Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Metho-terian-ism from the Presb-odist

Storm clouds over Westfield Mall in Brandon
"Methoterianism" - is the conjunction of Presbyterian and Methodist - "Presbodist"

Yesterday turned out to be an exceptionally busy day: First, I enjoyed a very productive phone conversation with the president of United Methodist Men in Florida that resulted in invitations to speak at two state-wide men's events (October 2011 and October 2012). Next was a drive to Lithia to meet with the new pastor at Grace Community UMC for a Tribune article. Then it was back home for a phone conference with Jim Harnish at Hyde Park UMC, followed by a quick exchange of ideas with pastor Matthew Hartsfield at Van Dyke UMC. The working part of my day concluded with a meeting in Plant City at The Ministry Center for an unrelated Tribune story; and, yes, it was attached to another Methodist church.

Italian Pizza
It was too late to think about cooking when I got home so Rebekah and I headed out to the mall for The Cheesecake Factory and Books-A-Million. The picture (above) was taken after dinner just as another round of thunderstorms sprung up around Brandon. The rain around here has been relentless, but I'm just happy it cools things off in the late afternoon.

I had some authentic Italian pizza. And I can say "authentic" because it's the first time I've ever had pizza this side of the Atlantic that had the taste and the texture of the stuff they serve in the pizzeria down the street from Andrew's house in Tuscany.

Then we headed into Books A Million. We were there to purchase "The Help" and generally walk around perusing books. It got me to thinking about bestsellers and the dynamics of the book world.

Book table at the mall
First, I checked the "Inspirational Books" table. I've long since gotten over my disappointment that there's not a single bookstore in Brandon that keeps my books in stock, yet alone puts them on display. But I am very much intrigued at what does capture the attention of booksellers and what people do read.

One interesting observation I've made has to do with the evangelical book market, especially books aimed at men. First, men in evangelical churches read books much more than men in mainline congregations. That may have to do with the tendency toward "group-think" and the influence to all "be on the same page."

Additionally, men in evangelical churches talk about the books they read and then recommend those books to one another. Not only that, but they recommend these books to their Presbyterian and Methodist and Lutheran (etc) friends. Consequently, the guys in my target audience routinely miss out on material designed specifically for them because there's very little word-of-mouth, very little buzz, very little in the way of intentional spiritual community.

And so we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot because we're afraid to talk about what moves us. I think this is a huge and increasingly important factor in the spirituality of the American man.

If we, the "quiet unassuming majority", fail to step out of our complacency and into a more forthright witness to what it really means to experience salvation, then the truth about God's love will not be told. We can't allow the conversation to be dictated anymore by the noisiest people in the room. We need to stand up and say, "Moderates love Jesus too!" And, "I'm passionate about my faith;" and "Let me tell you about my relationship with God;" and, "You've got to read this inspirational book my men's group have been studying..."

Shout it from the rooftops!
I'll repeat the foundational idea here:
  • It's time for us to get over our reluctance to talk about what moves us.
  • We need to stop allowing ourselves to be spiritually bullied.
  • We need to tell the world the truth about a God who is inviting, inclusive, full of grace, politically neutral, and passionate about justice.
This is life-charged faith we're talking about here, people! Why aren't we shouting it from the rooftops?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bible Keeps Me Grounded

Scripture reading this morning
I've "said" this before - both in this space and in my books - If I had to point to just one resource that unerringly leads me into a deep and meaningful spiritual place, then that resource would certainly have to be the Bible.

