On those days like today where I wake up and say that I hate my life and I would be elated if today was the day of the second coming of Christ and I would be taken home to him and this hell on earth would finally be at an end, I find myself asking the question, "Why should I show much interest in God when he doesn't seem to show much interest in me?" Could it be that he knows something I don't? I don't just think so, I know so. He is omnipotent after all. I just wish he would let me in on even just a little minute bit of it.
Kiri is the name of my brother's dog. She's been kind of an extended family dog really. This big 130 pound lovable teddy bear has lived not only with my brother's family, but she lived with me for about a year, and several months with my parents when my brother didn't have a back yard he could keep her in. This is a dog that you felt safe knowing she was there. This is the dog that when the 3 year old wanted to leave the house and take a walk through the neighborhood without anyone knowing, went with the young child, turned her around got her back home before she could get more than just a house or two up the street. Anyway, last month she developed a kidney infection, and by the time she started showing symptoms of not feeling well and was taken to the vet, her kidneys had started to shut down. It took everyone by surprise. Just a couple of weeks before she was getting into the sink to lick clean any dirty dishes she might find...the picture of a healthy big bear of of dog. Now...now she's gone. I went with my brother to lay her to rest (it took 2 of us given her size) and we both said our goodbyes. My brother broke down and cried, and rightfully so as this dog had been with him since he was a newlywed. She was there through each new child. She protected him and his family. She loved them with an unconditional love that I dearly wish we in our human sickness could learn. Oh the world would be a much better place if we could learn that kind of love. Here's the kicker however. Though this was my brother's dog, and I'd kept her with me for only a small fraction of her life, I broke down and cried as well. Needless to say, it caught me off guard. I didn't expect her passing to affect me as it did... to bring me to tears. For so long I've kinda felt numb...almost dead inside. Devoid of any real depth of emotion outside of the love I have for my son. I was beginning to wonder if I had lost the ability to feel anything beyond a dull ache. It's good and a little refreshing to know that I still have feelings and emotions inside, no matter how deep they may be buried. I know leave you with a short...I don't know, poem, verse, or whatever you want to call it. Rest assured I didn't write it, and I don't know who did, but it's incredibly appropriate:
No one reads this anyway, so I'm just venting to myself. I hate my life. I've hated it for the last 2 years. For a couple of years before that it pretty much was a farce of a life, but at least there were a few bright spots here and there. Now however I live a nightmare I've feared since childhood. It's the life I begged God from a very young age to please not make me live. Why then do I find myself with such a life? God only knows and I intend to ask him when I meet him some day. Now I just live it day by day. I hate it. I have to make a change. The next trick is mustering up the energy to do it. I must shed this underlying angry person that I am but don't let the world see before it consumes me. Sometimes I just feel...mean. I mean telling off anyone who even looks at me wrong mean. That didn't used to be me.
I do have one silver lining. One life line. In a way it's also a chain from being able to completely move on, but I wouldn't trade it for the universe. One gift from God in addition to the obvious Gift of God and His ultimate sacrifice for me. Oh I haven't lost my faith. I will never loose that. My passion maybe, which sucks because after 2 years, I still feel dead inside...passionless, emotionless apathy when the bitterness lies sleeping (hey, it used to be rage, so it is an improvement) but never my faith. I do miss the passion. I want it back. I just wish I could figure out how to get it again. I'm probably just too stubborn.
I ramble and probably make no sense, but who cares? I surely don't.
Be Kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32
Kindness is Love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other is proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.
Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likable. When you're kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.
The Bible keys in on the importance of kindness: "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man" (Proverbs 3:3-4). Kind people simply find favor wherever they go. Even at home. But "kindness" can feel a little generic when you try defining it, much less living it. So let's break kindness down into 4 basic core ingredients:
Gentleness. When you're operating from kindness, you're careful how you treat your spouse, never being unnecessarily harsh. You're sensitive. Tender. Even if you need to say hard things, you'll bend over backwards to make your rebuke or challenge as easy to hear as possible. You speak the truth in love.
