Afterglow…

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Last Thursday a group of women took an evening and redeemed the time… we turned an evening on the calendar into something that mattered for eternity.

I am keenly aware that when a group of quality, empowering, inspiring women get together in one room, amazing things are bound to happen. That’s why I’m always trying to get women together in one place! And last Thursday’s event at my home was no exception.

Some of the initial things that warmed my heart:

Many women’s responses reminded me of why I think women are so amazing and encouraging: “I have to be with someone for surgery and then work and feed my family but I’ll still try to come!” “My baby is sick and my husband is having a meeting at my house, but I’ll come after I get my baby to bed!” “I am cancelling plans with someone so I can come with some family members!” “I’m bringing along a few friends!” “I have to drive really far so I may be late but I’m coming!” “I would love to be around some Christian women – can I come?” Even if I had the event just to hear these inspiring responses it would have been worth it!

Then everyone started to come: friends I don’t get to see often enough, my beautiful young nieces; my daughters; my second cousin who is a junior in high school that had to meet me in Rochester early and get dropped off late but still wanted to be there; my mom and mentor-moms Katie and Mary; friends near and dear and those driving from far away; people with their daughters, friends, and family.

I was hit hard with the amazing fact that I am beyond blessed to be surrounded with so much love and so many empowering women. I realized that so much of who I am is because of the people that surround me. I realized that each and every person in the room has busy busy lives and each had every excuse NOT to be there but choose a moment in time to make the efforts and invest the time to get together. This created an atmosphere of electric excitement and an expectation that something incredible was about to happen.

When Jessica Joy Hutchens (http://www.jessicajoymusic.com), a beautiful 19-year old angel, shared her testimony she captured everyone’s attention and everyone’s hearts. She candidly bare her heart to us, telling us her story. (She has been ill with Chronic Lyme Disease since 2012.) She shared how God’s promise in Romans 8.28 to orchestrate everything into something good and beautiful for those who love Him showed her that God does not waste any hurt in His children. Thus came the inspiration behind her recently released CD, Nothing Wasted.

Through her music and words she offered the same hope to anyone facing painful trials, reminding us that everything is a season, and that Jesus can bring beauty through ashes. We were reminded that life can change in an instant, and many could identify with painful circumstances of our own. We were reminded that others carry pain that is often not seen from the outside. We were reminded that sometimes the answer hasn’t come yet and we were encouraged on how to live and have faith when we haven’t yet received a healing and are dealing with unbelievable pain. We were reminded to be real with each other.

Then Falicia shared her story of how in a moment her life was changed by Lymes Disease too. After a season of being confined to bed because her body was racked with pain, in one instant, while at a Church service where Daniel shared a word, someone prayed with Falicia and without even expecting it she was 100% totally and completely healed.

Here were two young beautiful girls who were testifying to the goodness of God: one through her pain and one through a healing. It reminded us that God is worthy of praise in both times of our lives. Our faith was recharged.

When we split into small groups to pray and encourage each other, we were “real” – and we were able to encourage or be encouraged. What an amazing time we had!

As I saw the interactions taking place and women baring hearts and souls to each other, inspiring and being inspired, just being a part… I was so blessed. The walls of my home are filled with yet another precious time of beautiful people being in my home.

I encourage all ladies to make opportunities like this in your own circles:

*Extending and expanding your group to take and make the time to get together for real nights of holding each other up and encouraging each other.

*Invite some people over and go deeper than the “fluff” – get raw and real and encourage and inspire each other with faith building conversation! (I have great ideas for this if you need some!)

*Make time to be with others face to face. It beats “facebook highlight reel relationships” out of the park!

I am hoping to have a few more get-togethers this summer. In the meantime, I am going to bask in the afterglow of this beautiful event! Thanks to all who were here and who even told me you wanted to be but couldn’t! I celebrate all of you!

What Causes Love to Die?

