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Entries in Relationships (10)

Thursday
Apr132017

Gasp: A Relationship's Last Breath

Cythia Ruchti is a hope-lover, hope giver and hope promoter. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she offers hope for all human relationships (and our ultimate relationship with the Lord).

"Who sits sipping coffee when a dying man or woman lies on the hardwood floor of the coffee shop or the breakroom at the office?" Cynthia says. "Even people with minimal skills know that someone needs to start CPR, call 911, and ask, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'"

At first, I (Dawn) thought this sounded a little like the beginning of a mystery, but knowing Cynthia, I figured it was more likely a powerful life lesson. I was not disappointed!

Cynthia continues . . . 

With relationships—marriage, parent/child, friendships—isn’t that what we too often do?

We sit idly by, caring but not responding.

“That’s for the professionals.” As if that absolves us of the responsibility to act, to do something, even if our skills are amateur at best, even if all we know about CPR is what we’ve seen on TV dramas.

But sometimes the last gasp occurs before the professionals arrive on the scene.

And sometimes the relationship in trouble is our own.

It’s been said that the number one killer of relationships is neglect.

  • How many friendships would still be alive if years, distance, and neglect hadn’t gotten in the way?
  • How many parent/child relationships could be strong and vital, life-giving, if given more attention when they started to fade?
  • How many marriages list “neglect” as one of the reasons for their “failure to thrive”?

Although the following scripture specifically speaks to a community’s forsaking or neglecting their relationship with God, doesn’t it also give a gripping word picture of the way we handle distance in marriage relationships or friendships?

“For our fathers…have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps…” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9 NASB).

What a poignant visual! Leaving a porch light on is an expression of hope. He will come home. She will return. We will be okay. We’ll get through this. It may be long into the night, but we’re going to make it.

In this incident in the Bible, the people had boldly extinguished all evidence of hope. Lights off. We’re done.

After decades of marriage, my husband and I still disagree. Shocking, isn’t it? But even when our disagreements reach what seem to be impossible impasses, neither one of us reaches to shut off the porch light, because hope lingers in our commitment to one another.

Most MARRIED couples can recite the list of relationship CPR (Caring enough to Proactively Resuscitate) instructions:

  1. Maintain frequent date nights, even if you’re empty nesters. Get away from the house and its responsibilities for a while to focus on each other.
  2. Set aside an extended period of time for a getaway at least once a year.
  3. Be intentional about what the other person needs, honoring him (or her) above yourself (See Philippians 2:3. Check out the Phillips version—“Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”)
  4. Learn and respect your mate’s love language.

What would that list look like if our connection WITH GOD is the relationship that’s been neglected, left gasping?

  1. Re-establish a regular time to leave all other concerns behind and focus on listening to Him.
  2. Make it a priority to create an extended time for aloneness with the One you love. A silent retreat. A day-long or week-long sabbatical from other responsibilities. Unplugging. Fasting.
  3. Set your own needs aside to concentrate on what God wants from you—worship, adoration, devotion…
  4. Learn and respect God’s love language—OBEDIENCE (John 14:15).

If your human relationships or your connection with God are gasping for air, what CPR measures do you intend to implement?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope, an ever-lit porch light hope, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Her latest novel is A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). In June, Worthy Publishing releases her book of encouragement and reflections called As My Parents Agehttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com/books/a-fragile-hope/.

Graphic: adapted, Click at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Marriage Madness and the 3-Man Weave

Morgan Farr is a mom, Bible teacher and physical trainer. In this clever Marriage UPGRADE, she encourages us to practice a "drill" during basketball's "March Madness" that can make our marriages stronger.

"It is basketball season and March Madness to boot," Morgan says. "Marriage and basketball have a lot of similarities, especially when it comes to the fundamentals."

Now I (Dawn) have been a basketball fan since high school and both of my boys played, but never once did I think of a parallel between basketball and marriage, so Morgan's words made me say, "Huh?"