I'm not diminishing anything else; it's just that, at this particular season in my personal spiritual journey, the scriptures have been speaking to me with remarkable clarity. I begin each day with a short Bible reading, and God's Word for me never fails to come through.
However, since I've opened up this conversation, let me simply bullet point those elements that I find to be indispensable in terms of nurturing and growing my commitment to be a faithful Follower of the Way of Jesus.
  • Daily Bible reading
  • Prayer that runs - like a computer operating system - behind and around every waking moment ("prayer without ceasing").
  • Regular worship in the context of a faith community
  • Commitment to and participation in the life of that faith community
  • Membership in a "covenant group", a small-group where I can experience encouragement, support and accountability
  • Ongoing study via continuing education classes and a constant diet of inspirational books
There's much more, of course. I could also talk about deliberately exposing myself to great music, art and architecture - and not just because much of this was created by people who were motivated by their faith, but because all beauty and truth points to the Creator and enriches our journey. And so I'd have to add hiking in the wilderness, walking the beaches, and travel to witness the amazing beauty of this good Earth...

...But I started today's post with a simple statement so we wouldn't have to cover all of that. So I'll close with the beautiful passage of scripture that set my thoughts in motion just a few minutes ago. It's a long selection (18 verses) but well worth the read. The psalm ends with the following familiar words, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Here are the first 18 verses. Read them carefully, and allow God some room in your world today.

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fumata Bianca in the Methodist Church

I did a lot of this over the weekend (photo courtesy of Dan Zane)
When the weekend is too busy to allow time to post to my blog, then there should be a lot to write about on Monday morning. True, but now I'm behind across the board so we'll have to make this brief.
  • Naomi and Craig will be without power for several days, due to Hurricane Irene's visit to Connecticut; but they made it through with no real damage. Their challenge is water, as their well relies on electricity for the pump.
  • Andrew is back home in Italy after a week in Germany and a side-trip to Switzerland. His command will be busy if the U.S. get's involved with humanitarian aid in Libya, so there's a lot of work right now in the planning arena.
  • Then it was one party after another with our church family. Bon voyage; retirement; celebration; reception; "topping-out" the new building. We spent Sunday afternoon looking after Micah and Liam (4 & 2) and finished out by launching the new year for  our "small" group in the evening.

Florida Annual Conference Delegates at work
But today's post is actually work-related. Sometimes my role as a writer affords me an inside look at people and events that is a  privilege and a blessing; Saturday was no exception. I'll give you the cliffnotes version.
This weekend I was asked to "cover" the first of a series of meetings designed to help Florida Annual Conference (United Methodist Church) delegates prepare for both the 2012 General Conference and the 2012 Jurisdictional Conference.
For the uninitiated (and that includes me), the General Conference is the once-every-four-years gathering where decisions are made that literally shape the world-wide United Methodist Church. The 2012 Southeast Jurisdictional Conference is where bishops are elected and assigned.
The folk in the room were all significant "movers and shakers" in the church, and the business they were conducting was extremely important; yet I was welcomed as a friend and a colleague in ministry rather than an intruder into their space. I sat at one of the tables, I participated in some of the small-group discussion, I shared coffee and conversation with a variety of people during the breaks, I reconnected with some ministers I've got to know over the past couple of years, I initiated some valuable new relationships, I worshipped as part of the community, I prayed as a part of the community, I ate lunch with the group.
The only thing I didn't do was to express my thoughts or my opinion regarding anything that was "on the table" in terms of business. But I did feel as though I was actually a part of what was going on, rather than a spectator.
And that's what led to the meaningful spiritual moment I'm going to share. I can't talk about what exactly transpired, because the proceedings were confidential; but I can share that I felt deeply connected to what turned out to be a powerful movement of the Spirit in the selection of a nominee for the office of bishop.

fumata bianca
Fumata bianca - Bishop: "Fumata Bianca" is the Italian phrase that means "White Smoke". The smoke is released when the Cardinals (meeting in the Sistine Chapel) announce their decision for a new pontiff.
The 50 or so delegates present had been charged (by the Florida Annual Conference) with the responsibility of initiating the (sometimes several-month) discernment process for either selecting the Florida Conference candidate for bishop or coming to the conclusion that Florida has no nominee until - possibly - the next go-round in 2016. The process involved worship, prayer, scripture, personal reflection, small-group discussion and then a remarkable time, as an assembly, where it was obvious that people were listening to God's voice, listening to one-another, and sensitive to the moving of the Spirit.
I like to talk and write - a lot - about the "Life-charged" life. Well, Saturday afternoon with the gathering of Methodists was "Grace-Charged" to the hilt.

