Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond Love - It Takes Respect

"Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage" crooned Frank Sinatra, "The Chairman of the Board".  Well, Mr. Chairman, true enough. But while love may lead a couple to begin a marriage, it is respect that will enable them to sustain it through thick and thin.

So what are some of the things that can engender the all-important commodity of respect between spouses?  One such factor must certainly be the keeping of promises.

Promise Keeper - Promise Breaker

Some years ago, a friend found himself embroiled in a long period of conflict with his wife. "She expects me to be PERFECT", he complained.  A wise advisor issued him a surprising challenge: "I'll give you until sundown to make a list of all the promises you have made to her and then broken".

At first, my friend was stumped.  But, after awhile, his mental logjam broke and by the next day (he asked for an extension!) he had come up with over 100 broken promises - large and small. This simple exercise helped him to reinterpret the breakdown in his relationship. Maybe his wife didn't expect him to be perfect. Maybe she just wanted him to be reliable.

Respect Squared

Another way to encourage respect from your spouse is to show it.  I'll be the first to say that most of us males are magnetically drawn toward those who show us respect.  So, whether you are a husband or a wife, let me ask you: is there anyone on Planet Earth who should deliver a message of respect to your spouse more than you?

Showing respect invites respect to be shown. This has certainly been true of Robin and me. She is one of my heroes and I enjoy communicating my respect for her to her, and to others as well.  I love it when I observe my married children enjoy a mutually respectful relationship with their spouses, too.  My hope is that the respect I have communicated for them - and for their mother - have contributed to the strength of their own partnerships.


Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul" made a fortune singing a song about the desire to feel respect from their partner.  "Find out what it means to me" she urges again and again in that solid gold voice.  Perhaps if we found out a little more about what r-e-s-p-e-c-t means to love and marriage, we would find new vitality in this relationship and in the other important relationships in our life as well.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Makes You Strong, Part Three

What is it that -- according to studies -- improves mood, relieves anxiety, maximizes health, sparks creativity and engenders feelings of love? Giving back.

It turns out that one of the best things you can do for your self is to do something for others.  That's right: giving makes you strong. But of course, Jesus indicated this very thing when He said:

"If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving--large or small--it will be used to measure what is given back to you."(Luke 6:38, NLT)

Love in a Teapot

Sometimes we may thinking that giving back or sharing ourselves with others needs to be a grand affair but this need not be the case.  The key to giving is to find ways and means that are uniquely your own and which communicate true care and concern.

One of my favorite examples of simple and creative giving involves a friend's mother who has a well-documented knack for acquiring inexpensive teapots at garage sales and the like. When she becomes aware of a neighbor or friend who is going through a tough time, or who is ailing or who could just use a lift; she springs to action.

Before long, a small plant or flower is planted into a teapot planter and the simple-yet-elegant gift is ready to be presented. Imagine what a delightful surprise this simple kindness provides to the person on the receiving end. And, of course, this thoughtful woman's gift comes with an offer of prayer, too!

This Grace of Giving

In 2 Corinthians 8:7, the Apostle Paul urges us to excel in what he describes as "this grace of giving". How wonderful when our giving is not a chore, but a "grace"! How life-giving it is when we discover that our tired, depleted, crowded souls can come to life again as we give to someone else. It is as if the overflow of the "grace of giving" comes back to us and strengthens us again.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3: 17).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Makes You Strong, Part Two

"Why weren't you all the Bill Faris I made you to be?" 

I have a friend who believes God will ask me that question (among others) when I stand before Him to give an account for my life. Whether or not my friend is right, I do believe that it matters to God that I live in an authentic manner. When we are real, we are strong.  When we hide, we weaken ourselves, give less glory to God, and minimize our contribution to others. 

Hiding Places
"God is light," the Scriptures tell us, "and in Him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).  God does not live in shadows.  He is fully and perfectly self-aware -- 100% actualized in the blazing light of His own perfect knowledge.

I, on the other hand, am practiced at maintaining certain hiding places in my life. This represents a foolish attempt to conceal my true self from God, the world, and even my own awareness.  The more I hide, the more of my strength I deal away.  So why do I do it?

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!

Fear.  Shame.  Risk.  Doubts.  Sin.  These are some of the things I figure into the risk/reward calculation of whether or not I will try to remain in hiding.  Stacking up these kinds of things in the dark only load me down with burdens and illusions that weaken me.

The Apostle John reminds us that: 
"if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1: 7). 

When I step out of my shadows into the light, I find God waiting for me there.  I find forgiveness and cleansing, connection with others and true knowledge of my self.  This is where my real contribution can begin.  This is where my real strength lies.

So, let me ask you: are you all the __
_(your name here)___ God has made you to be?  If not, pray that the Spirit we lead you out of the shadows and into the light where your strength can truly be found.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Makes You Strong, Part One

Žydrūnas Savickas.  The name of this Lithuanian competitor may not mean much to you, but according to some he is the world's strongest man. After suffering a serious knee injury, Mr.Savickas returned to competition and eventually earned the strongman title, which he currently holds for the second consecutive year. 
But, as we all know, there is more than one way to be strong in this life.  In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul urges us to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10).

While I have no intention of challenging Mr.Savickas for his physical Strongman title any time soon; I am continuing to pursue my desire to become "strong in the Lord".  Doing so is central to my desire to "finish well" in this life.

How about you?  What is it that makes you strong?

Pursuing interior strength - strength of faith, strength of character, strength of heart - is a lifelong endeavor.  So it might help us to pause and consider just what those things are that can truly make us strong.  In the next three issues of
 Gracelets, I will be identifying three things that give us strength beginning with PURPOSE.

Strength Through Purpose

The famous evangelist Billy Sunday observed that "more men fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent". How true! Knowing our purpose is Job One in living a life of meaning, influence, satisfaction and spiritual strength.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that our purpose is tied inexorably to the purposes of God.  Once we understand that our fundamental sense of purpose is hidden in God and His wise Master Plan, we can begin to make strides in our spiritual strength and development.
 "All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

It makes me sad to think of how many people, especially younger people, are being raised without any sense of purpose.  It seems that a good many of our institutions of higher education propagate the falsehood that human existence is a matter of happenstance - as if each of us are mere bundles of consciousness randomly burped up by an indifferent universe. No wonder why so many people are poisoned by nihilism.  No wonder why so many are led to become
 "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4).

But, by contrast, we become "strong in the Lord", and strong within ourselves, when we understand that God created us for a purpose. I believe that the unique nature of every human fingerprint is God's way of reminding us that we are creatures of His sovereign design.

The more you believe your life has purpose and meaning beyond your own survival, the more you will live into a Higher Plan and the stronger you will become.  You may never be the next Žydrūnas Savickas
 when it comes to lifting weights, but living from a God-given sense of purpose can make you a moral and spiritual champion within!