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Entries in Relationships (15)

Thursday
May302019

Joy: The Key to Unlocking Love for Your Relationships

Pam Farrel, relationship specialist, is always on the lookout for Word-based insights to encourage stronger, healthier relationships to the glory of God. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she shares a special “key” to unlocking greater love.

Love and joy are intricately connected—like a hook and eye, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, or keys of ebony and ivory,” Pam says.

“Love and joy pour into each other until our life plays the beautiful melody of happiness God intends for each of us.”

I (Dawn) think this is a truly special insight. We tend to only think about love in relationships, but link that to sincere joy and an amazing thing happens. Love blooms.

Pam continues . . .

Mother Teresa said, “A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love."

And Mark Twain believed, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”  

During the last year, while writing Discovering Joy in Philippians, I pondered how joy positively impacts a person’s life and relationships.

Most people see Philippians as primarily a book about joy, but as I plunged a bit deeper, I easily saw some relationship best practices revealed in this short, but powerful book of the Bible.

One of the keys to unlocking health in relationships and producing more joy is revealed in a simple equation:

The more of the Word in you, the more love and joy in you AND the more love and joy you will have spill out into your relationships.

Here’s how the Word empowers us to have healthier and happier relationships.

1. Wash In the Word

To keep my attitude positive and to stay more attuned in all my relationships, I like to integrate various study techniques so the Word washes over and through me, delivering positive life improvement.

One way to gain a new mindset is to allow God’s Word to play the soundtrack to your life.

You can do this in the daytime by layering God’s Word throughout your day:

  • Play Christian music,
  • Post verses,
  • Hang scripture art,
  • And place devotionals and Bible studies throughout your home.

At any time, the transformative Word is in sight and within earshot. 

While writing Discovering Joy In Philippians—and in the next year, now that I am teaching it online—I fall asleep to the audio version of Philippians, or a play list with worship songs about joy.

By listening to God’s Word, my fears are calmed, I am infused with joy and courage, and my heart is refined.  

2. Walk Out the Word

This priority on relationships is reflected in the letter of Philippians:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (1:3).

People can tell when you feel thankful and appreciative of them.

We want to live in such a way that when people recall us, or someone even mentions our name, they light up with praise and delight.

Also, by thanking God for someone, our “attitude of gratitude” builds a sense of deeper respect, honor and gratefulness toward the person. 

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (1:4).

Praying for someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a person.

Knowing someone is praying for you, with JOY, draws us to people because they express gladness and sincere excitement when they see us. 

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…”  (1:7).

My husband, Bill, and I use this verse as the theme to our book, The Marriage Code. We love how God gives the goal of living as “partakers of grace”, then He shares HOW to do that: “hold you in my heart.”

This means we choose to NOT make a relationship about a list of behaviors.

To “hold on your heart” means carrying someone with constant love while giving the benefit of the doubt to their intentions.

When a relationship is based only on behaviors, NO ONE can stay good enough, long enough to succeed at a relationship.

Love gives the grace that trumps human imperfection.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (1:9).

3. Wade into the Word

Another way to gain a fresh appreciation of a verse and how to apply it is to read it in a few translations or paraphrased versions. 

I appreciate the expanded vocabulary definitions included in verses 9 and 10 in the Amplified version:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]” (1:9-10, emphasis mine).

I also cherish these verses in The Message as it is a wholesome challenge for how to live out love and joy to positively impact relationships:

“So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of…” (again, emphasis mine).

As we wade deeper into the Word, we can often gain fresh insights and anticipate God working. 

Are joy and love overflowing out of your heart and into your relationships? Of the ideas shared in this blog on how to process the Word to raise the quality of what you have available to pour into your relationships, which idea can you begin with to have to biggest positive impact?

Pam Farrel is the author of 46 books including many bestsellers like: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience .  She also enjoys co-authoring with Jean E. Jones and artist Karla Dornacher, and their next book, Discovering Joy In Philippians: A Creative Bible Devotional Experience , releases May 2019. Pam also loves mentoring and coaching women online; and she and her husband, Bill, stay active speaking and writing on marriage, family, relationships and on Living Love-Wise.  

Graphic of graffiti wall adapted, courtesy of Angela Yuriko Smith at Pixabay.

Thursday
Oct182018

12 Traits of Unsafe People

Counselor and Bible teacher Debbie W. Wilson helps people develop relevant faith. She also teaches people practical wisdom from scripture. In this Relationship UPGRADE, Debbie clearly defines a group of people that might harm us.