Morgan continues. . .

I love basketball, and not in a "Oh, I will watch it if it is on kind of way." I love basketball in a "I love the stats, the dialogue about the game, and the replays " kind of way.

I love to watch the games, listen to them on the radio, and read about them online. I also really enjoy playing basketball with friends and family. There is nothing quite like the rush of adrenaline that you get with the ball in your hand during a full court press!

Basketball taught me some of my hardest learned lessons in life.

I learned things like:

  • People will be better, smarter, and faster than you are. 
  • You will get knocked down at some point, but you have to get back up and finish the game.
  • You can't win a game without your team, no matter how "good" you are.

The team lesson has been a good reminder in my marriage. I often think of my marriage as being a 3-Man Weave Drill.

In a 3-Man Weave Drill, the players start out at one end of the court and then sprint toward the other end—all the while interweaving each other (like a braid) while passing the ball to one another. If you haven't studied or practised the 3-Man Weave, then it can look really complicated and intimidating.

Early on in the drill it is not unusual to see athletes running the wrong way, bumping in to teammates, and stumbling. But when you watch athletes that are proficient complete the drill it a beautiful, almost fluid movement.

Here is a video illustrating the motion in this drill.

 

That is all great and wonderful, but what does the 3-Man Weave have to do with March Madness; and more importantly, what does it have to do with marriage?

Being a Christian is like being involved in a constant 3-Man Weave, but it is no drill.

The players are you, your spouse, and God. The three of you move together down the court (through life) interweaving and moving the ball—your family.

If at any point one or more of the players is removed from the court, the weave doesn't work. You can still move the ball down the court, with just two or even one player. But it isn't nearly as effective or easy to do it that way.

The Bible talks about this idea in Ecclesiastes 4:12:

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

This is true in basketball and this is true in marriage.

With the madness that goes on in our world, it is important to keep our three players in communication and moving smoothly down the court.

Let me challenge you this March Madness season to fight the world's madness and focus on drawing close to your spouse and close to God.

What can you do to better run the 3 Man Weave in your marriage?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her wonderful husband Brian and their two sons. She is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one interactions and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog. You can find her training programs on her blog, FarrFunctionalFitness.blogspot.com.

Thursday
Nov102016

7 Steps to Resolve Conflict (Hint: It Takes Humility!)

Susan K. Stewart is a practical gal with a lot of wisdom. In this Relationships UPGRADE, she shares important, biblical steps to resolving relationship conflicts.

"'Not again. How many times can he preach on this subject? Who is it stirring up trouble now?' Those were my thoughts," Susan said, "when I read the sermon title: 'Resolution: The Matthew Solution.'"

Like Susan, I (Dawn) have been uncomfortable in church, wincing with the pinch of a convicting message and wishing the pastor would move on to a less painful topic. Or at least, preach it to someone else! It took me a long time to understand it was really the Spirit of God tugging at my own heart.

Susan continues . . .

A recent undercurrent of discontent infected our congregation. That is often a problem in groups of people We are, after all, sinful humans who happen to be saved by grace. Conflict among Christians should not be a surprise.

“How will he admonish us this week?”

I had developed a terrible attitude about the whole situation. I sat trying to be attentive for that grain of truth God had for me.

Somehow I missed it.

During the following week, God led me to the book of James. I focused on James 4:7-10.

My heart opened to what should have been a no brainer, clear steps to resolving conflict.

1. Submit to God

No matter the circumstances, submit to God. Ask for his wisdom to see the truth, not the colored viewpoint of humans.

Be willing to follow him, wherever it may lead.

2. Resist the devil

As we submit to God, we resist the devil. But the attacks will continue during the peacemaking process.

Satan wants to convince us that we aren’t at fault. He says following God’s way is troublesome, a lot of work, and a hindrance to the outcome we want. As humans, what we want is peace at all cost and to look like the peacemaker.

3. Draw near to God

The more we resist the devil, the closer we move to God. As we move closer thim, the better able we can resist the devil.

