AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU – #4 Grow in Forgiveness

Have you ever had someone hold a grudge against you? A family member or a friend? You said or did something wrong … maybe recently but maybe ages ago … and they just won’t move on or let it go – they seem determined to hold it against you.

It hurts, doesn’t it?

And even if it’s got to the point where it doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s probably at the expense of the relationship – because relationships can’t function where unforgiveness and bitterness and resentment are active. Continue reading

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU – #3 Grow in Understanding

I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, learning and writing about relationships because I find that most of my own personal challenges manifest themselves in that space but also the majority of the kinds of things I find myself talking to others about come back to the area of relationships too. Whether I’m speaking to children or parents about family conflict or frustration or people who are struggling to connect well with others in their ministry teams or people having difficulties at work or school – I find myself constantly needing to process with people a greater understanding about themselves and then about others.

Prov 4:7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you get, get understanding.

Other translations say, “though it cost all you have, get understanding/insight”.

I can’t even number the times I’ve made bad calls or responded inappropriately because I haven’t fully understood where another person is coming from – what their motives or intent are, what information they did or didn’t have, what other factors are influencing their behaviour or choices. I, like you I suspect, can be quick to assess and quick to judge because I automatically think that they know everything I know – in which case, there’s no excuse for their behaviour. It happens too often – hopefully less often – but too often.

Likewise, I could write pages about the number of times I’ve been misunderstood and judged accordingly – and critically. Whether a motive of mine has been questioned or I was saying something in jest and it was taken seriously or someone thought I did something that I didn’t … and then I’ve had to receive the hurtful rejection or criticism … and it’s hard!

Relationships take a beating when people don’t take the time to understand or have the grace to give others a chance to explain.

“Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.” Never let your decisions – particularly of the negative kind – be made on the basis of presumptions and assumptions. Do whatever it takes to understand fully so any response or reaction is based on truth.

  • START at “I don’t understand” – don’t finish there!

When you come to that place in an interaction that you exclaim (or even just think) “I just don’t understand you!” you have arrived at a great place to START to really work on that relationship. When we acknowledge that we don’t understand we are best positioned to clarify misunderstanding and misalignments. “I don’t understand” is the gateway to “help me understand” which is the key to unlocking all sorts of wonderfully healthy things needed for your relationships to flourish.

  • Choose to fill the “gap” with TRUST.

At our Kids Min Team Retreat I made a commitment to my team that I would always seek to fill the gap of understanding with trust. That when I don’t know why they did or didn’t do something, or when I hear something about what they’ve said or done, or there’s a chance for disappointment in an unfulfilled expectation … I would presume the best until I knew otherwise. I committed to trust that whatever I didn’t know or understand would be enough to have me not need to react … so I will wait.

It’s really hard to do – but it’s really worth it. It can save us a whole lot of unnecessary hurt and set us up in the right position to move forward in our relationships.

As far as it depends on you … how much energy do you invest into understanding others? What would it look like if you were to let “I don’t understand” be the starting point for relational interactions? How might things change if you were to fill any gaps in your understanding with trustinstead of suspicion, doubt or judgement?

#1 As Far as it Depends on You (read now)
#2 Grow in God’s Love (read now)
#3 Grow in Understanding
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU #2 Grow in GOD’S LOVE

When it comes to relationships, to loving other people, you can’t give what you don’t have.

If you’re finding people hard to love and you’re finding relationships are difficult to manage … maybe part of that is that you don’t fully get what love is all about. Maybe it’s because you don’t have a lot of experienceobserving or receiving real love in action? Maybe we don’t fully ‘get’ GOD’S love? The more you understand of God’s love towards you and others, the more that fills you up and overwhelms you, the more that will overflow from you.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

In Luke 15 we see an incredible snapshot of what God’s love looks like. Jesus tells three stories. Firstly the one about the lost sheep – you know, where the shepherd who has 100 sheep notices one missing and leaves the 99 to go searching for it … and then He tells the story of the woman who loses one coin of the ten she had and virtually turns her house upside down to find it … and then there’s the story of the prodigal son or the patient father – who waits patiently and hopefully for his wayward child to return.

All three of those stories end the same way … they end with a celebration!!! Each of them calls their friends and neighbours and says “Rejoice with me!! Something that was important to me was lost and now it’s not!”