Prayer and "laying on of hands" for nominee to "The Episcopacy"
Instead of simply getting the discernment process under way, the day ended with the selection of a candidate. Rev. Debbie McCloud of Mandarin UMC in Jacksonville came forward, knelt, and was surrounded by 50-some delegates who placed their hands on her and prayed. It was truly a God moment.
When I spoke with her afterwards, what I told her was the truth. "Congratulations, Debbie. I'm not a Methodist, and I kept my mouth shut during the discussion. But I knew, the moment the first person mentioned your name, that you would be the Florida Conference nominee for bishop by the end of the afternoon."
Thankful for the privilege - DEREK

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hitting a Nerve: Why some blog posts "take off"

This post reminds me of this book (one of my favorites)
Wow! Sometimes I'm really surprised at how things take off. Take yesterday's post, for example. It didn't exactly "go viral", but there was a huge up-tick in terms of response. I started by throwing in a couple of good photographs, then simply added a few words as they put themselves together. I realized that I was talking about "seizing the moment", and so I wrapped up the post with the phrase, "I won't write well tomorrow by holding back today."
The words spoke to me, so I repeated them and then built on the idea in closing.
  • I can’t love any better tomorrow by holding back today
  • I won’t give more tomorrow if I don’t share everything I have today
  • I’m less likely to spend time with the people I love tomorrow if I withhold time from them today
  • I won’t change the world tomorrow unless I’m prepared to change it today
  • I’ll never live a life-charged life  - at all – if I wait until tomorrow to begin….
To me it was a simple reiteration of an emerging modus operandi that is foundational to my understanding of how we live what I've been calling "the Life-Charged Life". And it seemed to touch a nerve.
So today I'm thinking about what becomes possible:
  • When we live as if the words of the scriptures we read and the hymns we sing really are true...
  • And when we reach into the depths of who we are in the faith and the confidence that we will be replenished, and that we can "go deep" again and again...
  • And when we make the shift from being merely the people who like to say, "Lord, Lord" all the time... and into becoming the people who actually live in the Kingdom Jesus taught us to occupy.
I really, really like the way the "Lord, Lord" passage is phrased in "The Message" translation of the Matthew 7 text (21-23). This is what Jesus said to those who had ears to hear (and Jesus us still saying it today):
"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'"
Inspired by Jesus - always - DEREK

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Never Save Your Best for Tomorrow: photography... writing... life

The First at Buckhorn Springs
Once in a while I get the opportunity to do work that's outside my normal comfort zone. Sometimes the results are great, other times I'm not so sure. But it's always worth a try because, well, you never know.

Recently I've fielded a number of requests to take photographs. I have a good eye, but photography is not a primary skill and it's certainly not a service I would advertise. When it comes to writing, I'm confident that my work is as good as it gets, I believe I could hold my own in any context; but as for photography, there are countless people with expertise I can't begin to approach.

Buckhorn Springs hole # 7 - our house is behind the green
However, when someone offers me a job, likely as not I'm going to give it a try. And that's why I've spent some time over at the Buckhorn Springs Golf Club this week. I wrote a community profile feature on the owner that ran in the Tampa Tribune. He liked the picture I took to go with the story so he invited me to shoot an image for the new scorecard. I tend to frame things up nicely composition-wise so hopefully my work will fit what he needs.
But then I thought about the possibilities and so I shot a few more images that I think might make a great calendar. Who knows, maybe this will turn into something big?

That's exactly how I got my first book published. I had literally scores of rejection letters, from just about every publisher in the USA. No-one was even vaguely interested in a book by Derek Maul. But then I placed a 200-word meditation with The Upper Room and I gave the job absolutely everything I had - I wrote the best 200 words I had in me.

