and teachings to help you grow – then you were blessed. But you may not have that legacy.  You may not have had good parents that spoke great things into your life – and your ‘roots’ may be broken and bent.  Regardless of which category you fall into – it is now your responsibility to nourish your own ‘roots’ and to help them grow in a healthy way – to ‘unclog’ the  voices in your head and to clear a path for your life that does not just include the past – but that opens up a way for you to be all you can be.   Ask God today to show you the special things He has in mind for your life – He will make your path clear – as you step out in His unconditional grace.  He will give you  ‘clear’ thinking – and  help you to ‘unclog’ the tangled mess in your mind and replace it with His own sweet presence and love – flowing freely through you and bursting forth with newness, strength and health.

I believe we need to take all we can from our good parents – things they taught us – things we learned in school and what our church taught us.  But I believe it is not enough.  We need to build on that – good past or bad past – it’s up to us – it is a choice.

Be someone today with healthy roots – choose to pass that on to your children and their children.  Allow them to be who they are supposed to be – give them roots – but also give them wings.

God Bless

Living An Authentic Life

Heard an excellent message this morning by our Pastor.  His opening question:  “How authentic are you”?

It seems we spend a lifetime preparing and carefully grooming an ‘image’ of ourselves.  We are even taught in the church world that we must preserve an ‘image’ of no problems – no struggles – no failures – in other words – a false ‘image’ of who we really are.  This is largely due to the fact that we do not want to appear ‘weak’ or worse yet – that God would appear ‘weak’ in us.  We are strangely satisfied with the fact that very few people – even sometimes our own families don’t know us.  The passing by of church people on Sunday morning when we’re asked, “how are you”? is answered by “great”!  But what if it is not?  Who really wants to hear that?  Who has time to listen to a long sad diatribe about your day, your past week, past month and even years where maybe life hasn’t be so great at all.

I am caught between two generations.  My parent’s and my children’s.

In my parent’s generation – you did not talk about problems openly.   You did not admit that you were struggling with anything.  Counselors were only for those who had serious problems.  Real Christians didn’t have problems – at least problems that couldn’t be fixed by reading the Bible and praying more – and if you were filled with the Holy Spirit you simply didn’t struggle with issues anymore – and if you did you never admitted it.  It made you appear weak – and who wants that?   People who had ‘issues’ such as addictions or family setbacks were marginalized and assigned an outer orbit.  If there was a divorce or a child from a church family who had gone astray – it was thought that there was something wrong with the parents.  It was what they believed.  (Clearly this is just wrong – and many parents today are still feeling guilt and blame that they did something wrong when their children are less than perfect)  Confessing failures or problems was considered ‘self indulgent’ and weak. Therefore – no one ever really knew you – you had to keep so much of yourself hidden.  This is not a slight to that generation – it is simply the way that they believed, were taught – and still hold to today.  Being a role model and teacher to their children meant having to sacrifice their authenticity – because they could never lower their standard – but felt that it was their ‘job’ to bring up their children and raise them to a ‘higher’ standard – and so this became the cry of their generation – in the home and in the church – ‘never let them see you sweat’ – and ‘always have a teachable moment’ and ‘never show weakness – or problems to anyone’.  These values were good ones!  But there was fall-out as well.

My generation tried to take the good we learned from our parents generation – change it up – and make it more personal to our own children.  We struggled with living ‘authentic’ lives because we were taught to keep so much of it inside and not let others think we had problems of any kind.  We were so good at masking our own problems – after a while we really believed we didn’t have any!  How naive we were.  It leaked over into the church world – and if you were in church leadership like we were for years and years – you kept so much of your true self hidden away – for the sake of the greater good.  It never occurred to us that we could be real.  That we could ‘let down our hair’ so to speak.  We had a few trusted friends that maybe we could confide in – but it was a risk to do so – and getting burned a time or two by doing this – we quickly learned our lessons and solved it by TELLING NO ONE.

My children’s generation is very different.  They are quick to spot someone who is not being authentic.  They were not raised on ‘appearances’, and guilt – as many of the ‘rules’ assigned to my generation did not exist for them.  We encouraged them to talk to us – we gave them permission to ‘mess up’ and confess what they were struggling with  – without a lecture – tried to demonstrate love and openness – realizing that ‘messing up’ is in itself the greatest teacher.  My children abhor hypocrisy of any kind and are quick to spot it – in the home and especially in the church.  The greatest gift I ever gave to my children was admitting I was a human being who had blown it.  By allowing myself to be less than perfect – a flawed human being capable of much failure – they were able to see the grace of God working in my life – and it made me much more accessible to them – it made their own walk with God something real – as they saw first hand what God’s love, forgiveness and mercy is all about – in a personal and tangible way.

I am proud of the fact that both our children do not have the ‘appearance’ only of being Christians – but they also have their own journey of personal faith in Christ that is very real.  They are not perfect – far from it.  They’ve blown it so many times – but because Greg and I have also allowed our children to see that we have also blown it – it gives them great hope that Jesus can forgive and does forgive.  His mercies are new every morning.  He is in the restoring business – and accepts and loves us just how we are – with no pretense, half-truths or mystery.  They do not have to hide how they feel from us.  Instead they identify with us – and know they have an ‘ally’  in which to confide in – someone who has blown it too – and found the secret to overcoming – and coming out a winner – with great hope for tomorrow!

I challenge you today to become an authentic person who lives an authentic life.  Is it easy to admit failures and problems?  No way!  It’s so much easier to hide behind the smile of  ‘everything’s all perfect for me – thank you very much’ and keep your spotless reputation in tact.  But your neighbors and the other people in your world cannot relate to this – at all!  It is intimidating to say the least!  And it is also amazing to note – that when we act like this – people are quick to read between the lines and spot a phony!   When we had a small group in our home we always shared real stories of authenticity to those there – and they all told us how much they appreciated the fact that we were real people – and they too began to share and open up.  People feel safe with you when you will be real with them in that way.  The person with ‘no problems’ – or appears to be ‘too perfect’ will never be able to pour experience, perspective and wisdom into another.  There just simply will be no opportunity to do it!  They will just be looked at – and possibly admired – but not trusted.

If we allow our lives to be a ‘light’ as Jesus talks about in Luke chapter 8 – then we will have an influence over those that are in our circle –  in such a real and dramatic way.  Being authentic is a risk.  Living that kind of life is always scary and risky because people can take advantage of you.  But that is always the risk when you give yourself away and allow God to use you in a special, personal and authentic way.  Won’t you allow yourself to be that ‘light’ today?  Not hiding where it’s just safe and no one knows you – but coming out of yourself and being a true example by saying, ” look at what God has done for me!  He can do it for you too!”  Isn’t that what the gospel message is all about?  We are called to give ‘hope’ and ‘light’ to all those around us.

I am praying for all of my dear friends today – as you attempt to live a more authentic life – and that you would be a ‘light’ to those around you – in your circle of influence today.  One kind word of encouragement may be all it takes – as you slowly let go of  ‘appearances’ and live a more authentic life today.

God Bless

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