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Keeping Love Alive…

I love this article from Covenant Keepers (used with permission).

PrintIs your love for your spouse alive and well? Do you still have that passion that once burned in your heart? Or has your love slowly died? Has the fire gone out?

The Scriptures describe the love between a husband and a wife as a fire. This is how the Shulamite, in the Song of Solomon, described her love relationship with her husband. She said, “…For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; It’s flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame” (Song of Solomon 8:6). Her love for Solomon was a passionate fire in her soul. She compared her love to the strongest and most powerful forces she knew: the power of death and the power of the flame. These two metaphors are descriptions for the strength and passion of marital love.

First, consider the comparison of love to the strength of death. This is a great illustration because death is so powerful and all consuming. Death takes everyone sooner or later. It never gives up. This same love was demonstrated by Christ. He loved you to the point of death. His strong love drove Him to sacrificially lay His life down. His love is tenacious. He is still pursuing you today. At this moment, His eyes are looking to and fro throughout the whole earth to find willing and loyal hearts. He wants to show Himself strong on their behalf (2 Chron. 16:9). Is your heart willing? God wants to give you His strong, persistent love for your spouse; a love that is totally committed.

Consider the second illustration of love as a fire that burns in the soul. In Scripture, salvation is described as “a lamp that burns” (Is. 62:1).   Salvation is primarily a love relationship between you and the Father. The great commandment declares, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37)Your heart becomes a lamp that burns with the fire of His love. Again, this illustration is fitting because you are also called to be a light to the world. The love of Christ is the light the world is looking for. His love in you is what makes you a bright light. Jesus called John the Baptist a “burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). Why? Because he had this intense love and passion for God.

These metaphors also relate to how love dies in your marriage. The illustration of the fire is most important. Each of you has stood by a fire at one time or another, and you know very well what causes a fire to die out. It happens in only one of two ways.

One way a fire goes out is by your inaction. If you fail to watch and stoke the fire with more wood, what happens? The fire slowly goes out. This is also what happens in your marriage. Your inaction to love and to show attentiveness to your spouse will surely kill your love relationship. Your spouse will see this inaction and determine that you really don’t care.

If you want your love to die, just do nothing. It won’t be long before the fire is out. Many couples simply fail to do the maintenance required to keep the love between them alive. What do I mean? Do you recognize     your mate’s labor and accomplishments? Do you thank your spouse when he or she pleases you? Have you neglected to pray regularly with and for your partner? When is the last time you had a date together? When is the last time you gave a gift or did something special for your loved one when it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas? Each of these actions will stoke the fire of your love. If you’re forgetting these things, the fire will slowly go out!

Each forgotten action of love is simply a sign of laziness in your relationship. Yet, Scripture encourages you to love in a different manner. Paul says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another… not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:10,11). The term “fervent in spirit” means “to be hot or to boil.” Love is depicted here as a blazing fire burning inside your heart to serve the Lord, in direct contrast to a lack of diligence or laziness.

If God is encouraging us to be diligent and not lag in our love for our brother, how much more fervent should we be toward our mate? Are you showing the kindness and affection toward your spouse that you should? If you are, the fire between you will never go out. It only burns hotter and more intense with each passing day.

But there is another way to put a fire out besides your inaction. Your deliberate actions will cause the fire to go out as well. You can take the deliberate action of throwing water on a fire, and it will surely die. What deliberate actions pour water on your relationship? Are you verbally abusive? Do you criticize or mock your partner when you talk together? Are you physically abusive? Are you refusing sexual relations to punish your loved one for lack of attentiveness to you? Do you act harshly or rudely? Have you been seen flirting with someone else? Have you broken your vows by adultery? These actions will surely quench the fire of love.

Paul taught that doing evil to others is what quenches the Holy Spirit in our lives. He exhorts, “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone…do not quench the Holy Spirit…abstain from every form of evil.” Evil done to any person quenches the Holy Spirit in your life because this is sin and it grieves the heart of God. These actions grieve your spouse as well and quench the love between you! Read the entire context of 1 Thess. 5:15-22.

