BE COMMITTED TO THE RELATIONSHIP.

Good relationships don’t happen overnight and they don’t happen by accident.  If you want to get beyond shallow, superficial relationships you’ve got to be committed to it. 

You or someone you know is in a relationship right now and are hanging on by less than a thread.  Do not give up.  We have a miracle working God.  The same God that raises the dead can raise a dead relationship if you’re willing to be changed.

But it takes a commitment.  The Bible says this in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times.”  The word, “all” means even when it’s inconvenient, when you don’t feel like it, even when they don’t deserve it, even at personal cost.  That’s what real friendship is all about.  When you’re blowing it and you’re making a mistake, a friend doesn’t quit on you. A friend is in your corner when you’re cornered.  And they see you through when everybody else thinks you’re through.  They are there when you least deserve it. 

Here’s the bottom line: You need people in your life to do the three thing I’ve written about in this series of blogs. But the only way you’re going to get these kinds of people in your life is you have to be that kind of person.  You can’t expect other people to treat you this way if you don’t treat them that way. 

Probably the best known Christian psychologist in America, Larry Crabb, wrote in his book Connecting, which I read in seminary and highly recommend, “When two people really connect something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restores it to health.  The one who receives experiences the joy of being healed.  And the one who gives knows even greater joy of being used to heal.  Something good is in the heart of each of God’s children that is far more powerful than everything bad in the world.  It’s there waiting to be released and work its magic.  But you have to be connected.”


WATCH YOUR MOUTH!

Use your words to build people up.  Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When I was in college the janitorial company I worked for was hired to tear down a wall in an apartment and then clean it up.  I had never done anything like that before.  I didn’t know how to start so I asked supervisor for instructions.  He said, take this sledge hammer and hit this wall until there is nothing left to hit.  I had more fun that day that is lawful in the state of Mississippi!  It’s fun to tear things down. 

Sometimes with our words it’s like a sledgehammer, no planning, no thinking.  We swing away and all of a sudden we look around and all we’ve got is a pile of rubble, relational rubble.  When you just swing away with your words and tear people down inevitably your relationships are going to suffer.  Words are the single most important tool given to man by God.  Without a doubt! 

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is, our mouth.  We say things without thinking.  People remember them.  The things people have said to you in a thoughtless way it may have been as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working.  You still remember some of those things.  That’s how powerful words are.  So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here are directions for the use of a power tool I bought several years ago. I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us – our mouth. 

  • Know your power tool.
  • Keep guards in place.
  • Be careful around children.
  • Store idle tools when not in use.
  • Don’t over reach
  • Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

It fits how we are to use this mouth which is an incredible tool to build people up.

How can I start using it more carefully so instead of destroying with it, I’m building and constructing relationships with it? 

1.  Stop excusing.  Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that.”  or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.  That’s all it was.”  Stop excusing and realize that what you say is impacting everybody around you.         

2.  Talk less.  If it’s a power tool – you don’t have to use it as much.  Talk less.  One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes.  We talk before we think.  We need to talk less and…

 3.  Listen more.  If I listen more I can understand people’s needs.  One of the small lessons of life that makes an incredible impact on the way you and I use our words. 

 4.  Start building.  Think first of all, “what do they need?”  How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up?  How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in their life?  How can I use my words to build the people that I love the most?


It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you are in.  If you are a parent and you want to know how to better connect with your children.  If you are engaged or married and you want to know how to better relate to that other person, you can use these principles.  If you are a teacher or an employer or employee, no matter who you are, if you need to get close to anybody in life, you need these principles.

I want to give you three tips that you can use to build better relationships.

1.        LIVE BY THE GOLDEN RULE.

In other words, if you want to connect with people, you’ve got to start with their needs not your own.  The Bible says in Philippians 2:4 “Look out for one another’s interests not just your own.”  Your default mode is to think about your needs, your desires, your goals, your ambitions, what you want in life.  As a result we have many, many millions of people disconnected because everybody is self-centered and not being considerate other people’s needs. 