Much later, at an editorial board meeting, someone remembered my name, and the devotion I had penned at least a couple of years or more in the past.
That's when I realized it was pointless to save my best for "some day". It always is! The life-charged life is about my best today; my best every single day. What I discovered was that there is always more. When I give my best today, tomorrow my best is better yet. It's like an all or nothing investment of myself, my gifts, my dreams, my everything and my future.
Someone suggested I quit writing with such passion here in this blog. "Save your best for the next book," they said. "You don't want to use it all up already..." Well I don't write well tomorrow by holding back today.
In fact that's a great principle: I WON'T WRITE WELL TOMORROW BY HOLDING BACK TODAY.
  • I can't love any better tomorrow by holding back today
  • I won't give more tomorrow if I don't share everything I have today
  • I'm less likely to spend time with the people I love tomorrow if I withhold time from them today
  • I won't change the world tomorrow unless I'm prepared to change it today
  • I'll never live a life-charged life  - at all - if I wait until tomorrow to begin....
You get the idea - DEREK

Even the driving range looks good at Buckhorn Springs!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Relationships are worth the effort

First, a brief commercial for my "Clergy-Hubby" site. I only post weekly over there, and a lot of my "Life-Charged Life" readers miss out. So, click on this link - "The Preacher's Husband" - to read some good words and view some great pictures of my wife, Rebekah and the church staff.

Worth the creative effort...
Okay, now for this morning: I want to pick up on an observation I made in an article I wrote yesterday for All-Pro-Dad. The title of the column is Ten Ways to Build a Relationship Now You're Married. Writing the piece made me think about what happens to so many couples after their wedding. They are surprised at the complete turn around. Then, after just a few weeks, they find themselves saying things like, "Who is this?" "He/she is nothing like the person I married!" and "Why is everything completely different now..."
My article looks at ten initiatives we can take to actually build - or re-build - the relationship.
This is especially on my mind because I've also been thinking about the general concept of happiness. What makes people happy - and this is a world-wide phenomenon - is not what we possess, or even political freedom, but our relationships.

People seem to understand this when they're dating! Up to and including the wedding, the relationship drives everything; nothing else matters. Then, within a short while of the "I do"s, this connection (one both parties forged so deliberately) gets pushed back behind a long list of new priorities. Setting up house, making ends meet, sleep and work and responsibility, raising a new family. "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera..."
  • We all lives that involve a lot of routine, the day-in day-out that can become - if we're not careful - little more than "The daily grind." Dating, discovering one-another,opening ourselves up, exploring a relationship - this was a magical glimpse of life-charged life. The relationship was all about the excitement away from that routine.
  • Then - all of a sudden - instead of escaping the routine to be with the love of your life, marriage brings the relationship squarely into the realm of the routine. The only place you seem to meet anymore is in the middle of the humdrum that - when you were dating - you escaped from to be together....
If married couples are not careful, they lose the specialness of the relationship. Then it's not too difficult to imagine escaping that humdrum and looking for life elsewhere.

What amazes me is the fact that so few people recognize what is happening! They just feel disappointed - or wonder how they lost one another - or look to assign blame. But it doesn't have to be that way! Relationships are worth the work and the effort and the application of creativity and commitment and imagination.

"Life is a daring adventure..."
We've already discussed the fact that real happiness is most often found in the context of relationships. So why not work on the one that captivated us so much to begin with?

Maybe we'll get back into this discussion another day. But, for now, think about how amazingly worth-the-effort your relationships are, and how wonderful it is to love and live with life-charged imagination.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Refreshing rain; Florida sky; Christian dog

Drippy soggy Florida afternoons
"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding." John 2:1-2
This first photograph pretty much sums up the past week in this part of Florida. Soggy, wet and drippy. But only the afternoons. We're well and truly into the "summer pattern" of clear mornings, gathering thunderstorms right after lunchtime, and then extended periods of drenching rain, often stretching well into the evening.
The moaning and complaining about the weather is also well under way (I understand that this behavior is ubiquitous, but what do they expect - this is Florida after all...). But, personally, I happen to love the afternoon rains. They cool off the house at just about the same time the air-conditioning decides it can't keep up anymore; plus everything - including the air itself - is, literally, washed clean.