Make changes today. Don’t wait any longer. Your love relationship can only take so much neglect. The flames of your love can only take so much dousing with water before the fire goes out. Stir up the embers, take the action God requires.

Therefore, it should not be a mystery as to why love dies within a marriage. It’s as simple as either 1) failing to maintain the fire or 2) continuing the deliberate sinful actions that quench the fire. When these problems go unresolved in your relationship, you slowly drift apart. The love slowly dies.

Some couples do both. They do nothing to stoke the fire of their love, and they are dumping water regularly on what’s left. This relationship will not last! How do you stop this downward cycle? Read on!

What rekindles love between you?

Many times couples ask me, “Is there any hope to ever renew the love we once had?” They wonder if they could ever rekindle the matrimonial fire. They think, “too much has happened that can’t be changed.” Yet, when you start asking these questions, you are on the right path. Yes, there is something you can do! Yes, there is hope! What should you do?

1. Return to your first love with Christ. I have never seen a marriage that was in trouble where the two individuals involved weren’t in need of spiritual renewal. Where there are unresolved conflicts, there will always be resentment. Where there is resentment, there is unforgiveness. Where there is unforgiveness, there is hardness of heart. With these attitudes inside, a person can’t help but struggle in his relationship with God. You can’t say you love God and hate your spouse at the same time (1 John 4:20). The hardness you have in your heart toward your mate, will bring a distance in your relationship with God, and this destroys any possibility for change. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If you desire to rekindle your love relationship with your spouse, you need to return to your first love with Christ (Rev. 2:4,5). God is love (1 John 4:7, 8).   He is the Source of love! You can’t give what you don’t have, and you need Him to give you the love you lack in your relationship. First reconcile with Him those resentments you have in your heart. Ask His forgiveness for the hardness and unforgiveness you’ve had toward your loved one.

Once you’ve reconciled with Him, you will sense the power of His love working within you. You will then be able to take the action God requires of you. Remember, “…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).   You must be in right relationship with the Lord to have the power you need to have a right relationship with your spouse. The steps you need to take will not be easy. In fact, they are impossible if you have a resentful heart. You need to say with all confidence, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). If your heart is right with Him, He will strengthen you to do all that He requires!

Let me say a word to those of you who have never personally received Christ as your Savior. This is a critical issue for you. You may not realize it, but this is a central problem in your marriage. Without Christ you cannot be the husband or wife God requires. The love you need to enable you to resolve each of your problems is God’s love, and it comes only from Him. Trying to love your partner with only your love and in your own strength will always be insufficient.   The problems you are having in your marriage today should make this abundantly clear. If you believe this, this is an issue that must change. Humble yourself right now before God and pray. Ask His forgiveness and invite Him to come into your heart. Ask Him to take over your life and your marriage, and to fill you with His Holy Spirit, making you the man or woman you need to be.

2. Next, go to your spouse and begin to reconcile the conflicts that divide you.   How should you begin? Start with yourself! Jesus said, “First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). He knew that this principle must be the priority for anyone to reconcile conflicts.

If you are ready to get things right, try this. Take out a piece of paper and write down whatever faults you have in your marriage. Be honest with yourself and with God. What have you done that has offended your spouse? Where have you failed to obey the Word of God? What have you neglected to do that you’ve been asked many times to remember?

Once you determine your failures, go and ask forgiveness for them. Don’t start by pointing out your mate’s faults, start with your own (James 5:16). This action immediately softens the heart of your spouse and usually creates a response in your partner to compile a similar list. If this doesn’t happen, gently encourage your spouse to consider his or her own faults and do some soul-searching as you have. Encourage your spouse that you want to change the direction of the relationship, and explain that only by reconciling these issues can the love return between the two of you. This process of reconciliation might entail getting some counseling from your pastor. Many times, a third persons objectivity helps to show both of you what Biblical action is needed.