Helpfulness. Being kind means you meet the needs of the moment. If it's housework, you get busy. A listening ear? You give it. Kindness graces a wife with the ability to serve her husband without worrying about her rights. Kindness makes a husband curious to discover what his wife needs, then motivates him to be the one who steps up and ensures those needs are met - even if his are put on hold.
Willingness. Kindness inspires you to be agreeable. Instead of being obstinate, reluctant, or stubborn, you cooperate, you stay flexible. Rather than complaining and making excuses, you look for reasons to compromise and accommodate. A kind husband ends thousands of potential arguments by his willingness to listen first rather than demand his way.
Initiative. Kindness thinks ahead, then takes the first step. It doesn't sit around waiting to be prompted or coerced before getting off the couch. The kind husband or wife will be the one who greets first, smiles first, and forgives first. They don't require the other to get his or her act together before showing love. When acting from kindness, you see the need, then make your move. First.
Jesus creatively described the kindness of love in His parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the Bible - Luke, chapter 10. A Jewish man attacked by robbers is left for dead on a remote road. Two religious leaders, respected among their people, walk by without choosing to stop. Too busy. Too important. Too fond of clean hands. But a common man of another race - the hated Samaritans, whose dislike for the Jews was both bitter and mutual - sees this stranger in need and is moved with compassion. Crossing all cultural boundaries and risking ridicule, he stops to help the man. Bandaging his wounds and putting him on his own donkey, he carries him to safety and pays all his medical expenses out of his own pocket.
Where years of racism had caused strife and division, one act of kindness brought two enemies together. Gently. Helpfully. Willingly. Taking the initiative, this man demonstrated true kindness in every way.
Wasn't kindness one of the key things that drew you and your spouse together in the first place? When you married, weren't you expecting to enjoy his or her kindness for the rest of your life? Didn't your mate feel the same way about you? Even though the years can take the edge off that desire, your enjoyment in marriage is still linked to the daily level of kindness expressed.
The Bible describes a woman whose husband and children bless and praise her. Among her noble attributes are these: "She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). How about you? How would your husband or wife describe you on the kindness meter? How harsh are you? How gentle and helpful?Do you wait to be asked, or do you take the initiative to help? Don't wait for your spouse to be kind first.
It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.
Taken from The Love Dare, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. - Ephesians 4:2
Love works. It's life's most powerful motivator, and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.
Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that's where the love dare begins. With patience.
Love will inspire you to become a patient person. When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger. You can choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Rather that being restless and demanding, love helps you settle down and begin extending mercy to those around you. Patience brings an internal calm during an external storm.
No one likes to be around an impatient person. It causes you to overreact in angry, foolish, and regrettable ways. The irony of anger toward a wrongful action is that it spawns new wrongs of it's own. Anger almost never makes things better. In fact, it usually generates additional problems. But patience stops problems in their tracks. More than biting your lip, more than clapping your hand over your mouth, patience is a deep breath. It clears the air. It stops foolishness from whipping it's scorpion tail all over the room. It is a choice to control your emotions rather than allowing your emotions to control you, and shows discretion instead of returning evil for evil.
If your spouse offends you, do you quickly retaliate, or do you stay under control? Do you find that anger is your emotional default when treated unfairly? If so, you are spreading poison rather than medicine.
Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don't get what you want and you start heating up inside. It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives.
Patience, however makes us wise. It does not rush to judgement but listens to what the other person is saying. Patience stands in the doorway where anger is clawing to burst in, but waits to see the whole picture before passing judgement. The Bible says, "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." (Proverbs 14:29)
As sure as a lack of patience will turn your home into a war zone, the practice of patience will foster peace and quiet. "A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute." (Proverbs 15:18). Statements like these from the Bible book of Proverbs are clear principles with timeless relevance. Patience is where love meets wisdom. And every marriage needs that combination to stay healthy.
Patience helps you give your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time than they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability yo hold on during the tough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.
But can your spouse count on having a patient wife or husband to deal with? Can she know that locking her keys in the car will be met by your understanding rather than a demeaning lecture that makes her feel like a child? Can he know that cheering during the last seconds of a football game won't invite a loud-mouthed laundry list of ways he should be spending his time? It turns out that few people are as hard to live with as an impatient person.
