Category  |  relationships

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”

What a Friend!

Soldiers who have fought together will tell you that the relational bond they share with their fellow soldiers is incredibly strong. In fact, some veterans report that the friendships they share with fellow veterans, although different in character, are as important to them as the relationship they have with their spouse. This doesn’t minimize the importance of marriage, but points to the depth of friendships forged in the crucible of sacrifice.

Encouragement Exchange

One Sunday morning, my friend Sally announced some upcoming women’s events to our congregation. Sitting in the back, I made sure she could see my smiling face. Later she exclaimed, “You smiled at me the whole time!” I admitted that the “encouraging smile” idea had come from someone else—my friend Suzy. Several months before, Suzy had beamed at me during a short presentation I made to the church family.

Raise the Temperature

When I meet people who have lived overseas, I ask what they noticed about our culture upon their return to our country. Some appreciate our culture’s energy and can-do spirit, while others lament our individuality and lack of social interaction. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses, but we can help shape the culture that shapes us.

Friendly Wounds

I received an email from a close friend with the subject line “I’m too old for this!” His email told of his recent ordeal riding a roller coaster with his 12-year-old son. He said that the ride lasted only a minute, but it was miserable. He didn’t get physically sick, but he also didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.

Ride of Your Life

When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.

Simple Tables

I have a friend who has spent most of his life with people who live on society’s margins: People experiencing poverty or homelessness, those who wrestle with addictions or simply exist outside the mainstream, anyone who might be considered an outcast. “That’s where I seem to fit,” my friend says. “On the edges.” He helps believers in Jesus learn how to be in true friendship with those who are different. “This kind of friendship isn’t as complicated as we like to make it,” my friend insists. “Often it’s as simple as knowing someone’s name and how they like their coffee.”

Source of Truth

Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.

Jesus the Reconciler

I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.

Purpose

T he Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times advice book bestseller list for one of the longest periods in history. With more than 30 million copies sold, it’s obvious many readers have turned to it as a source for living with meaning.

Greater Gifts

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

Slow Learners

As we grow older, we often come to the realization that certain people we doubted were right all along. How many of us have looked back and secretly wondered,If only I would have listened to my parents, who knows how many more opportunities I could have had? Who knows how many hurtful mistakes I could have avoided?

Related Topics

relationships > accountability

Raise the Temperature

When I meet people who have lived overseas, I ask what they noticed about our culture upon their return to our country. Some appreciate our culture’s energy and can-do spirit, while others lament our individuality and lack of social interaction. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses, but we can help shape the culture that shapes us.

better than myself

Charles complained to his friend about some lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but his friend gave him an honest assessment. “Your back isn’t your problem,” he pointed out. “It’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”

blameless

Pastor guilty of bilking money from elderly woman . . . Church elder convicted of accounting fraud . . . Pastor of megachurch accused of financial misappropriation.

relationships > adoption

Adopted

Pastor Adrian and his wife, Antoinette, had two biological sons and then adopted baby Rosie several years ago. For most of Adrian’s life, he has dealt with nose bleeds—an affliction his sons have inherited. One day, little Rosie ran into the house holding her nose and grinning from ear to ear as she said, “See, Daddy, my nose is bleeding—just like Mark and John!” For Rosie, a nosebleed was another way of identifying with her adopted family.

mother robin

Thousands of Indonesian women refer to Robin Lim as “Mother Robin” because she helped them through pregnancy and childbirth. Without her care and access to the clinics she established, the women wouldn’t have been able to afford the care they needed. Lim says, “Every baby’s first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world isn’t there yet.”

at His Word

It goes without saying that Katie Davis is an exceptional young woman. At just 19 years old, she began serving needy children in Uganda—leaving behind the creature comforts of America. And now, at 22, her work—Amazima Ministries—pays the tuition for 450 Ugandan children to attend a Christian school and also feeds 1,600 hungry children in the community. She personally cares…

relationships > dating

compatibility in Christ

Get married. Make babies.” That’s the annual clarion call from the Singapore government due to a declining population challenge. As a single woman living in this small country, I know the message is targeted at me.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

temptations we face

This is the last snack I’m going to eat today, you tell yourself. Then 5 minutes later you’re looking for another one! Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar Fat, reveals how food companies study ways to “help” people crave junk food. Some of the food industry’s biggest names hire “crave consultants” to determine people’s “bliss points”—the conditions when food companies can optimize consumers’ cravings. One popular company spends $30 million a year to determine the bliss points of consumers.

relationships > difficult relationships

Ride of Your Life

When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.

In Jesus’ Love

In Jesus’ Love. He closed his email message with those words. And as I read them, I realized how poignant they were. For this young man—who I had seen come to a saving faith in Jesus, who I’d baptized, whose faith was maturing—was back home for a stay in his birth country, a place not known for kindness toward believers in Jesus. He mentioned receiving “strange looks” from nationals as he prayed before his meal in a restaurant, the coolness his friend showed toward his faith, and that he was lonely. So I strived to encourage him by writing, “I’m so proud of you. God is using you to spread His presence in your city!”