Jesus uses that context to tell us that Heaven throws a party when one of us who was lost is found. ALL of Heaven throws a party when one person who is far from God turns back towards Him. Just for one! God loved the world (and the one) SO much, that He sent His only Son to pay the price required to restore us to Himself (John 3:16) – translation – God loved you enough to sacrifice His own Son so that He could have relationship with you! YOU matter to God. And, from the stories Jesus told we can see that in God’s economy PEOPLE MATTER – every one matters … every single one gets a party! Everyone who has wandered off is noticed and missed, everyone who is lost gets searched for, everyone who returns is welcomed and embraced … every ONE matters to God.

And that means YOU and it means ME and it means everyone that we meet – incidentally as we go about life or those that we DO life more closely with … everyone matters to God! If we are able to view people through that lens it will change how WE love, it will change how we do relationships. How we understand God’s love for us and for others changes how we love and connect with other people.

As far as it depends on you … do you LOVE deeply, selflessly, passionately, committedly? Does the way you love look like God’s love? Does the way you love other people reflect how much they matter to Him?

#1 As Far as it Depends on You (read now)
#2 Grow in God’s Love
#3 Grow in Understanding (read now)
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU #1

I’m a little addicted to Pinterest. Just a little. Some of you will relate. It’s a veritable treasure trove of creative ideas and handy hints and a reliable source of inspiration for almost every project, storage conundrum or DIY task you could encounter. “3 ways to do that”, “5 things you didn’t know about this”, “74 games to play with one balloon”, “how to remove any number of stains from your clothes, carpet, couch or cat” … you name it!

Pinterest boasts over 70 million active users and I would posit that its success is found in the fact that it taps into people’s general desire to “get better”; to “move forward”. To always be growing and improving, becoming more proficient at what we already do or to learn something new.

We’re always investing time in learning. We read books, magazines and blogs, we watch things on TV, we talk to people with more knowledge or expertise, we go to classes or buy the latest tools and gadgets. We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient or effective – in our work place, in our sheds and workshops, in our homes … to save time and money, to get better results.

Imagine if we were to invest that kind of energy and effort into our relationships – into loving people BETTER! Imagine! Imagine if we took classes in how to do relationships or read books on the topic. Imagine if you had groups that got together JUST to discover how to be better at communicating or conflict resolution or understanding people in your life. Imagine!

The resulting transformation in our relationships, our families, our communities … our world … would be immeasurable!

In John 13:35 Jesus says that our love for one another will prove that we are His. The testimony of loving, healthy relationships will show that we are Jesus’ disciples because when we love we look most like Him. And when we love like Him we show a hurting, broken, needy world a way of living and doing relationship that is different to anything they could experience apart from Him.

I know what you’re thinking – and I tend to agree – all of your relationships would be so much better if “they” were better at loving! How many people do you know who could benefit from some good up-skilling in their relationship-doing!? There are so many people who really need to get better at communicating, serving, listening, anticipating, obeying, apologising (& forgiving), remembering, submitting … you know what I mean! They really should read this article. You should forward it to them!

Romans 12:18 says, “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

As far as it depends on you! And by ‘you’ we can gather Paul is talking more to ‘me’ than to ‘them’. As far as it depends on ME, live at peace with everyone.

What would it look like for you to do everything that is possible to make all of your relationship better? To take full responsibility for everything that ‘depends on you’ – your attitude, your pride, your responses, your language, your tone, your generosity, your sacrifice, your effort.

In the next 5 blogs we’ll look at specific ways we can grow and increase our capacity to love others. But it starts with embracing this idea first: at least SOME of the relational conflict, tension or disappointment you experience ‘depends on you’. Not all, but probably some – and probably more than we would care to acknowledge.

#1 As Far as it Depends on You
#2 Grow in God’s Love (read now)
#3 Grow in Understanding (read now)
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)

How far can I go?

When it comes to the topics of “Sexuality and Relationships” and youth and young adults the two most frequently asked questions are “How will I find ‘the one’?” (refer last week’s post on making decisions) and the big one “How far can I go?”

How far can I go? It seems like a pretty reasonable question. “Where is the boundary? Where is the line that I shouldn’t cross? Tell me what I can and can’t do – define it for me and then I can manage my behaviour accordingly.” Continue reading

Just say “no”?