Clouds gathering over the golf course behind out house, ready for another round of thunderstorms
On this particular occasion - Saturday afternoon - Rebekah and I sat on the front porch to enjoy the deluge, sipping cool drinks and feeling the freshness of the air. It doesn't matter how busy we are, or what needs to be done, rain like this is an invitation to pause for a refreshing interlude to enjoy one-another and the moment.
Here - above right - are the clouds beginning to gather to the east for another round of storms.
This final shot is of Mia - our friends' (David and Karin) new Golden Doodle (the same principle as a Labradoodle, but this time a Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle mix). Mia was helping host the Dale's housewarming party.
What I enjoyed about the housewarming was the overlapping circles of community. The Dales invited church friends, new neighborhood friends, old neighborhood friends, and friends from their daughter's basketball team. We all have a variety of circles we're a part of, but it's a rare occasion when they have the opportunity to combine.

Mia - Golden Doodle
So it made me wonder about the imprint we leave where we live out our lives...
The young man who won this weekend's PGA golf tournament blurted out, "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..." as the very first thing he said at his post-victory interview. And I honestly wondered if he had served to advance the Kingdom, or instead actually set it back by bludgeoning unsuspecting viewers via cliché?
But what about the overlapping stories and the shared experiences at the housewarming... Did we bring Jesus with us? Did our conversation, our demeanor, our listening, our presence whisper anything of Gospel? Was Jesus with us - and does God have anything to say to the world when we step out of our familiar church circles and live?
Do we tell the truth about the Gospel, simply by being?
Worth thinking about on a Monday morning. At least, that's what came to my mind when I downloaded these pictures from the weekend.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wealth: Maybe it's not ours to begin with?

So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's farm produced a big crop, and he said to himself, "What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything." Later, he said, "Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. Then I'll say to myself, `You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' "But God said to him, "You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?" This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God. - Luke 12:16-21

Just build bigger barns and wait it out...
This morning, economics is on my mind. I know what you're thinking, "Why would Derek do that?" But I can't help myself. It's all over the news; and opinion and commentary and politics are all loaded with money talk right now.
Then there's the fact that there is a huge "life-charged" dimension to economics. How we handle our finances makes a profound difference in the way that we live, and there is something going on every single day where the idea of "stewardship" is relevant.
Today I read a letter to the editor in The Tampa Tribune where the writer took a shot at Warren Buffett. Buffett, a multimillionaire, is advocating higher taxes for wealthier Americans. The letter writer took issue with Buffet, saying that the role of government is not the redistribution of wealth.
The letter-writer was correct, in part. But the foundational idea, the belief-system that causes most people to say things like "The role of government is not the redistribution of wealth" is deeply flawed.
Too many of us are confused and way off track when it comes to the whole idea of wealth, and what wealth is for.
So, yes, it may be correct to say that the government is not supposed to redistribute wealth... but it is also correct to say that wealthy people are not supposed to hoard it for themselves.
The wealth, you see, is not ours to begin with. Those who have it are simply stewards of something that was never intended for anything other than the common good. We have, in other words, stewardship rather than ownership. Let me explain by telling you a story.

