Thursday, January 24, 2013

3 Ways to Get Past Your Past...

Often in life, our greatest enemy isn’t a person, external obstacle or impossible situation—it’s our internal struggle with our past.

For Andrea, that was exactly the case. She was stuck in her past. Unable to get over the struggles of her youth, she kept looking back. Fixating on the neglect, reliving the abuse, analyzing the rejection. Twenty years later and she's still asking why, trying to make sense of it all. Yet by continually looking backward, she is losing sight of her present and future...

Read the rest of my article at Relevant Magazine!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Loves Me, or Loves Me Not?

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

After one of my relationship talks I was approached by a beautiful young woman.  She wanted to share her story and seek out some advice about a dating situation she found herself in.

She had met this great guy through their church's young adult group.  He was handsome, funny, and had lots of charisma.  He was one of those guys that was just so easy to like.  They started spending more and more time together and began forming what seemed to be a dating relationship.  They would call each other, text each other, and even get together outside of church for coffee or dinner.  Fast forward two months later...

....something happened.  Out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, he seemed to back off, cold turkey.  No warning signs, no explanation, no heart to heart discussion.  She continued to try to call and text him, but it seemed that he wasn't reciprocating.  She continues to try, to pursue, and to try to reconnect.  She wonders maybe if he is just too busy?  Forgetful?  Scared?  But either way, her heart is stuck on him, and she needs direction. 

What should she do?

When I hear stories like this I have to simultaneous reactions that go off inside of me.  First, I feel empathy.  I look at this beautiful girl, with so much to give, and I look into her sad eyes and feel her pain, her hurt, and her rejection.  She wants to love and be loved so badly.  She wants to make it happen in her life.  She is just waiting to find that one to call her own.  I get that. I've been there.  It's hard when you're in the mess of dating to see beyond the pain of the moment. 

So first and foremost, I feel empathy (let's not forget that...).  Because secondly, I cringe!!! I just want to grab her shoulders and shake some sense into her!  I want her to see how she is making herself look from the outside looking in.  I want her to realize that she is trying so hard to keep something alive that would otherwise die if it was left alone.  I want her to come to the conclusion that simply said, he loves her NOT.  Because real love looks so, so different than that.  

I meet young men and women all the time that portray themselves as desperate by the way they act and react.  Trying so hard to find love.  Trying to hard to make it happen.  Finding excuse after excuse to keep going back to a relationship that does not reflect love in any way shape or form.  One-sided, non -reciprocated, hard-to-get relationships.  Let me just say it clearly- these kind of relationships are SO NOT WORTH THE INVESTMENT!

All over the scriptures God talks about reciprocal relationships.  Healthy relationships with two individuals that edify and build each other up.  There are always TWO people involved in the process.  Two people that are interacting, engaging, giving.  Two people that are encouraging, investing, and supporting one another.  This is how the body of Christ is supposed to look, and even more specifically speaking- this is how a marriage is supposed to look.  "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ..."

Dating relationships, should also be reciprocal.  Two people involved. Two people invested.  Two people pursuing and being pursed.  Two people committing, caring, and communicating.  Two people who are putting in the same amount, and receiving even more...

Why do we allow ourselves to settle for less?  Why do we find ourselves in relationships in which we are doing all the work to keep it alive?  It's time to put in the hard work, but then to trust that we are also worth being worked hard for.  We deserve to be loved just as we are giving love, and in romantic relationships, this is how God intended it to be.  Two people, building, edifying, encouraging, and investing in one another. 

Wait for that, because anything less is truly...not worth the wait.  Nor will it ever be. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why It's So Hard to Love Yourself- and How to Start:

Mark 12:31
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

I tweeted a message asking "Why do you think God asks us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?"

One young woman tweeted back saying:
"I hope He calls us to love our neighbor as HE loves us...b/c sometimes,  I don't love myself very much".

Her answer to my question made me stop and think.  From what I've seen and experienced, this young woman is not alone in her struggles.  Hundreds of people that I have met, counseled, or befriended- all struggling with the same thing.   

Why is it so hard to love yourself?

I heard a talk the other day about self-worth.  The speaker was saying that it's almost as though we are born into a world in which we are constantly getting labels slapped onto us by others.  Our parents, our friends, our family, and people that we don't even know.  Each person from the outside looking in coming up with their label to put on us.  Some are kind, some are true...but so many of them are lies.  Negativity.  Hurt. Judgment. Misunderstanding.  Labels, slapped onto us without our permission.  And sometimes, we carry them so long that we believe what they say.    Sometimes, we allow them to define us.

I think sometimes it is so hard to love ourselves...because we have believed what the labels have been telling us.   

The truth is, God came to rip off all the labels that have been placed upon us, and start teaching us the truth about who we are- who He has made us to be.