Let me share with you two very basic truths about life.  First, you are not the center of the universe.  I know that’s shocking, but the world does not revolve around you.  You’re very special in God’s eyes.  You were created for a purpose… but the world does not revolve around you.  Don’t be expecting the whole world to come saying, “How can we meet your needs?”  

The second basic truth of life is God has promised that when you focus on meeting the needs of other people, He guarantees He will meet yours.  This is one of the most basic principles in the Bible.  Why?  Because He wants me to learn to be unselfish and generous like Him.  Colossians 3:13 says this, “You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember God forgave you so you must forgive others.” 

A woman wrote to Dear Abby, “I’m 44 years old.  I’d like to find a man my age with no bad habits.”  Abby wrote back, “So would I.”  My wife got the only man like that (Just kidding, of course!). There are no people with no bad habits, no faults.  We have to make allowance for each other’s faults.

When you are trying to make a connection with a person, you’re trying to be considerate of their needs; I’m not saying that you don’t see their faults.  You just choose to overlook them. 

Tip #1: Treat your friends the way you would like to be treated.


As a pastor and now as a counselor, I have dealt with a lot of end of life and bereavement situations.  Many times I have heard well-meaning people giving bereaved people advice similar to “just give it some time, after all ‘time heals all wounds.’” It is as if these well-meaning people are saying: “You just have to wait and in time your sadness, anguish, yearning, guilt, , and fear will just fade away, and you’ll be fine.” But hold on a minute, that approach to grieving raises the question how long is “some time” – two months, one year, two years, five years? Having been on the hurting side of grief myself, it is my belief that while time helps, time does NOT heal all wounds. A more apt saying is “IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME THAT HEALS.”

Instead of sitting back and hoping that time will heal, the Bible tells us to turn to God for strength.

Sometimes the pain is so bad that we don’t think we can go on, we just want to quit. At that exact moment we are exactly where God can do his best work.

Once, when the apostle Paul was facing a very painful situation in his life, he begged God to take it away.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [NIV]

It’s our weakness that we find it easier to allow God to be strong in us. But what exactly do we need to do to make that become a reality in our lives?

Andrew Murray, a preacher and writer the end of the last century experienced an injury to his back early in his life that left him with deep pain for most of his life. At one point, he was bedridden and lying on his back at home and he would do his writing there from the bed.

One morning he had been writing in his journal and his maid came in to announce a visitor. “There’s a woman downstairs,” she said, “and she’s got great trouble in her life and she would like to know if you have any advice, anything you could share with her.”

Murray removed from his book the page he had been writing in his own journal and he handed it to the maid and said, “Share this with her; I wrote it for myself.”

The words he handed to her were these: “In times of trouble, say these four things:

1. He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place; and in that, I rest.

2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

4. In His good time He can bring me out again how and when He knows.

Therefore, say, ‘I am here, one, by God’s appointment, two, in His keeping, three, under His training, and four, for His time.’

Question – as you deal with your pain and grief, are you trying to buck up and get through it on your own? Or are you turning to God and laying the issue at his feet. It’s not easy to do this, by the way, but it makes a huge difference in our attitude.

Well, that’s a plan for good grief: express the pain, accept the reality and turn to God for strength.

Some of us are in the middle of a lot of pain right now. We’ve got a choice to make. And that choice will take us to one of two very difference destinations. One is a destination of hopelessness and numbness and just going through the motions. The other is a place of joy and dancing, even in spite of the sorrow.

You have turned my  into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11 [NLT]

That’s my hope for you. And it’s God’s promise, that if we’ll manage grief His way, one day we will be able to dance again.


