Tag Archives: relationships

Book Reivew: a touching read – not just for Christmas, but all year round

marriagecarolMarlee and Jacob have had it with their marriage. The final paperwork for the end of their marriage will be signed on Christmas Eve and while driving to that destination in the middle of a freak Christmas Eve blizzard, an accident leads to Marlee’s journey.

This delightful spin on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol takes the reader on a journey though Marlee’s past, present and possible futures. We see how love starts, how it can grow (both together and apart) and how the choices we make pile up like snowflakes.

Can man truly say when a marriage is over? What about God’s opinion? Doesn’t he have a say in the matter?

Now, I know I can’t throw much weight around as I’m not married. Have never been and there a chance I may never be. And that’s okay. I can still be an advocate for it and believe in what it stands for.

I found this read to be delightful, insightful, touching and even healing in my own life. Gary Chapman and Chris Fabry did an excellent job in piecing together Marlee’s story and how choices can destroy or improve one’s life. If it doesn’t make the reader consider the choices they’ve made in their own life, something is wrong. There is always room for improvement, married or not. There is power in small choices. There is hope, especially when one person turns toward another and begins to see them as valuable rather than focusing on the self all the time.

I urge you to pick up a copy of A Marriage Carol, whether at a store or rented from your local library (as I did…trust me, the waiting list is long). You will not be disappointed!

13. the gift of friendship

girlfriendsFriends

Without them, life would be a miserable, lonely existence based on the mundane tasks of day-to-day living.

Come to think of it, life would be that way without Jesus too.  

I’ve learned a bit in my short life here on earth. I may not have fit in when I was a child (I still don’t and that’s okay), but I am and will be forever grateful for those individuals who said, “You’re weird and I like you. I’m here for you” and proved it by their actions. (By the way, you’re weird too, but that’s okay *insert mischievous grin…)

One truth: God loves relationships.

Relationship, companionship and friendship are the lifelong desire of every single person, from life to death. It is a God-given drive and emotion stemming from Eternity that is in every human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11).

Friendship is a wonderful gift sent straight from the heart of God. There are several references to friendship in the Bible, from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I recall God walking through Eden with Adam and Eve each day, building upon their relationship with him and with each other (Genesis 2-3).

I contemplate Enoch, a man who lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God when one day, he simply vanished (Genesis 5.23-24).

I ponder the moment when God called Abraham friend (James 2.23).

I mull over Moses, who was given the opportunity to watch God walk by (backside only, of course – Exodus 33.11).

I think of the relationship between David and Jonathan: They shared a great love and deep respect for each other (1 Samuel 18-20, 2 Samuel 1).

There are many more. Jesus also calls his followers his friends (John 15.9-14):

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – Jesus

Awesome

Inspired

Friendship

Friendship is risky. To be known, truly known, is to risk being hurt, but friendship can be beautiful, and worth the risk.

Friendship is beautiful. God gave it to us and he knew we would need each other to get through this life.

C.S. Lewis wrote about a common thread when it comes to friendships:

cslewis

Think about your friends for a moment. What do you have in common with each one? What is each relationship based on?

I’ve got friends at work where the only thing we have in common is our work and a love for cheesy humor on Pinterest.

I’ve got friends at a local coffee shop where the only thing we have in common is our love of coffee.

I had friends in high school where the only things we had in common were a love of movies and board games.

But, when it comes to my Christian friendships… There isn’t anything deeper.

Those friendships take on a special quality:

The bond of Christ.

We are all enhanced by those relationships and they often run much deeper than your typical run-of-the-mill friendships based on coffee and movies (or books, for that matter). 

Through the bond of Christ, you can have a deep, meaningful friendship with someone who has very little or nothing in common with you. That bond is all that matters. He or she is your brother or sister in Christ; they’re family. We risk. We trust. And with that trust, we’re able to have healthy conflict, to build off that and still be okay. What a blessing!

Friendship is one of the ways God takes care of us. We need all the things friendship entails: human contact, encouragement, companionship, love, honesty, loyalty, understanding, and so many more things. Building those friendships is a wonderful way to encourage and lift others up in the Lord.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10
  • May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude or mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.5-6
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6.2
  • Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice…As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27.9, 17

As Christ-followers, we’re commanded to carry one another’s burdens, share in each other’s joys and sorrows and be there, to encourage, to speak truth into, to love, etc. The list goes on.

friendship1

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t want in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

I’ve always liked that quote, but, when I put it in the light of my friendship with God, it doesn’t make sense.