3. Begin to provoke your spouse to love by deliberate godly actions.   Paul said, “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). We usually provoke one another to wrath and evil works; to provoke your spouse to love requires the power of God. It takes the love of God reigning in your heart to subdue your selfish actions. In most cases, love provokes others to love and stirs them up to love you back. Think of a time when a friend has done something for you that was totally unexpected. What was your reaction? Didn’t it stir you up to want to do something in return for that person? Of course it did!

Love provokes others to love and takes care of the problem of inaction. The word provoke means “to stir up.” Every action of love is like throwing another log on the fire. The more you take deliberate actions of love, the more the fire blazes. You will naturally be attracted to the warmth of this kind of relationship, and it will naturally draw you closer together.

You will begin to look forward to getting home to see your spouse because of the love that has been rekindled between you!

4. Stop any of the deliberate sinful actions you are taking.     If you want the fire of love to begin to burn again, you have to stop throwing water on the fire. This will show your spouse that you mean business! When there is true repentance in the heart, it is always demonstrated by reversing the direction of your life. If you are doing anything that is contrary to the Word of God, you must stop it. Where you are living selfishly, reverse directions. Paul said, “…do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

This would mean you must stop any verbal or physical abuse. Ask God to control your explosive anger. Resume regular sexual relations. If you are involved with another man or woman, cut this relationship off today. This is what real repentance does!

5. Do preventive maintenance daily. So often couples begin to work out their differences and then one of the two will revert to the same old habits. This quenches the love between them, and the whole unhealthy process starts all over again. You must guard against this with all your heart.

As you build a good fire by constant vigilance and attention, so you must be diligent to show your kindness and affection. This is a daily work. This is what love does. It works! Paul called it the “labor of love” (1 Thess. 1:3). If you love your spouse, you will put time and effort into building depth into your relationship. God loves you very much, and He has been at work for a long time to draw you to Himself. The work of the Cross was His labor of love for you. Yet, His labor of love is a daily action as well; He daily loads you with benefits (Ps. 68:19). This is what He wants you to do with your spouse. Daily stoke the fire of your love together! Daily reconcile the conflicts that arise! Demonstrate your love today!

This publication may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from Covenant Keepers © 1997

The “Eve” Syndrome or How to Ruin My Marriage Concentrating on What I Don’t Have

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The “Eve” syndrome. How often I see this destroyer of gratefulness manifesting itself in my life.   What IS the “Eve” syndrome in my marriage and how do I get rid of it?

  1. Eve failed to appreciate not only all the trees in the garden she had access to, but even the garden itself!

Eve was in the midst of a garden whose translation means fruitful, well-watered, pleasure. She had access to “all kinds of trees” which were “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” But her appreciation was eclipsed by what she could not have… Because of that focus, all the other trees meant nothing to her.

There was one tree she could not have access to. That’s the tree she decided she wanted, enough to destroy the access she had to all the others.

I don’t want to be “Eve”!

My husband is MANY MANY things to me. There are so many things I love about him: his love for the Lord and his family, his drive, his generosity, his purposeful living, his planning, his organization. As often as possible, he even cleans my car and puts gas in it! He takes care of the things around the house as best he can, and he regulates where our money goes.

There are some things my husband is not. Things that were never part of his persona, things that are beyond his capacity of thinking or feeling. Because of his drive, sometimes he isn’t “soft, warm and fuzzy,” in fact, he can come off somewhat harsh and unyielding (making him very successful at business, but maybe not so much at understanding my emotions. He is a “man’s man” which I LOVE, but I don’t always love that he enjoys sports or times with the guys so much!