What would the tone and volume of your home be like if you tried this biblical approach: "See that one one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Few of us do patience very well, and none of us do it naturally. But wise men and women will pursue it as an essential ingredient to their marriage relationships. That's a good starting point to demonstrate true love.
This love dare journey is a process, and the first thing you must resolve to possess is patience. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. But it's a race worth running.
Taken from "The Love Dare" by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.
I wish sometimes I was a writer. I have opinions, beliefs and feelings I want to express, but I can't string the words together sometimes. Or when in a conversation with another person, I often thing of what I should have said the next day to get my point across. The problem is, when I needed the words was during the conversation the day before.
Anyway, I've just finished reading a book that has made a big impact on the way I think. I wish I had read it 3 years ago, or had it available to me 3 years ago. If I had, maybe the past 3 years would have been a lot different. What's more, I'm starting another book that I think will also teach me a lot.
The first book was The Love Dare, written by Steven and Alex Kendrick. The one I just started is called Family Man, Family Leader, Biblical Fatherhood as the Key to a Thriving Family.
In the Love Dare, I learned that though I thought I knew how to love, I really didn't have a clue. I don't know if anyone is following this blog anymore since it's been awhile since I've posted, but I'd like to share the book...one chapter at a time, (don't worry, the chapters are short...no longer than 2-3 pages a piece, though this post will be the longest as I added a part of the appendix that relates to the introduction) with maybe a few sporadic comments along the way. I pray that someone may find what I share, and learn something from it, therefore improving an already good marriage, or saving one that is in trouble.
I recommend this book to anyone who is married or is planning to marry. I especially urge anyone having marriage problems to read this book and do the dares, especially before considering separation or divorce. If taken seriously and taken to heart, it can be the tool that gets your relationship on the right track. It can teach you what love really is, and how to truly love your spouse as God intended. It can get your marriage on the path to the way God intended it to be.
Following is the introduction to THE LOVE DARE:
The Scriptures say that God designed and created marriage as a good thing. It is a beautiful, priceless gift. He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy. But beyond this, marriage also shows us our need to grow and deal with our own issues and self centeredness through the help of a lifelong partner. If we are teachable, we will learn to do the one thing that is most important in marriage-to love. This powerful union provides the path for you to learn how to love another imperfect person unconditionally. It is wonderful. It is difficult. It is life changing.
This book is about love. It's about learning and daring to live a life filled with loving relationships. And this journey begins with the person who is closest to you: your spouse. May God bless you as you begin this adventure.
But be sure of this: it will take courage. If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone else or something else is. The bible says that "the heart is more deceitful than all else (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment.
We dare you to think differently- choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run...your mate and your family. This is the key to lasting, fulfilling relationships.
[more on following your heart vs leading your heart in a moment.]
The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be. You've no doubt already discovered that efforts to change your husband or wife have ended in failure and frustration. Rather, this is a journey of exploring and demonstrating genuine love, even when your desire is dry and your motives are low. The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. and when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better.
Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don't give up and don't get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and make it through to the end. Learning to truly love in one of the most important things you will ever do.
LEADING YOUR HEART. WHAT IS THE HEART?
Your heart is your identity. Your heart is the most important part of who you are. It is the center of your being, where the "real you" resides. "The heart of man reflects man" (Proverbs 27:19). As a person "thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7)
Your heart is your center. Since your physical heart is in the center of your body and sends life-giving blood out to every living cell, the word "heart" has been used for centuries to describe the core starting place of all your thoughts, beliefs, values, motives and convictions.
Your heart is your headquarters. Your heart is the Pentagon of your operations. As a result, every area of your life is impacted by the direction of your heart.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH FOLLOWING MY HEART?