You see, Jesus is my friend. He is my past and he’s in my past, following me wherever I go, although I’m never truly leading. He is my future; he offers to lead my every step, if only I would let him, rather than venturing off on my own to explore something that captures my attention in the moment. And He is my present, always walking beside me. He’s all around and, what’s more? He’s my friend.

Jesus died to restore our friendship with God. Sin disabled our ability to remain righteous and stand in the presence of the Living God. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice, God’s love and justice would consume us in our weakness. Now, his blood covers mankind and those who choose to follow him have the wonderful ability to live in close fellowship with God.

Notice: It’s a gift of choice; not something to be earned.

Friendships take a lot of time and effort to be all that they can be but it’s worth it. Those Christ-centered relationships will be lasting relationships, not just here on earth, but stretching on into eternity with him at the forefront.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to sin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18.24

I’ve been deeply blessed to have a close-knit group of Christian girlfriends. Now, we typically don’t all get together at the same time, but when we meet up (whether one-on-one for coffee or what-have-you, LifeGroup or a women’s event at church), that time is so rich and precious. We all vary in age and come from different backgrounds. Those differences (along with our similarities) make us stronger and better able to navigate and cope with the trials of life, individually (based on the advice and counsel of someone wiser) and as a unit.

And the same goes for my brothers in Christ. You’ve all done such a marvelous job in protecting the hearts of your sisters and encouraging them in their own walks with Jesus.

You know who you are and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. God has enriched my life with the blessing of friendship. So thank you for allowing him to use you in not just my life, but every life yours touches.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1.3-8

How about you? Are you the type of friend you should be, especially to your brothers or sisters in Christ? Are you doing all the things you should be doing: lifting burdens, being there, etc.?

If not, how can you improve in that area? And what would that look like?

Ask God to touch your heart with the truth of true friendship and to show you what it means to be a friend in Christ.

how Christians can interact with Halloween

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17.16

Halloween

Images of trick-or-treaters dressed to the nines in Dorothy, princess, superhero and witch costumes, candy and carved pumpkins come to my mind.

And yet, I’m sure Christians around the world have heard it before:

“Don’t celebrate Halloween. It’s the Devil’s holiday…”

That thought never entered my mind until I got to college.

Just the other day, a friend said the same thing.

What happened? I mean, sure, there’s a lot of worldly things tied to the holiday itself, but where did the community aspect of it go? Is it even okay for us to have fun?

When I was a kid, my parents never taught me how to honor the “evil” side of Halloween. Sure, I knew about it, but we didn’t celebrate that. We celebrated community and shared relationships with one another. I have many good memories tied to this particular yearly event (outside of Christmas and Thanksgiving).

As a child, I remember dressing up as princesses, Raggedy Anne, Ariel (Disney’s Little Mermaid) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast) each year and going trick-or-treating in the small town where my family attended church.  It was harmless fun, plus, I got tons of candy, which went bad because I got sick of it after a while and probably led to all those pesky cavities…not to mention the inches on my adolescent waistline. But I digress…

A few years passed and somewhat similar costumes made their way back into my fall wardrobe, worn once a year, in the forms of witches, vampires and road kill during my high school and college years. I attended high school parties, held at school…I wasn’t the partying type although those occurred to, I’m sure, and festivities held at what will always be my first official home church when I moved to Brookings, SD. Trunk-or-Treat was the huge thing then…seemed fun, even though I never went.

And even now, as an adult, I do enjoy dressing up, for the fun of it, but opted not to today. I donned a simple, black turtleneck sweater and jeans this morning and chose one of the two pairs of “Halloween” earrings I own and dressed down. There’s still the office Halloween potluck, put on by the Team Member Engagement Committee, of which I’m very active in and a party with my church crew tomorrow evening…perhaps then I’ll don my Merida costume in every effort to live the life of a Scottish princess for a few hours.

One hot topic that is continuously brought to the table: Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with Halloween. I’ve taken part in conversations with friends who share what they’re doing instead, but, in thinking about my past experience with the day and the festivities our culture has around it, I discovered one common thread: relationships.

When I was a child, we went door to door. Even the cranky, old man living in the darkest house on the corner joined the world in handing out candy. We related.

In high school, college and today, those parties and festivities were held to connect with people.

Yes, God commands in his Word that we should be in the world, and not of it, but he doesn’t demand us to hide from it (John 15.19, 17.16, Romans 12.2).

I’m called to be involved.