Am I going to concentrate on my “made up man” – the man who is successful at work, takes care of my every need, never falls short of helping around the house and with all the children’s needs, and falls short in nothing? Definitely the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” that makes you “like God” is the epiphany of all trees! Should I concentrate on the epiphany of all men that may be out there, instead of appreciating my own and all his qualities? After all, appreciating all my husband is can equal the “pleasure, fruitful and well watered” life God wants to give me in my marriage.

  1. Eve wasn’t grateful for all she had.

Eve became so fixed on the things she couldn’t have that she was not grateful or appreciative for what she did have.

I don’t want to be “Eve”!

There is no way you can be grateful for what you have when your eyes are fixed on what you don’t have. I find this out regularly.

Too often, I will notice a shortcoming in my husband. Then, I start to look at all the ways he exemplifies that shortcoming. I will keep a mental notebook going of all the ways he is “this” or “that” or isn’t “this” or “that.” All of a sudden, I find that it is all I am focused on. On top of it, I find a LOT of ways he falls short when I am looking for them!

Soon I realize the problem is not with him; it is with me. He is so many things. He does so many amazing things. He is so many amazing things. If I stop looking for those things, I miss them, my vision eclipsed by something unreal and unattainable. I would hate it if he ever did that to me.

As soon as I purpose to find things to be grateful for, I am overcome with gratitude. My biggest complaints of my husband are so miniscule compared to everything he is.

Men have a drive unknown to most women. I often wondered why the Bible accounts show so many of God’s men having over a thousand wives and concubines, when you don’t see such things with women. I have come to the conclusion that men have a drive and a testosterone-driven ambition that women can’t even imagine. Most women I know would never want to deal with more than one husband!

I have supported my husband to express his driven ambition by working long hours, traveling, immersing himself with sports and challenging activities. I encourage him to do all he wants to do, happy that his drive is directed towards those kinds of things and that I am not in Old Testament times! I know he adores me and I don’t want to take anything away from the man he is. In turn, he takes care of all the things I want to do, he loves time with me, and he makes sure I don’t suffer any lack because of his activities.

Be grateful for your man! Look, be wise, and consider all he does for you, and all the things he is to you. Encourage him to express his testosterone-driven ambition with the things that drive most women crazy: fishing, golfing, sports activities, guys’ time, hunting, or relaxing at the cabin. It has been scientifically proven that “guy time” keeps men healthy and happy, lowers their stress levels, and encourages stability. I always encouraged myself with this quote: “I would rather have 10% of a 100% man than 100% of a 10% man.”

And interestingly enough, most of the marriage I know that made it past 40 and even 50 years were ones where the the couple either encouraged or even tolerated their spouse in doing things even if it was inconvenient to them…  The ones that “put their foot down” usually stomped the marriage out in the process!

  1. Eve lost what she had because she thought she could have it all.

          Because Eve simply would not choose to be grateful for all the trees in the garden that she had, and she focused on the one tree she could not have, she lost access to the entire garden. Everything that was fruitful, well-watered, and pleasurable she forfeited for the illusion of something that seemed like the ultimate tree.

I don’t want to be “Eve”!

In counseling, I have seen multitudes of marriages that were lost when the “Eve syndrome” convinced one or the other spouse that something forbidden would be the ultimate answer to their needs. They will sacrifice their marriage for this “illusion” only to find out that the grass is greener on the other side until they discover that it needs to be cut, watered and taken care of over there too! Often the problems are even worse because the expectation was so high.

If they would only have spent the efforts they expend on creating a new relationship into maintaining and caring for their marriage, they could have great results. Instead, they bring their baggage and expectations to the next relationship, only to find that if they thought the former relationship was difficult (in the Garden of Eden), one where you have been barred from the Garden where you are working the land and living by the sweat of your brow is even more difficult!

I don’t want to be like the kid who gets to grab a handful of jelly beans, puts her hand in the jar, and because she is grasping to get more than she can even hold, loses most of the jelly beans when she goes to pull her hand out of the jar and they all fall out of her hand!