The closer we are to God, the more we will be able to remove our own desires and submit to God’s.

4. Cleanse your hands

Here’s where the rubber starts to screech along the road.

What? Me, the sinner? We’ve become ingrained with the truth in Matthew 18: go to the one who has sinned against you. Instead when there’s a clash, we should be looking at our own sin.

“First take the log out of your own eye” (Matthew 7:5 NASB). We need to face our own sin before we confront anyone else’s.

5. Purify your heart

Is the goal of conflict resolution to make everyone happy? Or is it reconciliation with God?

To approach a solution to the friction, our own hearts need to be clean. This is done by seeking to please God, not other people.

Not everyone will be happy, but God will be delighted.

6. Be miserable and mourn and weep

Sin is the root of the strife and we should be saddened and repentant.

As we submit to God’s authority and purify our hearts, we come to realize how destructive our own sin is in the conflict.

7. Humble yourself

Humility isn’t weakness; it is the opposite of pride.

How often is pride the sin at the heart of discord? Humility is the admission we can do nothing on our own.

When pride takes hold, we think we have the solution to any problem. But only God is the true peacemaker.

Don’t worry; you’ll have an opportunity to put these steps into practice.

The next time conflict resolution is the topic of a sermon, article or conversation, remember James’ steps to peacemaking.

Resolve the strife in yourself, and then you will be prepared to help others.

Is there a conflict in your life? How will you follow James’s steps to resolve it?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and peacocks—teaches, writes and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Learn more about Susan at www.practicalinspirations.com

Thursday
Oct132016

Prioritizing People: How to Upgrade Your Decisions

Author and international speaker Pam Farrel always seeks to breathe life into relationships, and in this Relationship UPGRADE, she focuses on the sometimes tough subject of "who should get my time"?

"Good decisions," Pam says, "will protect and provide for those who might not be able to, or yet know how to, protect themselves"

I (Dawn) know women struggle with prioritizing the people in their lives. However, none of us has unlimited time, energy or focus. As my friend Pam says, "The reality is, we must learn to see people and how we spend our time with and for people from a more heavenly point of view."

Pam continues . . .

Often women feel frozen when trying to decide on just how to prioritize people. However, even Jesus had to make choices on how He would spend His time and with whom.

Here are two of the questions I ask when trying to decide people-time priorities:

1. Who has earned more right to my time?

Some people truly deserve to be prioritized. For example, I will always answer my cell and quickly return a call to my mother, or rearrange my schedule if she is in need of my help. I do this because she gave birth to me, then gave of herself to raise me into the leader I am today. (Believe me, with my strong will, she had her work cut out for her!)

When I said, “I do” to my husband, God asked me to become a quality “helpmeet” to him.

Also all of my sons, their wives, and my grandkids deserve my time, because God gave them to our family as a gift.

My siblings, grandparents, in-laws, those in my extended family may also rotate in my schedule if they have a pressing need or issue that my skills set can help with.

In addition, if I make a commitment to a client (or boss), a disciple or a mentee, I do everything in my power to keep promises made.  

Most of us understand this concept in principle—but what happens when several of these people —or others—all seem to need us all at the same time? 

At that moment, I ask:  

2. Who is "the least of these"?

Jesus used this principle in a parable:

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'" (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

In your situation, ask, “Who needs protected or provided for most?”  

“The least of these” are the very smallest or least of status. Jesus said how we treat those who we cannot gain from—and may not be able to protect or provide for themselves—is a reflection of how we are treating Jesus.

In a family setting “least of these” might be:

A CHILD

If you are a parent, every decision you make, know that your children are your “least of these”. So ask:

  • “How will this impact the kids?”
  •  “What choice do I need to make to give the best long range outcome for the kids?”
  •  “Who do I want my child to be as an adult? What choice here will get them there?”