She asks, "Do you have an unsafe person in your life?"

I (Dawn) do have some people that seem to flash warning signs when I'm with them. Most people have some "unsafe" people in their lives, and sometimes it's hard to know how to respond to them. I'm glad Debbie is tackling this issue.

Debbie continues . . .

Jacob’s father-in-law and employer for twenty years was an unsafe person. Laban’s name means white. But he was a dark cloud for Jacob.

Unsafe people live, work, and worship among us.

They may appear friendly and good. But beneath their scrubbed exterior lies a dark streak.

Laban betrayed his daughter Rachel and Jacob by switching the bride the night of the wedding. He cheated Jacob by changing his wages ten times.

His story helps us identify the unsafe people in our lives.

               12 Traits of Unsafe People

1. Unsafe people use you as long as it benefits them.

Laban wanted Jacob to stay while Jacob made him prosperous (Genesis 30:25-28).

2. Unsafe people are reasonable to your face but undermine you behind your back. 

Laban agreed to give Jacob the spotted and streaked animals as his wages, but he gave them to his sons instead. He thought leaving the solid colored herds would decrease Jacob’s chances to raise spotted animals (Genesis 30:34-36).

3. Unsafe people are threatened by your success and disregard your faithfulness.

Jacob’s growing herds threatened Laban’s sons. Laban’s attitude changed toward Jacob. They forgot Jacob’s work had made them rich (Genesis 31:1-3).

4. Unsafe people can’t thwart God’s blessings or will for you.

Every time Laban changed Jacob’s wages, God intervened.

If Laban said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young (Genesis 31:4-9).

5. Unsafe people don't determine your well-being.

Rachel and Leah acknowledged the bounty their heavenly Father had provided in spite of their father wronging them (Genesis 31:14-16).

6. Unsafe people are on God’s leash.

Jacob was no match for Laban’s men. He didn’t have to be.

God appeared in a dream and stopped Laban from attacking Jacob (Genesis 31:24).

7. Unsafe people manipulate with guilt and shame.

They make you the villain and themselves the victim.

Jacob had the cooperation of his wives (Genesis 31:4-16), but Laban accused him of carrying them off like captives in war.

“You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing.” (See Genesis 31:26-28.)

8. Unsafe people's true intentions come out through their unguarded words.

“I have the power to harm you; but God stopped me” (Genesis 31:29).

What? I thought you said Jacob had no cause to run off in secret.

9. Unsafe people are mercenary.

Decisions are based on personal profit—not kindness, relationship, or right and wrong (Genesis 31:38-41).

10. Unsafe people believe they are entitled—me, my, mine! 

Jacob worked twenty years for his wives and flocks.

Laban said, “They’re mine!” (Genesis 31:43).

11. Unsafe people hypocritically accuse you of their ill motives.

Laban said, “If you mistreat my daughters….”

Laban had already wronged Rachel and Leah (Genesis 31:15, 50).

12. Unsafe people are distrustful because they assume you share their ill will.

Laban wanted a watchtower to keep Jacob from harming him and promised he wouldn't pursue Jacob.

Yet, Laban's the one who chased Jacob to harm him and had repeatedly cheated him (Genesis  31:51-52).

Laban debunks the myth we should trust people just because they are family members, authority figures, or claim to be believers.

Don't feel guilty if your caution light flashes when you are around someone.

Ask God for discernment and then boldly heed it.

Eventually, Jacob and his family had to separate from Laban and his sons.

The Bible says:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18 NIV).

Sadly, sometimes it is not possible to live at peace with some people and be true to our walk with God.

What traits concerning the people with whom you live and work alert you to proceed with caution?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks, writes, and coaches to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God: It's Not the Size of Your Problems, but the Size of Your God and Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets to God's Rest. Find her at her blog, Refreshing Faith.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MGDboston at Morguefile.

Thursday
Jul192018

Connection 101: Girl-friendship Is a Gift

Deb DeArmond cares about relationships—all kinds of relationships. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she offers insight to help us cultivate our friendships with other women.

It’s the test," Deb says, "of any friendship: the vacation without husbands, kids or other friends to cushion the shock of 24 hours together. On the ocean. In a cabin. For seven days."

That sounds heavenly to me (Dawn), but I'm sure there could be challenges. It's important we learn to grow up in our friendships.

Deb continues . . .

It was a bit on the early side of the Alaska cruise season, so Cindy and I landed an incredible upgrade with spacious digs, attentive staff, and a week of total luxury.

Fabulous meals, beautiful ports, and interesting folks on board.