By learning to love a man with all his ups and downs, with his strengths and weaknesses, you learn to love your children the same way, and others the same way. Rather than controlling and manipulating others to be what you think they should be, you learn to appreciate and love people for everything they are and in spite of everything they are not. In the process, you allow others to love you too: by not choking, killing, or demanding love.

Challenge: Have you exhibited the “Eve syndrome” in looking at a few things you don’t have, and eclipsing all the things you do have? If so, start focusing on all the things you are grateful for in your spouse, and leave the “tree” you “don’t have” alone! You will find yourself back in the “Garden of Eden” in no time!

Friendship and Hospitality

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Friendships

  1. There are different levels of friendships.

Define: acquaintance, casual friendship, close friendship (mutuality), and intimate friendship.

2. There are different seasons of friendships.

Your life is like a skyscraper, with each floor representing a different part of your life. Realize that some friends are there for a season: you may be sharing the experience of a hobby your child likes together, or have children in the same activities or sports, but afterwards it is difficult to keep connections with each and every one of these friends. They may remain a special part of special memories, but with time limitations you simply cannot keep connected to every friend you meet along the path of your life.

  1. There are different reasons for friendships.

If you let God pick some friends for some seasons for you,

Some friends are in your life because you add something vital to their lives…

             If you are aware of how God provides for you through some seasons,

Some friends are in your life because they add something vital to your life…

             In the process, you may find the golden,

Some friends are in your life because you each add something vital to each others’ lives.

 The 10 rules of any friendship

  1. Establish boundaries.

It is very important that you not make your friends (or any one for that matter) a prisoner of your expectations. For example, you may expect a friend to call you often, stop by occasionally, have a coffee time or activity together, keep in touch regularly. If your friend does one or two of these things, you may feel disappointed because you were thinking they should do so much more. Give your expectations to God and let HIM meet your needs according to HIS riches. Then, when a friend or a relative is able to do something with or for you, you are able to be grateful because you didn’t expect so much more from them!

Also, it is important that your time and financial expenditures reflect your priorities in your life. Although we would writ3e our priorities down in an order that would really indicate what is most important to us in our lives, often we are not making strong choices so that our activities and expenditures reflect those priorities. You may say, “God is number one in my life, then my husband then my children, then our parents, then the rest of our families, then our friends,” but if you truly look at the choices you make, you may find that you are not living true to your stated priorities. Do you really put God first? Do you spend time in the Word each day and make time to demonstrate to Him that He is first in your life? Do you truly put your husband first above your children’s needs? How does he see this demonstrated in action? It is important to establish boundaries so that the people that matter the most to you in your life aren’t getting your leftovers. Believe me, if they are getting leftovers, they know it!

  1. Be loyal.

True friendship is “walking in the Light.” “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. . . . If we walk in the light, as he [Christ] is in the light, we have fellowship one with another . . .” (I John 1:5, 7).

 “. . . A whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).

It is amazing to me the number of people that willingly speak badly about their husband, children, family and friends! Loyalty is becoming a lost character trait! Speak well of the people you love. One child defined love this way: when you love someone their name is safe in your mouth.

  1. Don’t keep track.

 “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

My Dad taught me never to keep track. If I didn’t have people willing to call me way more often than I was able to call them, at certain periods in my life I wouldn’t even been able to have any friends at all! If you are the one gifted with planning events and getting people together, keep doing it. Just because others don’t reciprocate or have you over for dinner, or call you, don’t keep track. Stay the person you are: not only will it often inspire others, but you yourself will have the blessing of being the best you can be at all times and being true to who God made you to be!

  1. Be patient and gracious.

You are walking through life with imperfect people. Be patient and gracious and pull the best from others.

  1. S – t – r – e – t – c – h!

1 John 3.16 tells us, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.                 “Sacrifice” is the definition of love. We ought to lay down our lives for others. Our loving them is not a question of coming up to someone and patting them on the back. The way that we can show them we love them is to make personal sacrifices to meet their needs. The only way you can express your love is by making sacrifices in your life for others.