A PARENT

The least of these does not always mean a child focus. For example, we went from directing and caring for our sons, and then a few years later, it was obvious Bill’s aging parents needed to become a high priority. Because their health continued to decline, we put our home up for sale to move nearer to aid them. 

A FAMILY MEMBER or FRIEND

God might move one of the relationships listed under the first question above to the front burner of your life if something catastrophic hits: a death, an illness, a financial collapse, etc.

These are more often a temporary shift of time, energy and focus given until the storm has passed.

YOU!

When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant always says, “In case of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on the person you are traveling with”.

To care for “the least of these” means we also have to care for ourselves, so we can care for others!

Today, who is your “least of these”?  

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success At Keeping It All Together.

Thursday
Jul282016

Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 2

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In the last UPGRADE post, Dawn asked this question and said we can all invest more in our prime relationships. First we invest in our relationship with the Lord, and then we invest in ourselves (so we will be strong and ready to serve God).

There are three other priority relationships, and investments in each of them can make a huge difference in OUR lives - and in THEIRS!

[Note: for a more detailed version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

          Investment #3: INVEST in YOUR SPOUSE

If you are married, this is your prime relationship after your relationship with God. 

There are so many ways to invest in a spouse. Here are only a few:

1. Communicate Love and Appreciation.

2. Develop a Partnership.

  • Don't try to go it alone. You are "heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). 
  • Become friendly warriors together in the battle against temptation.
  • Seek the Lord together for His purposes in your home.
  • Ask, "How can I help?"

3. Value Gifts and Skills.

  • Discover your Partner's spiritual gifts
  • Notice your partner's skills. 
  • Help cultivate these gifts.
  • Appreciate and value your partner in public.

4. Fulfill Your Role.

  • Husbands can protect, provide for, lead with love and wisdom; respond in gentle, loving, kind and respectful ways to honor their wives; express appropriate public praise; and study their wives and help them become the women God purposed them to be.
  • Wives can support and encourage his leadership in the home; appreciate their work; manage their home well; show respect; trust God with her highest hopes for her man; and understand and appreciate her husband's God-given sexual needs.

          Investment #4: INVEST in YOUR CHILDREN

After your spouse, your children are the next priority investment—not the other way around.

1. Love Them Unconditionally.

  • Don't expect perfection. Your kids are going to mess up. They're kids!
  • Express your love privately and publicly.
  • Help them see the value of "family." 

2. Teach Them to Seek the Lord.

  • Help them see their need for the Lord.
  • Don't give answers too quickly. Challenge them to search the scripture.
  • Teach them how to pray.
  • Promote a godly legacy.

3. Discipline Wisely.

  • Distinguish between immaturity and defiance. 
  • Discipline quickly and wisely. 
  • Encourage proper respect.
  • Encourage growth and change.

4. Model Good Character.

  • Model behavior you want repeated. .
  • Reward good behavior.
  • Train them to be responsible.
  • Help them cultivate godly friendships.

5. Encourage Creative Growth.

  • Don't overschedule their lives.
  • Encourage their creativity.
  • Help them stretch.
  • Give them space to pursue their dreams.

          Investment #5: INVEST in YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

Good friends don't just happen. Friendship requires intentional investment.

1. Practice Committed Encouragement.

  • Be intentional.
  • Practice loyalty.
  • Be generous.
  • Build into their lives. .

2. Listen More and Better.

  • Listen to their heart.
  • Listen with compassion.
  • Ask questions. Seek to understand so you can encourage.

3. Challenge Greater Growth.

  • Go deeper, with purpose. If youi've developed the kind of friendship that can bear the weight of accountability, ask deeper questions that challenge your friend to greater growth.
  • Come alongside.
  • Pray for your friend regularly.

Can you apply any of these strategies to your own prime relationships? Which one would make the biggest difference today?

Note: There was a lot of territory covered in these two posts, and by all means, it does not cover everything that will encourage wise investments in your relationships. I encourage you to discover more as you "read the manual" for all relationships: the Word of God.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.