Conquering Criticism

During the closing seconds of an American football game, the referee had to make a very difficult, game-deciding call. His decision resulted in one team winning and the other facing the bitter sting of a loss. Furious fans from the losing team ridiculed and threatened the ref for days and weeks. In time he experienced panic attacks and even considered suicide. Doctors diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder.

relationships > divorce

Loving Correction

In an interview on a popular website, an author was asked about her divorce and remarriage. The divorce had devastated her and her ex-husband, she said. She had believed marriage was a lifelong commitment and still did, and she had sought pastoral guidance as to whether remarriage to her new husband was right. I finished the article and scrolled down to the comments section.

always

I was talking with a friend whose marriage had ended in divorce. For years he tried to apologize and to rebuild a relationship that was broken. His wife, however, was bitter over an event that she couldn’t forgive—or forget. The event involved a loving act he had done to help her, but she didn’t see it that way. And her heart became stone.

changeless

She said to him, “I don’t want to try to fix our marriage. It’s over.” What had started with such high hopes and evident love was now a cold, lifeless thing. My friend desired to see renewal and restoration in their relationship, but his wife made it clear that the two of them had changed and that their marriage would soon end.

relationships > employer/employee

lazy living

Humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow.” The tale of the grasshopper and the ant by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is a stark reminder of the detrimental impact of lazy living. Throughout the summer, the ant worked hard, gathering and storing food for the winter. The lazy grasshopper laughed at him, saying it was time to play and sing. When winter gripped the land, however, the grasshopper had no food and begged the ant to let him have some, but there was no excess to share.

stealing vs. working

When my twin sister and I were 5 years old, we began counting the money we had in our piggybanks. It turned out that one of us had more than the other. To our young minds, this just wasn’t right. So, we decided to balance our accounts by helping ourselves to our mother’s money!

work ethics

Every October, the office where I work becomes extremely quiet. The leaders are away attending annual meetings in another country. So those of us who are left behind say to each other with a wink, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

relationships > enemies

Go the Extra Mile

Three boys hatched a plan to earn enough money to buy their own brand-new bicycles. Their strategy was to call around their neighborhood, offering to do yard work or run an errand in exchange for a small amount of cash.

Unfailing Love

A friend of mine got divorced after her husband left her for another woman. Years later I was talking with her father when the subject of their broken marriage came up. “That’s when [vulgar word] was still around,” he said. “That’s what I like to call him: [vulgar word].”

Radical Love

Early in his career, former Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacist group) leader Johnny Lee Clary met African-American Reverend Wade Watts at a radio station debate. “Hello Mr. Clary,” Reverend Watts said before they went on air. “I just want you to know that I love you and Jesus loves you.”

relationships > family

A Bad Child?

Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian. You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.” My mother tried to reason with me to forsake my newfound faith. And I wavered. It pained me to see my parents’ sadness and disappointment. In my collectivism-based culture,group is esteemed greater than the individual. So I thought, By becoming a Christian, did I become a bad child?

Setting the Pace

Our oldest child has recently started driving. Though my husband and I understood that this day would come, I keep asking myself, Have we prepared her well?

Adopted

Pastor Adrian and his wife, Antoinette, had two biological sons and then adopted baby Rosie several years ago. For most of Adrian’s life, he has dealt with nose bleeds—an affliction his sons have inherited. One day, little Rosie ran into the house holding her nose and grinning from ear to ear as she said, “See, Daddy, my nose is bleeding—just like Mark and John!” For Rosie, a nosebleed was another way of identifying with her adopted family.

relationships > friendship

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

What a Friend!

Soldiers who have fought together will tell you that the relational bond they share with their fellow soldiers is incredibly strong. In fact, some veterans report that the friendships they share with fellow veterans, although different in character, are as important to them as the relationship they have with their spouse. This doesn’t minimize the importance of marriage, but points to the depth of friendships forged in the crucible of sacrifice.

Encouragement Exchange

One Sunday morning, my friend Sally announced some upcoming women’s events to our congregation. Sitting in the back, I made sure she could see my smiling face. Later she exclaimed, “You smiled at me the whole time!” I admitted that the “encouraging smile” idea had come from someone else—my friend Suzy. Several months before, Suzy had beamed at me during a short presentation I made to the church family.

relationships > leadership

Leading Well

Pastor and author John Maxwell wrote, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” In other words, if we don’t believe in the character, wisdom, and vision of a leader, we face the challenge of following someone we don’t trust or respect.