  1. Bring who you are to the relationship.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. – Plutarch

Don’t just be someone who agrees with everything your friend does! Be sure you are bringing your perspective and your gifts and insights into any relationship you want to have meaning!

  1. Love with your head as well as your heart.

There is no reason we should be friends with everyone, and one thing that kids should get used to early on is that space and limits to relationship are                                necessary.

       8.  Examine your motives.

Why do you want to be a friend to someone? Make sure your motives are pure. A good friend adds to your life and you add to their life too.

  1. Make each other’s life better because you are in it.

We are to “consider [observe fully] one another to provoke [incite] unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Close friends should pull greatness out of us. True friends exhort and encourage one another.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey

10.  The “ins” and “outs” of friendship: knowing when to “hold them” and when to “fold them.”

Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that. – Ally Condie

Realize that those who reject Christ should reject you. You can have casual friendships with non-believers, but you should not have intimate friendships with non-believers, because you do not share the same goals.   (Proverbs 13:20 – Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.)

Learn to “stand alone” against evil, and to say “I am not able to do that”  when your friends do things that work against your goals in life.

Hospitality

We will use the word “STRETCH”…

S – See the need.  What is hospitality? The word in the Greek is philoxenia, which literally means “love of strangers.”

1 Thess 4.9 tells us But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 1 Peter 1.22 – Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: The word “fervently” in the Greek is ektenes, a medical word used of “stretching a muscle.” In other words, stretch out as far as you can to love that person out there.

Hospitality is one of the qualities a pastor or bishop has as an outward show of an inward commitment to the Lord: as part of that desire to be the Lord’s hand extended, it is natural that the Word tells us that he will be “given to hospitality” (1 Tim 3.2) or “a lover of hospitality” (Titus 1.8).

T – Transcend normal motives.  But hospitality is not only for pastors and bishops: it is something God establishes in all believers once they commit their lives to Him. Let’s read Rom 12.5-21. Verse 13 says “given to hospitality.” What that really means is to “pursue” hospitality: literally to “suffer persecution/press forward” to hospitality.

The enemy is so against our getting together. Any time we seek to get together to lift up the Lord, the enemy will come against it and it will seem like persecution. Perhaps that is why the Greek literally admonishes us to press forward or suffer (permit) persecution for hospitality’s sake!

R – Repeatable. My best times opening my house were times where my children were wound up and not listening, or my home was in disarray (I remember one time my water had to be turned off and I still had a group of people over although my kitchen was all ripped up trying to find the plumbing problem!). When everything was perfect, others felt they couldn’t open their homes in the same fashion so it wasn’t able to inspire them. However, when it was real, many many people told me it encouraged them to open their homes even in the midst of training little children, upsets, and nuances of everyday life.

In becoming a “lover of hospitality,” know the difference between entertaining and hospitality. Karen Mains in Open Heart, Open Home says:

Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my home, my clever     decorating, my cooking.” Hospitality seeking to minister, says, “This home is a gift from my Master. I use it as He desires.”

Hospitality aims to serve. Entertaining puts things before people. “As soon     as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done – then I will start inviting people.”

Hospitality puts people first. “No furniture – we’ll eat on the floor!” “The        decorating may never get done – you come anyways.” “The house is a       mess –            but you are friends – come home with us.” Entertaining subtly declares, “This           home is mine, an expression of my personality. Look, please, and admire.”            Hospitality whispers, “What is mine is yours.”

E – Extend the group. “Open your circle and let someone in!” True hospitality can only come as a result of commitment to the Lord as He implants in His children’s hearts the desire to be His hand extended. It is the love of strangers: Luke 14.12-14. It is where people cannot pay you back where it is true hospitality.