When we acknowledge His love for us, we get the opportunity to take off all the labels and start from scratch.  If you back up one verse, Mark 12:30 is an essential starting point to learning how to love ourselves.  In it, God calls us to love Him fiercely, with all that we are:

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'

When we are in focused relationship with God, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength- every part of us is open to learning and experiencing His view of us.  We are exposed to His way of thinking and feeling and His definitions of us begins to sink in.  His labels begin to take priority.  We become surrounded by His love for us, and it begins to permeate into our hearts as well.  And eventually, surrounded by such a relentless love- it begins to rub off.  We slowly learn that He thinks we are worth it.  We slowly believe that maybe we are worth it.  We finally begin to love ourselves...because He has first loved us.

And then finally, when we have really learned to love ourselves, we are opened up to the true meaning of loving others.

Love must always start with us.  Because in order to give out love, we must first possess it. 

I'm thankful for a God who pours His love on me, teaching me to love myself as He loves me, so that I am ultimately freed to love others.

It's time to rip off all the labels.  It's time to be freed to really love.  


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

4 Ways to Radically Change your Relationships in 2013:

Luke 10:27
"He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

I've noticed something pretty disconcerting.  I'm not as focused as I used to be on the things that matter most.

Surrounded by cell phones, technology, noise, and social media- sometimes it's easier to get distracted by what's going on "out there" rather than to stay focused on the here and now.  In a culture that seems so wrapped up in self-gratification and promotion, it's been easy to place my focus on myself and totally forget about my neighbor, my friends, my family.  The people that mean the most to me.    

I'm challenged as I enter into this new year, to get my focus back on where it belongs- loving God and loving others. There's nothing on earth more meaningful than that. I think I've begun to lose sight of that goal somewhere along the way.  I've been contemplating of how to bring back my focus.  Not just to hope for it, but to actually do it.  It's time for a change in my relational world.  Here are some ways I hope to get my heart back on track:

1.  Talk Less, Listen more:  I don't know about you, but I've found myself at times falling into the trap of the "Facebook mentality".  What I mean by that is an attitude that is all about self-promotion.  Putting yourself on display for all to see.  I've found that attitude slowly seeping into my relationship.  The symptoms are subtle, but they are dangerous.  It's an attitude that seeks to talk more than it seeks to listen, that longs to be known more than it longs to know.  This has been the downfall of some of my relationships this year, and I want to be deliberate about changing that.  I want to learn to be a person that talks less, and listens more.  A person that is interested in the people around me, more than interested in their interest in me.  I want to be "others-focused", and I believe that starts with letting them take the spotlight.   

2.  Ask more Questions:  I have a friend who asks a lot of questions.  I mean, tons.  When she connects with someone, she wants to know everything about them, what they've been up to, and what they are passionate about.  Talking to her almost feels like being interviewed on Oprah.  Now, though I think that can be a little much at times, I think she is really onto something.  Her heart is in the right place because it is others-focused.  She wants to ask questions because she wants to know people.  I want to do that to.  I want to make others feel important, and do my part in getting to know them.  I want to ask more questions this year, and be sure to hear the answers.   

3.  Offer encouragement:  I must admit, this is one that I really want to get better at.  It's not natural for me to offer encouragement, because it's not something that I grew up with consistently.  Our family was one that spoke through actions, not necessarily with words.  But you know, words are so important, and they are an important part of loving and being loved.  They nourish, strengthen, and grow relationships faster than many other things can.  Encouragement takes you out of self-centeredness and into a life that is fixed on others.  Find something valuable in someone, and then tell them about it.  God promises that those who seek to bless others will find that they are the ones who are ultimately blessed. 

4.  Stay in the moment:  I got an email from a young women who was telling me about a gathering she had experienced at which every single person was occupied by their phones.  Texting, tweeting, googling and instagram-ing...there was always something to check, someone to update, or some information to find out.  It's hard to live in the moment in a society that is calling us out of the moment.  In a culture that has created for us a "matrix-like" world, filled with false connection, false intimacy, and false pride.  In a world where we gain power by a click of a button.  But in exchange for this false sense of control, glory, and value...we are missing the present.  We are missing the moment.  We are distracted by things that have not earned our attention, while surrounded by people who are deserving of our it. Our families, our spouses, our children, our friends.  Our neighbors, our communities, and even the strangers that may come our way.  Sacred moments...have become secondary.  It's time to take these moments back.  It's time to enjoy them, savor them, and experience them.  It's time to live in the moment. 

A new year brings new opportunities.  New chances to connect, to love, and to focus.  New moments to learn how to live fully, and love practically. 

Here's to 2013.  May it be the best year our relationships have ever seen!