To be interested in…

To reach out…

To relate…

To get my hands and feet dirty…

I stumbled on an article conveying just that thought this morning at Relevant Magazine, found here. David Valentine writes about his home state of Texas, how they observe Halloween and how other churches across the country view the holiday in general. He also makes a valid point that Christmas has its origins in pagan religions and how Christians don’t seem to shy away from that holiday.

He points out that while steering clear of the things of this world, we shouldn’t lock ourselves away and how we should instead get our hands dirty:

“In our increasingly fast paced society, we see less and less of our neighbors. Whether you live in a high-rise in the city or your closest neighbor is a mile down the dirt road on the left, we are more disengaged with society than ever before…it becomes increasingly difficult to take time to engage with our neighbors.

Halloween is a once-a-year opportunity where everyone is out and about. Children with parents in tow are running door to door (or trunk to trunk) for the next bit of free candy. The cranky old man turns his porch light on and gives out candy by the handful. Not to mention, someone in the neighborhood, there is a party happening…”

Valentine poses this question: What if the Church stopped being afraid of the world on Halloween and began to engage it?

What if?

What would that look like?

What if we allowed God to take something meant for evil iand spin it around for good?

What if?

We need to step up and redefine the way we interact with Halloween and we need to find a way to include the gospel in doing so. Could that mean handing out candy or other goodies, including healthy options? Sure.

We need to engage with our neighborhoods and surrounding community.

Our children get dressed up (because it’s fun) and go door to door asking for candy.

We choose to sit on our front lawns and talk with our neighbors.

We revamp the way we see Halloween and not view it as just another day, but rather one day a year when all of our neighbors are out in the streets. We have a unique opportunity to interact with everyone.

Here’s an idea: throw a Halloween block party every year for the kids in your community. People will show up to play games, get candy and hear the Gospel…just a thought.

Valentine closes with this thought and I couldn’t agree more:

“If you feel convicted that you shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, you certainly don’t have to. But perhaps you should reconsider how you can use the opportunities the holiday provides to reach other. If nothing else,  Halloween is a day designed by our culture to engage with our neighbors. Perhaps instead of condemning the “evils” of Halloween, or even simply turning off the front porch light on October 31, you should consider giving our candy and chatting with your neighbors or inviting everyone to a party…engage with your community. Who knows, you may have the joy of watching the resurrected Jesus bring those who are dead to life.”

And what greater joy is there than that?

Recommended further reading here.

Shared Post: How to Influence Others for Good by Jeremy Statton

Dear Readers,

I stumbled on this article this morning and rather that attempt to write something similar, I figured I would just share it. Jeremy Statton points to message he heard given by Andy Stanley (see below) on how we treat others directly impacts their lives for good or bad. I’ve been working through some of this in my walk with God and my treatment of others…especially how I think they should be treating me back.

We have a tendency to expect from others what we expect of ourselves. I know I do and this is a hurdle I’m currently working through. I’m slowly learning that I can’t expect others, especially those closest to me, to treat me the same way I treat them. I need to first, love them the way God calls me to and in doing so, forgive them. I also cannot do that by my own power. I need to allow God to love them through me. I need to allow Him to meet me in my weakness.

My hope and prayer for you is that He’ll do the same for you. Enjoy the following (found here):

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How to Influence Others for Good – August 13, 2013
Posted by Jeremy Statton with Living Better Stories

Who are the people who have influenced your life the most? For good? Or for bad?

Your life is filled with relationships. Most do not affect you. They are acquaintances. Only people you know.

But there is a smaller group of people that have impacted you. They have shaped you. They have played a role in your becoming the person you are. Whether positive or negative, knowing them has left a permanent imprint on you.

Why do some affect you so much?

In one of my favorite messages, Andy Stanley tells us why. It isn’t about what those people believed. It isn’t about knowledge. The people who have had the greatest impact on your life can be divided into one of two categories:

Those that have hurt you. And those that have loved you.

The People that Have Hurt You

There are those who have caused you harm. They damaged you. Your life is worse for knowing them. And the impact is lasting.

You have been scarred by them. And that hurt can be difficult to get over. Sometimes the hurt and the pain runs so deep it can take years to move on. Sometimes you can’t.

Sometimes the hurt is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes the hurt comes from someone you expect it from. Sometimes it comes from the ones you love. The ones you thought loved you.

The People that Have Helped You

There are also people who have influenced you for good.