There’s a movement in the States called “The Abstinence Movement”. It’s generated out of Christian churches who are wanting to elevate a Godly perspective of sexual purity and honour in a sex-soaked culture that de-values sexual purity and promotes the sexualisation of women, children and … well … pretty much everyone and everything!

The heart behind the movement is to encourage young people to make a commitment to abstain from sexual intercourse prior to marriage. In some cases, young people participate in “purity ceremonies” where, before their parents and members of their church, they pledge abstinence – inclusive of putting a ring on their wedding finger – until they get their actualwedding ring.

This movement receives government funding as a social health strategy.

In recent times, the government has been reassessing their funding of the movement after research conducted indicated no discernible difference in the sexual activity (loss of virginity, promiscuity, sexual regret or transmitted diseases) of those who were IN the program when compared to those who weren’t.

Clearly the message of “just say no” – even if accompanied by a piece of jewellery! – is not enough on its own. We need a sound understanding of sexuality and sexual purity rather than reducing it to a simple statement or a once-off pledge.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 gives us something of God’s perspective on this area of our personal discipleship.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; … learn to control your body in a way that is holy and honourable … no one should wrong a brother or sister or take advantage of them.” (condensed)

As leaders, parents and ‘adults’ in the worlds of our young people it falls to us to help them grasp a full awareness of God’s design for our sexuality – that within a covenanted married relationship the full expression and exploration of sexual intimacy would bring a couple to unity and an incredible depth of relationship.

We all need to establish a firm grounding in the truths of this beautiful gift God gives to us in order to equip us to navigate a world that distorts and detracts from what He designed us to experience. The “no” we would encourage our young people to say is to the counterfeit joy and satisfaction that is offered in our sexually broken culture. God has a bigger and better “yes” that needs to be before us always.

Discerning Drinkers

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a fan of Diet Coke. It’s my beverage of choice. I like the bubbles – that’s the main appeal – and it works for me because I’d rather eat my calories than drink them and when I have the caffeine-free variety, essentially it’s just brown bubble water that I’m drinking – and I’m ok with that! 🙂

Basically I don’t drink any other soft drink. Not Coke, not even Coke Sugar Free – not Pepsi (Pepsi Max, Pepsi Light, Pepsi Next etc), not Sprite or Fanta … just Diet Coke. If I’m on a plane or at a restaurant and they don’t have Diet Coke I’ll just drink water – that’s how loyal I am to Diet Coke! 🙂

The thing is though, if I am SUPER thirsty …I’m somewhere really hot and I’m NEEDING hydration or I’ve been exercising or something … I’ve been known to lower my standards and drink one of the aforementioned beverages! It’s a compromise and it goes against my inner-sensibilities – but there are some times when the desperation of thirst overrides my discernment and my better judgement!

You hear stories of survival in extreme situations – Stuart Diver trapped in the Thredbo landslide, Aron Ralston of “127 hours” fame (a rock climber who got his hand stuck in a rock and famously severed it in order to free himself) etc –  where people have got so desperate for hydration that they drank their own urine! Because ultimately, thirst is a need that MUST be satiated! In the end, the need of our body will override any stigmas or distaste in order to get what is required to sustain the functions of the body.

In John 4:7-26, Jesus uses this basic human need to illustrate the most fundamental of spiritual needs. He meets a woman at a well, where she has come to get ACTUAL water, and speaks to her about the needs of her heart that can only be satisfied by “living water” – that is, relationship with Christ Himself.

This woman has been married multiple times and is living with a guy who isn’t her husband – you can appreciate something of the brokenness she must’ve experienced in her life. She’s drawing water in the middle of the day – possibly to avoid the other women of the town (unfortunately, we can too easily imagine what the attitude and action of people might have been toward her). Some speculate that the reason for her multiple marriages is infertility – there was no greater stigma than being unable to bear children and it would’ve been an acceptable grounds for her husbands to reject her.

As innate as our physical need for water is our soul need for relationship. It’s how we were made – created in the image of a relational God to experience fullness of relationship in Him. Our need for relationship is a powerful driving force in our life, a desire that seeks fulfilment, a need that propels us to do whatever we must in order to satisfy it.

Jesus talks about a kind of relationship that wholly satisfies – found in the love of our Heavenly Father and made possible for us through Jesus Himself – where our deepest needs and hearts desires are met completely.