We're still trying to build an economy on this kind of theory
One upon a time there was a man who was gifted (among other things) with two three very powerful entrepreneurial attributes. He was gifted with intelligence, he was gifted with vision, and he worked hard. He used those gifts to create just enough money in order to start a business. He thought long and hard about how to go about this, and came to the conclusion that he had been given these gifts - and the responsibility that came along with them - in order to improve the lives of families in his town.
So, he started a small manufacturing company with the expressed mission of A) Making a living, and B) Creating good jobs for those trying to provide for their families. As the business grew, he took a modest income, supported charitable efforts and reinvested the balance of the profits into the business, thereby improving wages and benefits and the standard of living for his community.
Years passed by and his son continued the mission. Eventually, somewhere around 150 good jobs depended on the factory. In time the son also retired, and the business was purchased by people who had a different viewpoint - they believed that the purpose of wealth was to make themselves rich and powerful and self-satisfied.
The new owners paid themselves exorbitant salaries; they invented the idea of "bonuses" to pull additional money out; and they stopped investing in their employees and the community. Consequently the business lost its competitive edge and the town was less blessed by its presence. Then, in a move that was 100% concerned with personal gain, the owners (who had discovered they could pay overseas workers much less) outsourced manufacturing to India and closed the plant.
The owners boosted their personal fortunes, purchased new luxury cars they did not need, stashed money in off-shore accounts, and paid stockholders a modest dividend.
The town cried.
Economic arguments that emerge from a fundamental value that is not rooted in a commitment to "the greater good" miss the whole point of wealth. They also miss an amazing life-charged opportunity. Wealth is not something we can own, it's something we are responsible to.
So, to re-cap. I'm not saying wealth should be re-distributed by the government. I'm saying it should be put to work, for the people. It's really not ours to hold on to.

Bigger and bigger barns....
So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's successful farm produced a big crop, and he said to himself, What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything. Later, he said, Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. Then I'll say to myself, `You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. But God said to him, "You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?" This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God. - Luke 12:16-21

Thursday, August 18, 2011

32 Years into a Great Marriage (kindness)

August 18, 1979....
First – Happy Anniversary to my amazing and wonderful wife, Rebekah! Today marks 32 years since we launched this adventure together. Step aside, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; move over, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride; take a back seat, The Incredible Journey. Our story is more epic by far.
In my own experience, I’d have to say that this “Life-Charged Life” I’ve been writing about gains a lot of its energy, its meaning and its vibrancy from the fact that I’m married to Rebekah. Of course, we had no idea what the next three-plus decades would look like when we walked out of the church together that day, August 18, 1979. But we did know that we were committed to taking the journey together; and honoring that decision for faithfulness has been pivotal in so many ways.
But saying we have a “life-charged” marriage is not the same as saying that the past 32 years have been easy, comfortable, smooth sailing or trouble-free. Instead it has been – and continues to be – a wonderful, difficult, passionate, challenging, rich, meaningful, beautiful, life-charged adventure.
I referenced some movies in the first paragraph. Here are some more: The journey so far has been It’s A Wonderful Life, with occasional scenes fromSchoolhouse RockThe War of the Worlds,  The Incredibles, and sometimes a littleHarry Potter thrown in for good measure.
Finding our groove... painting by John Carlson
I really can’t say enough about the connection between great – well cared for – relationships and a great life. But I also can’t say enough about how important it is to understand what makes a great relationship. Too many people miss out because they have no idea what a relationship either can or should be, or they abandon it without making any substantive effort, or they stay in the marriage but fail to fully invest in one another because:
  • they’ve been told that the process should be easy;
  • or they’ve been led to believe they should get it right the first time;
  • or they never understood that “faithfulness” is about keeping all of the vows, not just the one about who you sleep with;
  • or they buy in to definitions of love that are heavy on feelings, or infatuation, or control, or romance, or sex… but light on the things that count, such as commitment, and honor, and honest struggle, and kindness….
Kindness: And I really, really, really can’t say enough about kindness. I have seen the lack of kindness kill marriages beyond repair. And I’ve seen consistent, beautifully applied, long-term kindness rescue bad relationships from the brink.
Here’s a big heads-up for all those so-called “spiritual” people out there, especially the ones who like to say that God is on their side when it comes to their relationships. If Jesus really does reside in your heart, then there are some “evidences” you need to be aware of – they’re listed in Galatians 5:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Today, I bought her orchids...
This is the heart of 32 years together! Galatians 5:22 in the context of ongoing commitment and honest struggle.
Easy? Not on your life! Wonderful, worthwhile, life-charged, better for the 32-years of trying? You bet!
Peace, kindness, love … and all that other Galatians 5:22 stuff… – DEREK