And a lot of togetherness.

Girl-friendships, even for Christians, have often been challenging.

“Am I her favorite? Does she like me best?”

Remember in third grade, when the “new girl” was introduced to the class? We eyed her nervously, concerned she’d replace us in our bestie’s heart. We worked for that position and protected it fiercely. 

Step back, newbie. She’s mine.

We may be adults, but women still compete for that top spot—and the enemy will try to use these relationship needs against us if we’re not careful. 

I’m blessed to say it’s something Cindy and I have not struggled with.

Why not?

She and I are an unlikely twosome. Californians, now living in Texas. Close in age, married 40+ years. Adult kids and grandbabes. But that’s about it.

We’re wired differently, choose different hobbies, and we think differently; our needs and preferences are dissimilar. We’re an odd couple.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t compatible—we both love God and His Word fiercely.

God created us to need others.

  • Read Genesis. Even though God was with Adam from the start, He saw the need and created Eve.
  • The disciples numbered twelve, but three—Peter, James, and John—were those Jesus held close in the best and worst of times.
  • David and Jonathan.
  • Ruth and Naomi.

It’s a biblical pattern. We need relationship.

Cindy and I discussed our friendship on the cruise. That it’s risen to the level of importance it holds in our lives is surprising.

Here was our Alaskan epiphany: we don’t compete. With one another or for one another’s affection, time, and that all-important top spot in one another’s life.

We’re never fearful the other is “cheating” on us with other friends.

We have other friends. Close friends. And we’re grateful for each of them: colleagues, neighbors, quilting buddies, and writing partners.

We don’t see one another as often as we’d like. But we do life together, just not usually in the same place.

We don’t live in one another’s pockets. We can’t. She recently moved three hours away, but the distance has deepened our relationship.

We’re more intentional about staying connected.

So maybe that, too, is a gift. If we need one another—for any reason, day or night—we’re available and fully present.

We’ve confided in one another, knowing it’s “in the vault.”  Trusted. No judgment. A genuine gift from the Lord.

How do we do it? Here are three tips we discovered.

1. We have healthy expectations of one another.

She doesn’t need me to provide what only God can deliver. I’ve not made her the center of my emotional well-being—that’s His job.

Sometimes when women are lonely or need encouragement they turn to their bestie instead of God. Not in addition to God, but instead. If that one gets mixed up, it’s a quick trip to trouble.

2. We rely on one another—for companionship, truth telling when needed, mercy (always needed) and the joy of experiencing life with one who helps to make the other better.

I can count on her to sharpen me, challenge me and pray for me. She depends on me for the same.

3. We are champions for one another.

Because we don’t compete, we can genuinely celebrate the other’s success. Everyone needs a cheerleader!

God expects us to grow up, and that includes our friendships.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NLT).

I’d like to have the energy and youthfulness I had in third grade or the calorie burning ability of days playing hopscotch. But I’ll take grown-up God-given relationships over those schoolyard alliances any day!

Which of those three tips need improving in your own friendships?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of RawPixel at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun052018

When Your Last Living Parent Passes

Have you ever noticed that broken people—healed by God's grace—share His truth in a powerful way, straight from their heart? Yvonne Ortega is the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® series.

In this Grief UPGRADE, she encourages us to seek God's caring presence and peace, just as she does.

“‘Dad passed,’ my younger brother said on the phone. For a couple of minutes, I couldn’t say anything," Yvonne said. "Our last living parent passed.

"I felt broken again. Perhaps my brother felt the same way, but he didn’t say so.”

I (Dawn) still have one living parent, but I've thought about this topic many times lately.

I don't think we're ever prepared for a parent to die, but perhaps we can prepare our hearts to continue to live.

Yvonne continues . . .

Daddy wanted to live to be 100 years old. He got close to that, but his body wore out.

He had a massive heart attack on Palm Sunday, seemed to improve, but slipped away nine days later.

His mind also wore out. He had dementia.

I’ve learned three things about my heavenly Father that help me cope with the loss of my last living parent.

1. I’ve learned that God cares about orphans.

Psalm 68:5, in talking about God, says,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (NIV).

God is a Father to me. As a caring parent, He loves me, watches over me, and guides me. He will fill in the gap.

I can go to Him in prayer, call him "Father," and feel confident that He will be a faithful parent to me.

Deuteronomy 10:18a says, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.”

God will defend me. When the need arises, I don’t stand alone. I can run to Abba’s arms in confidence and feel safe.