A parent that loved you unconditionally.
A spouse that always quick to forgive.
A teacher that saw something good in you and encouraged you to fly higher.
A boss who recognized your hard work and showed appreciation.

All of these saw something good in you. They encouraged you. They supported you. They reached down and helped you. They gave of themselves in such a way, it made you want to do something better. It made you want to do more.

These are the types of people who make you want to live a better story.

And they did it because they loved you. They gave sacrificially. They gave without expecting in return. They worked for your good. They were patient and kind. Sometimes they even loved you at the expense of themselves.

And you will never forget them.

How to Influence Others for Good

One of Stanley’s main points is that you can, and do, have influence on others. Through your relationships, you are impacting the people you know.

It is easy to get caught up on ideas. It is fun to fill our heads with knowledge of how things should be. But what we believe about the world or about God, isn’t the key component to influence others for good.

How you affect others, whether for good or bad, has less to do with what you believe and more to do with how you treat them.  Your words and actions can influence others in two different ways. You can either hurt them. Or you can love them.

If you choose to help, Stanley suggests a question to ask yourself in any given situation or relationship.

“What does love require of me?”

Article: 5 Things Single People Wish Married People Knew

I was browsing through my email this morning when I stumbled across this article published in Relevant magazine. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Yes…there are times when I will feel like a third or fifth wheel, but that is my own doing. (Granted, some actions/situations do not help, but don’t think about it. Just be.) No one else can make me feel inferior…I choose what I feel. That’s the beauty of it.

So, please, married friends, siblings and distant relatives, make note of this – not just for me, but for all of your single friends and make the choice to bless rather than exclude.

The article, if you’d like to read more, can be found here.

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“As I weathered Valentine’s Day this month (again) as a single woman, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’d like to say to my married friends about what it’s like to be unmarried at 36 and living alone in a married person’s world.

First of all, I’m very happy when I see my friends enter into and build healthy, happy marriages. This is a beautiful thing, something to which, many of us as single individuals aspire to.

And I understand that it can be difficult to know what to say or how to treat those of us who have not yet gone to the chapel. So as I reflect on my station in life, especially as it relates to the empty fourth finger on my left hand and the desire I have for marriage, there’s a few things I’d like my married friends out there to know. Not to guilt you or chastise you, but to help you, like you help me, see life from a different point of view.

It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to feel like a third or fifth wheel, or enjoy the company.

1. Single people make good friends, too.

I can remember times when I first moved to a new town and I heard friends (all married) talk about the fun things that they had done together as couples. I remember wishing that for once, they would invite me to come along! It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to feel like a third or fifth wheel, or enjoy the company. Invite me along, even if I’m the only one without a date.

2. Please don’t assume you know how I feel.

As an unmarried person, I may or may not be struggling with my singleness at the moment, so if you want to know, ask me. Don’t assume that because we spoke once and I was really struggling in my singleness that I’m forever pining away for a husband. And don’t assume that because we once spoke about how I’m pretty content in my single status that I’m always going to be content. Instead of assuming, ask me.

3. Singleness looks different in your twenties than it does in your thirties.

Because you may have spent a period of time—long or short—being single does not mean that you understand what it is to see your peers and even your nieces and nephews get married before you. The experience of singleness does not remain the same over time.

4. Dispense your formula for finding a mate with care.

“It” may have worked for you and 10 of your friends, but from what I know about love, and especially finding and marrying—and staying married—isn’t formulaic. Chances are, I’ve “tried” your formula and it hasn’t “worked.” This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear your advice, I just hope that you’ll listen to me before you offer it.

5. There are days when singleness feels unbearable, and days when it feels empowering.

If you catch me on one of the bad days, offer to help me do yard work, buy me chocolate, take me out for dinner, or watch a chick-flick with me. Remind me that companionship doesn’t always come in the form of a romance.

Your friend may be single, but they don’t have to be alone.

There are other days when singleness feels empowering. On those days, I feel pretty good about managing a home, a car, a job, my bank account and social situations flying solo. Please don’t talk to me about how my independence is intimidating to a man. That’s so 1950s.

It may seem that I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture for how you can approach your single friend when it relates to their single status in life. But the reality is that he or she may be single, but they don’t have to be alone. And for their sake, and for what they have to offer to you and the rest of the world, I hope they won’t be.

You can help them to know that they are a valued member of a community, and not just because they “have all that free time on their hands.” Cut them a little slack, and do them and yourself a favor by treating them like what they are: normal.”

 Written by Ashley Alley cc. February 22, 2013. Relevant Magazine.