Next Gen

In 1993, Bill and Susie Mosca founded an essay contest. The winner received the couple’s bed and breakfast facility. Janice Sage’s entry took first place and she acquired the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. After 22 years of hosting guests, maintaining buildings, and managing finances, Janice wanted to retire. Because, as she said, “There are a lot of talented people that . . . . just can’t go out and buy an inn like this,” she also decided to give it away to a worthy person through an essay contest.

A Clam & A Gray-Haired Man

Ming lived for more than 500 years before her demise in 2006. The quahog (large clam) had been nestled near Iceland when researchers plucked her from the ocean floor. After prying the creature open—ending her existence—they initially thought she was a record-breaking 402 years old. But further research revealed that she began life in 1499 and made it to the ripe old age of 507! Fortunately, scientists learned much from Ming, including data on changing sea temperatures over the last half-millennium.

relationships > marriage

Beautiful Captivity

I know a couple who share freely about a devastating time in their marriage. But the focus of their story isn’t the hurt or the wounds they inflicted. Instead, they talk about how God used that experience to reveal deep-seated issues that needed to be addressed and dealt with. As a result, they emerged from the painful pruning closer to each other and to Him. Amazingly, they’re grateful for it and the good that has come from it.

The Greatest Love Story

In 2013, John and Ann Betar became the oldest known American married couple as they celebrated their 81st wedding anniversary. Their advice on staying happily married includes the following: “Don’t hold a grudge. Forgive each other. Live accordingly,” John advises. And Ann adds, “It is unconditional love and understanding. We have had that. We consider it a blessing.”

Seduced by Degrees

It started out with my friend doing a little drinking with friends—hitting a bar after work. But then the heavier drinking began and poor decisions ensued as his abuse of alcohol escalated. His weak relationship with God became nonexistent. Today, my friend’s marriage is in shambles and his relationship with his kids is strained. It’s been hard to see him slip into the abyss by degrees.

relationships > mentoring

Source of Truth

Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.

Purpose

T he Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times advice book bestseller list for one of the longest periods in history. With more than 30 million copies sold, it’s obvious many readers have turned to it as a source for living with meaning.

The Line Between

Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.

relationships > neighbors

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

good for the neighborhood

In January 2015, a terrorist stormed Hyper Cacher (a Kosher supermarket) in Paris and murdered four hostages. One of the store’s clerks, Lassana Bathily, heard the gunfire and hid shoppers in a freezer. Bathily, a Muslim whose courageous actions saved several Jews (including a child), was an immigrant who had been seeking French citizenship. As a thank-you for his bravery, authorities fast-tracked his papers and handed him a French passport during a public ceremony.

serving together

After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.

relationships > parenting

Greater Gifts

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.

Slow Learners

As we grow older, we often come to the realization that certain people we doubted were right all along. How many of us have looked back and secretly wondered,If only I would have listened to my parents, who knows how many more opportunities I could have had? Who knows how many hurtful mistakes I could have avoided?

Setting the Pace

Our oldest child has recently started driving. Though my husband and I understood that this day would come, I keep asking myself, Have we prepared her well?

relationships > reconciliation

Jesus the Reconciler

I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.

No Ordinary Family Tree

A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”

hard conversations

Have you ever been asked to do something you didn’t feel qualified to do—something you felt that God was asking you to do? I usually feel this way in the midst of a hard conversation. The moment truth-telling becomes necessary or when I feel compelled to speak to someone who has hurt me, I especially sense the nudging of God. I feel unqualified to do what He wants—to speak the truth in love in the hopes of winning the other person back (Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15).

relationships > sexuality

boiling water

In the classic tale of the two frogs, one is placed into a pot of boiling water and is so shocked by the experience that it quickly jumps out. The other is lowered into a pot of cold water over a low heat. The heat is gradually turned up to boiling point, but the frog doesn’t realize the subtle change in temperature and allows itself to slowly boil to death.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

an unwed mother

Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!

relationships > singleness

the three Cs

I recently heard a speaker who had engaged in an immoral lifestyle in his younger years, but later received Jesus as his Savior. He now oversees a thriving ministry. In his talk, he described “three Cs” that should comprise intimate relationships.

sexual freedom

Nearly half of the children born in my country are born to unwed mothers. One million more are aborted each year. Teenagers can purchase over-the-counter “morning after” pills. Our Supreme Court has ruled that men may marry men and women may marry women, and anyone who says otherwise is injuring them. Few people think they should wait for marriage to have sex, and many who do marry still end up divorcing their spouse.

the right time

I recently officiated the marriage of a young couple. After the ceremony, the bridal party headed out for some photos prior to the reception. My wife and I were invited to the bride’s home for some sweet fellowship and treats on the family’s backyard patio. Suddenly, the mother of the bride emerged from the house with tears in her eyes. She held up her daughter’s purity ring and with a choked up voice and tender smile, uttered, “She left this on the kitchen counter.” The decision of the young woman to wear a purity ring had been an outward sign that she had vowed to remain sexually pure until marriage. Now, the ring was no longer needed.