2. I’ve learned to meditate on the names of God.

El Roi means the God who sees me. Since He sees me, God knows I experience bouts of loneliness. As God comforted Hagar in Genesis 16, He will comfort me.

God knows where I am and what I need.

Another name of God is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is our peace. In Judges 16:24, Gideon built an altar to the Lord and called it "The Lord Is Peace."

I admit, every so often I want to call Dad, but remember I can’t do that anymore. Other times, I tell myself I need to buy more greeting cards for Dad. I used to mail him two cards a week. Then I remember he’s in heaven.

I’m happy for him, but I miss him. In those moments, I call on Jehovah Shalom and claim His peace in my life.

3. I listen to praise and worship music.

One of my favorite Scriptures about the importance of praise and worship is 2 Chronicles 20:21:

“Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’”

My battle is coping with the loss of my last living parent. God’s Word showed me the most powerful weapon—praise and worship.

I praise God continually that my father accepted the Lord last summer.

Then I fight the battle with God’s love and strength as He brings me to a more beautiful tomorrow.

What will you do when you lose your last living parent or feel lonely because of other circumstances?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a professional speaker, and a speaking and writing coach. She’s the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne will speak at a Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Conference October 19–20, 2018 in Virginia Beach and would love to bring that conference to your area. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr272017

Connection or Crisis: Assessing a 'Tech Attachment'

Julie Sanders often encourages women to discover the calm of God's presence, and often, that calm is disrupted with technology. In this Life Choices UPGRADE, she invites us to think about technology's influence in our lives.

"We picked it up and the rest was history," Julie said.

"When we swiped our first device, no one expected it to became tangled around every space of life. How do we know if our attachment has become toxic?"

Toxic technology? I (Dawn) think I know what that's like. Tech addiction too! But the question is, what do we do about it?

Julie continues . . .

It’s likely technology entered your life as it did mine, innocent and even benign.

Since then it’s filtered into every corner of life until it’s hard to see where technology isn’t embedded in daily life.

Tech savvy or not, our wired world is here to stay. 

Since we find ourselves with easy online access, we have the ability to be constantly linked. Vacations and no-tech weekends have helped some hold back the tech tide, but how can we know if we’ve got a problem?

It’s easy to be connected and hard to step away. 

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 6:13).

One way to know

To know if you’ve reached a connection crisis, do one thing: put your tech down and wait.  Just wait. You’ll know when it’s been long enough. Wait until you can answer three questions:

  • Are you angry?
  • Are you agitated?
  • Are you anxious?

If we answer any of these with an affirmative “yes,” we have a problem. 

If we start sweating or shaking before we answer yes, we have a BIG problem. 

Some of us have already experienced relational conflict indicating our connections have reached crisis proportions. Thankfully, we’re not alone, because any adult in the developed world (and many in the developing world) understand the struggle is real. We’ve all been taken by surprise.

So in this unscientific approach to what some actually find is becoming an addiction: if you know you have a problem, next you need an honest friend.

Ask a friend, husband, or family member (or any combination) to help you identify what you stopped doing when you stopped putting your tech down.

What did you do BEFORE you carried your device everywhere? You’ve probably ignored that old thing, and it might help if you rekindle your relationship with it.

Talking to kids? Reading to kids? Having devotions?

           Exercising? Thinking? Being intimate?

         Working? Sleeping? Cooking? Laughing?

What did you experience that you can REDISCOVER? Most of the time when we adopt a new habit, we’ve let go of another. 

Replace some tech time with forgotten, but good things.

If we expect to put tech down and walk away without a replacement, we’ll probably feel angry, agitated, or anxious.

Maybe we’ve been missing out. We don’t want to wake up and realize we lived a life of missing out because we were always. . .

  • scrolling,
  • swiping,
  • sharing, or
  • scanning.

We don’t have to throw tech out with the bath water (unless we dropped it IN the bath water!). 

But we can’t have two masters: the God of the world and the wires of the world. 

If you suspect technology has an unhealthy hold on you, put it down. Wait. Answer honestly if you feel angry, agitated, or anxious.

Then dust off those things you’ve archived or deleted and take up LIFE again!

What part does technology play in your life? How are you using it in good ways to accomplish God’s priorities for your life?

Since Julie Sanders and her husband moved to the Northwest, she values connection with distant loved ones via social media and mobile devices. In their cross-cultural ministry, they see technology as a resource for encouragement and outreach. As the director of early learning programs across vast urban and rural regions, Julie sees how tech as both a tool and a trap in family life. She writes from her online home “Come Have a Peace.”