Matt 25.35-44 tells of true hospitality, when Jesus specifically tells us that it is our acceptance of HIM when we extend our hospitality to strangers. Strangers is the Greek word xenos; which is part of the word “hospitality.” Hospitality: our hand extended in His Name to strangers and those who would not really or could not really repay the hospitality.

1 Peter 4.8 – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.   Cover a multitude of sins can have two meanings:

T – Themes help.   Ideas for themes we’ve had…  Groups of 12…   Problems with the pinochle party alone…

C – Challenge others.  Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

H – Help: Enlist Some! 1 Peter 4.7-10 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Are you ready to be offended?

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Offenses are heading your way!  They will come… as they often do when we get together with large groups of people over the holidays!

Remember, James 3.2 tells us we all stumble in many ways, and if any one does NOT offend in word they are perfect! So be ready for not only others to stumble but even we can unintentionally stumble too!

Some things to remember:

1.     Be kind and gracious. Give the benefit of a doubt. Overlook offenses.

2.     Don’t return evil for evil, or insult with insult. Bless the ones that offend you! Why should you? 1 Peter 3.2 tells you why: so that you can obtain a blessing from God Himself!

3.     Forgive forgive forgive! As many times as you need to! (Matthew 18)  Set the other person free from fulfilling any of your needs. No matter what the situation, don’t allow someone else to break into your anointing!

4.     Move other and let the Lord handle your offenses! He said He will deal with those that hurt the apple of His eye! (Zech 2.8) Allow Him to deal with those who come against you as King David did with Saul!

5.     You are BLESSED when reproached! REJOICE and LEAP for JOY because your reward will be GREAT in heaven! (Luke 6.22-23)

6.     Bless them that curse you and if they smack you across the face with the way they treat you, offer them the other cheek! Your reward will be GREAT and you will look like your Father! Give GRACE and MERCY and know it will be coming back at you! (Luke 6.27-30, 35-38)

7.     Be happy that the Spirit of the glory can rest upon you when you are partakers in Christ’s suffering.   (1 Peter 4.12-14) He knows how it is to be rejected and spoken against by the very ones He came to give His life to. He knows how it is to have His own children spit upon Him and reject all He wanted to give them. Have faith that the Lord will take good care of you!

8.     Keep your heart free from bitterness! (Hebrews 12.14-15) When you don’t forgive one person, many can be hurt by your bitterness! Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It feeds on itself and grows, making you a martyr, feeding self pity and feeling sorry for yourself. You end up passing on bad reports about others to try to gain a following as Absalom did, resulting in his own self destruction AND the destruction of all those he was able to have join him in his unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness results in ugliness, and is like poison ivy sucking the life and love out of you and growing like poison ivy all over your heart and life, hurting any one else that comes near. It results in you replaying your hurts over and over in your mind, making a “rut” for your thoughts to keep going back to.

God has called us to live on a higher level. He gives us His power to respond in SUPERnatural love to those that hurt us!

Let’s pray this prayer regularly:

Lord God, right now I give you every time I am to be offended, by thoughtless words, thoughtless deeds, by others speaking evil of my good as they did with You. I give You every bad feeling about any wrong committed against me, my family and my motives and ministry. I pray for each of those who have wronged me, intentionally or unintentionally. I pray for each of those who have passed around wrong information about me that has funneled back to me. I refuse to rehearse those things, feed on them, or feel sorry for myself because of them. I ask you to bless each of those that have done me wrong in any way: give them a greater knowledge of who You are, help them to walk in the fullness of the life You have for them, help them to know their calling, and give them the saving knowledge of Your great mercy and forgiveness, resulting in a passionate relationship with You!

Lord, please forgive me for any unkindness, wrong words spoken to or about others, and wrong deeds against others. Help me to walk in Your perfect love towards others. Help me to be kind and gracious. Examine my heart towards others, and point out and show me if there are any offensive, hurtful ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139.24). Thank you for empowering me with Your power to love in return and to walk in the freedom of Your love and forgiveness!

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