Little Tim is experiencing feelings he has never experienced in his life.  He has fallen in love for the first time.  The air has a sweet aroma and the colors all have a deeper hue. Then one day his world collapses.  She asks one of her girlfriends to tell Tim that she wants to break up with him.  In that moment the sun is covered by a blue moon and he has the classic song calls a total eclipse of the heart.  Mom, trying to console him says, “Don’t worry, Tim, there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Get back out there and find another girlfriend.”  And so it begins.

The second way conventional wisdom says deal with your grief is to “replace your loss” while the Bible encourages us to first accept the reality of our situation.

When we try to replace our loss, what we’re really doing is trying to erase the memory of whatever was lost. A prime example of this is when someone goes through divorce and then turns around and too quickly remarries. The problem is that they’ve never really dealt with the pain and so they are hobbling into another relationship.

Coming to terms with the reality of loss is huge in recovering from pain. How can you be healed unless you know where it hurts?

King David was a great king, but at one point committed adultery with Bathsheba. She became pregnant, but because of David’s sin the baby died (A side note here: There is always death associated with sin. Romans 6:23) And so for seven days, David expressed his pain in loud wailings and moaning.

Then on the seventh day the baby died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He was so broken up about the baby being sick,” they said. “What will he do to himself when we tell him the child is dead?” But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the baby dead?” he asked.”Yes,” they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.” David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again?” 2 Samuel 12:18-23 [NLT]

David expressed his pain, but, then he accepted the reality.

Question – If you’ve suffered a major loss, have you tried to get a grip on the reality of it, to stare it right in the face and say, “this is the deal?” Or are you trying to just “get over it” or “get on with life?” It’s not that simple. It doesn’t work that way.


If I’m being honest, this is not my favorite topic to deal with. However, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to experience loss and we are going to grieve; but there are some real choices to be made in times of grief. Those choices will determine whether our experience turns out to be bad grief or good grief. We’d better manage our grief well, because our future depends on it.

Last year I moved to a new location to start a totally new career.  Since this is the first time I’ve made a shift this drastic I was unaware that I was also strapping myself into what has amounted to a twisting, turning, climbing, and dropping emotional roller coaster ride.  The uncertainty driven fear has, at times, caused me to look back and grieve over the loss of my comfortable yet challenging ministry as a pastor.

So, what do you do when you find yourself knocked to your knees relationally, emotionally, professionally, or even physically – and it hurts? What does good grief look like? I think God has some things to say to us on this and, not surprisingly, they contradict the conventional wisdom at every point.

1. Conventional wisdom tells us to bury our feelings, but the example of the Bible is clear: EXPRESS YOUR PAIN.

Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? You may know that it’s in John 11:35. Jesus wept.

Do you know what caused Jesus to weep? A very close friend died. When Jesus got word of Lazarus’ death, he traveled to their town, and met with his two sisters and as the three of them stood beside the tomb of one of His closest friends, he cried his eyes out.

Jesus wept. Those two words speak volumes about good grief management. Tears have been called the language of the soul, a cleansing river of emotional release. And God’s approach says, let the river flow.

In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that’s called Lamentations or “The Lament” and it’s literally a book of weeping.  It recounts the exile of God’s chosen people into Babylon.

“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Lamentations 1:16 [NLT]

By the way, expressing pain isn’t limited just to weeping and tears. Sometimes expressing pain means confronting another person with their wrongs. Sometimes it’s doing something symbolic that represents the pain you feel. I’ve heard of divorced people who burn their wedding pictures as a way of saying, “this hurts so badly.”

In the past I have expressed my pain through my songwriting.  In addition to songwriting I now write blogs and manuscripts for books I intend to write… but not always.  Sometimes I crawl up into the weak area of my Melancholy temperament and grovel around in self-pity. 

Let me ask you a question. Have you experienced a major loss in your life but you’ve gone around trying to ignore or avoid the pain of it? May I suggest that you find a positive way to express it instead?  If you need help with this, don’t let your pride keep you from getting it.  Share your struggle with a friend, your pastor, or a counselor.  Express your pain.

LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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