It's Foolish. The world says "Follow your heart!" This is the philosophy of new age gurus, self help seminars, and romantic pop songs. Because is sounds romantic and noble, it sells millions of records and books. The problem is that following your heart usually means chasing after whatever feels right at the moment whether or not it is actually right. It means throwing caution and conscience to the wind and pursuing your latest whims and desires regardless of what good logic and counsel are saying. The bible says "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26)
It's Unreliable. People forget that feelings and emotions are shallow, fickle, and unreliable. They can fluctuate depending on circumstances. In an effort to follow their hearts, people have abandoned their jobs to reignite a lousy garage band, lost their life savings following a whim on a horse race, or left their lifelong mate in order to chase an attractive coworker who's been married twice already. What feels right in the height of sweet emotion often feels like a sour mistake a few years later. [I recently read an article on divorce that shows the same sentiment. It discovered that when many people are asked just a few years after divorce if they are happier now than when they were married, the greater majority were either no happier or not even as happy as they had once been. They regretted making the decision to get a divorce.] This selfish philosophy is also the source of countless divorces. It leads many to excuse themselves from their lifelong commitments because they no longer "Feel in Love" [I, and other sources I have read challenge that if a person can say that they don't love their spouse anymore, they either don't understand what love really is, or they never loved that person to begin with.]
It's Corrupt. The truth is, our hearts are basically selfish and sinful. "The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders" (Matthew 15:19). Unless our hearts are genuinely changed by God, they will continue to choose wrong things.
SHOULD I EVER FOLLOW MY HEART?
King Solomon said, "A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left" (Ecclesiastes 10:2). Just as your heart can direct you towards [anger], hatred, lust and violence, it can also be driven by love, truth, and kindness. As you walk with God, He will put dreams in your life that He wants to fulfill in your life. He will also put skills and abilities in your heart that He wants to develop for His glory (Exodus 35:30-35). He will give you the desire to give (2 Corinthians 9:7) and to worship (Ephesians 5:19). As you put God first, He will step in and fulfill the good desires of your heart. The Bible says, "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). But the only time you can feel good about following your heart is when you know your heart is intent on serving and pleasing God.
WHY IS FOLLOWING MY HEART NOT ENOUGH?
Because our hearts are so subject to change and so utterly untrustworthy, the Scriptures communicate a much stronger message than "follow your heart." The Bible instructs you to lead your heart.This means to take full responsibility for it's condition and direction. Realize that you do have control over where your heart is. [Is your heart with your spouse as it is supposed to be, or is it elsewhere, like work, or the Internet, or the TV?] You have been given the power by God to take your heart off one thing and to set it on something else.
HOW DO I LEAD MY HEART?
First, you need to understand that your heart follows your investment. Whatever you pour your time, money and energy into will draw your heart. This was true before you were married. You wrote letters, bought gifts, and spent time together as a couple, and your heart followed. When you stopped investing as much in the relationship and started pouring yourself into other things, your heart followed you there. If you are not in love with your spouse today, it may be because you stopped investing in your spouse yesterday. [We must lead our heart to our spouse and our marriage instead of these other things. Our marriage must be our hearts first priority]
Check your heart.One of the keys to successfully leading your heart is to constantly be aware of where it is. Do you know what has your heart right now? You can tell by looking at where your time has gone in the past month, where your money has gone, and what you keep talking about.
Guard your heart. When something unhealthy tempts your heart, it is your responsibility to guard it against temptation. The Bible says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Don't let your heart put your work or money above your spouse and family. Don't let your heart lust after the beauty of another woman (Proverbs 6:25). The Bible says, "If riches increase, do not set your heart on them" (Psalm 62:10)
Set your heart. The apostle Paul taught, "set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1). It's time to identify where your heart needs to be and then to choose to set your heart on those things. You say, "But I don't really want to invest in my marriage. I'd rather be doing this or that." I know. You've set your heart on that in the past and you are stuck in a "follow your heart" mentality. But you don't have to let your feelings leave you anymore. Lust is when you set your heart on something that is wrong and forbidden. You can choose to take your heart off the wrong things and set it on what is right.
Invest your heart.This is SO IMPORTANT! Don't wait until you feel like doing the right thing. Don't wait until you feel in love with your spouse to invest in your relationship. Start pouring into your marriage and investing in where your heart is supposed to be. Spend time with your spouse. Buy Gifts. Write letters. Go on dates. The more you invest, the more your heart will value your relationship. This is what the Love Dare is about-40 days of leading your heart back to loving your spouse.