When the object of our heart is Him, the focus of our devotion, the source of understanding of ourselves, the sense of acceptance, value and belonging is met in Him and through the love He pours out upon us we find our need for relationship satiated. When we are no longer relationally “dehydrated” we are then far more discerning in our relationships with others. We are better positioned to GIVE because our needs aren’t tied up in them; we process praise or criticism more appropriately, we handle disappointment more effectively – in fact we are disappointed LESS OFTEN because our expectations are more realistic, we are less influenced by others’ opinions and pressures.

Imagine the transforming impact on your relationships if you were so fulfilled in relationship with Jesus that you didn’t NEED anything from others – rather, you were just able to enjoy what they DID give you and to give generously to them. THAT is the invitation Jesus offered the woman at the well and offers still to us – “whoever drinks what I give them will never thirst again”.

Tell me about yourself!

Have you ever watched “Sunrise” in the mornings? Have you seen the “Cash Call” competition? A registered phone number is randomly selected and called. If they answer within five rings they win $10,000 (or more if it has jackpotted!).

You can imagine there’s a whole lot of screaming and repeating things like “are you serious!?” and once that has died down the hosts often say to the winner, “tell us something about yourself.” [The only thing the viewer submits is their name and where they live – nothing else is known about them.]

It intrigues me to listen to what they say – things like “I’m a mother of 3” or “I’m a retired architect”; “I have 3 cats and a budgie” or “I’m 29 years old”. Continue reading

Why we do what we do …

The most powerful driving force in our lives, what motivates us more than anything else, is our need for love. We are all addicted to love. Our greatest needs (beyond the physical stuff required to sustain life) centre around love; our need for value and acceptance and to know a sense of inclusion and belonging. Fundamentally, everything we do comes out of this core need. We may all express it in different ways, but at the heart of us all is an overwhelming yearning for love.

The reason we are all the same in this is because that’s how God created us! He made us to experience and enjoy intimate relationship with Him that would be fuelled and secured by the most incredible love. Where our value, belonging, sense of self, position and purpose would all be found in relationship with Him and in light of all HE is.

The problem came, way back in the garden, when ‘we’ turned our back on God and made it impossible to be in intimate relationship with Him.  The incredible gift of Jesus to us made it possible to be restored – but the reality of our brokenness and fallenness is we don’t experience the fullness of this relationship on earth as it will be in Heaven.

So we go looking to fill the void that is left. In varying degrees we find ourselves filled with God’s love, satisfied in His heart and thoughts towards us and the Spirit’s presence in our lives. But there is a shortfall.

While we are all the same in that we each HAVE a “Love Void” – we are also each unique in how it is shaped, how it will manifest and where we will look to fill it.

This is shaped by so many different factors: age, gender, life experiences (positive & negative), upbringing, intellectual and emotional development/capacity, country and culture, health status, spiritual life and experience … so many things that impact how our Love Void presents in our lives.

EXPERIENCES – FEELINGS – BEHAVIOURS

All of our life choices, our behaviours, attitudes and responses follow this similar pattern. Something happens – an ‘experience’ – that could be positive or negative, helpful or harmful … and it will illicit an emotional response – a ‘feeling’ – happy, sad, rejected, affirmed etc (again, all unique to us – the same experience can result in varied emotional responses for different people) … and this shapes our behaviour.

For example, we experience the loss of a friend (for any reason – death, falling out, moving away etc) which causes feelings of grief and loss, sadness and loneliness which leads us to behavedifferently as a result. We might become more guarded, less likely to open up to a new friendship. We might become more clingy and needy or more protective and cautious. We might become more thankful and celebrate life more in light of an increased knowledge of how fleeting it can be.

EVERY behaviour is borne of a feeling which is informed by an experience – inclusive of our ‘experience’ of God. How we do relationships, the lifestyle choices we make, how we spend our money, how we approach study and success, how we engage in faith and church life, where we work, where and how we live … all of these things are behaviours that are fuelled by feelings which are sparked by experiences. And in the engine room, the mechanism that is generating all of the motivation and activity, is our need for love.

God invites us to draw from Him, to gain our sense of self, value, acceptance, belonging and love in Him. He is unchanging, His heart towards us is love, and He is faithful. By His Spirit He works with us to refine and mature us and to use all of our experiences for our good and His glory.