Our Joy, Prayers and Thankfulness


Be Kind 

Be Joyful

Pray

Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

#Thanksgiving

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Healthy Congregations Do NOT SHHhhhhh…ush!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Celebrate Christ

Healthy congregations like healthy relationships and healthy people embrace members “as they are.” It doesn’t matter if they don’t look, sound, act or even smell like them.  Because every worship service is a celebration – a victory.

Healthy people spend time together and look forward to being together when they are apart. They are kind to one another.

Healthy congregations are flexible.  They allow everyone to speak, sing or express themselves within their comfort zone. They feel heard. They are appreciated. They enjoy listening. And they feel respected when they remain silent.

The rich, the poor, the old, the young, the blessed, the broken, the sick, the healthy are all invited to the table regardless of how loud, quiet, shy, outgoing, friendly, intelligent, gifted, cautious or eager.

God celebrates each unique gift to the tapestry we call church. 

After all it is a celebration.  A party. Every Sunday, we celebrate the defeat of sin and death on the cross along with the resurrection of Christ, our neighbor and ourselves

A festival of love.  Everyone invited.

We are in a relationship. We share hurts, endure and rejoice together. We are supported. We are in relationship.

We give love, receive love and are in love

Christ challenges us to be patient and kind when the “nones” , the un-churched and people who seem “different” are called to join our party.

Our first instinct in a new relationship is to teach the newcomers to act, look and feel like us. We are eager to teach our youth and newcomers to “fit in” church.  We assume we have so much to offer.

Careful brothers and sisters, let’s not miss the opportunity to entertain angels sent to transform us.  Amen

 

Stop Talkin’ ’bout My Sister!

Stop Talkin’ ’bout My Sister! by Unexpected Pastor

It’s time for me to be the  big brother I never really was when we were growing up.  I was too involved in my own life.  But it’s time for me to stand up for my sister.

Not that my sister needs me to defend or speak up for her.  She’s my “little sister” only because she is 2 years younger than me.  She is in better shape materially and physically than I am.  I am a very proud older brother.

But I’ve been silent while people have said all sorts of mean and hurtful things about my sister. Most of those mean and hurtful things have been said by Christians.

They say “hate the sin and love the sinner.”  But then they go and say ignorant things like those listed below.  All of them are untrue, and none of them are loving.  And when they are said, they slander real people like my sister.

So stop talking about my sister.  Stop saying stuff like . . .

Gay folks choose to be “that way”

I’ve never talked about this with my sister.  I figure it would either be insulting or incomprehensible to ask her,” So, when did you decide to be gay?”

I mean, if you asked me “When did you decide to be straight,”  I would have no answer for you.  It’s a setup.  I never “decided” to be straight, it’s how I am.

I cannot imagine deciding to be attracted to men instead of women.

I would imagine the same is true for my sister. So stop insinuating that she could have.

Stop calling her a liar – “You’re not really gay, you just decided to pretend you are.”

Insisting my sister chose to be gay only flaunts your ignorance.  So stop!

Gay folks are evil

We are all sinners – we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ).  We can disagree about whether homosexual behavior is sinful or not, but if you want to believe it is, why be so fixated on it when there are so many other great sins to dwell upon?

Gossip hurts many more people than homosexuality ever has.  Let’s not allow gossips to get married, or to adopt children, or be schoolteachers.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea . . .

Look, my sister is a sinner (like me and you) not because she is gay, but because she is human.

Stop pretending homosexuality is some kind of super sin and that gay folks are super sinners.  You’re talking about my sister.

Gay folks are “that way” because of bad parenting

Now you’re talking about my mom and dad.  When you make statements like that, do you ever consider that you’re talking about real people, not rhetorical points?

Our mom was an awesome mom (you can sing that to the tune of “Awesome God” if you like), especially when we were little.  There was no “role reversal” in our home – she cooked, cleaned, and did all the stereotypical mom things while staying home until we were in elementary school.  She never left the house without her makeup. My dad brought home the bacon and was in charge (or at least thought he was; you know how that goes).  Both mom and dad made their kids their number one priority.

My parents certainly weren’t perfect, but they weren’t the screwed up failures you accuse them of being when you say my sister’s gay because of my mom and dad – and that is what you’re saying when you make blanket statements about the parents of gay folks.

So just stop.  Stop talking about my parents.

Gay couples don’t last

 I guess gay folks can’t commit like us heterosexuals, huh.  Us heterosexuals with our 50% divorce rate and our multiple marriages.  Yay us!  We’re so smug in our superiority.

My sister has been with my sister-in-law for 21 years.  That’s four years longer than I’ve been married.  I’m very competitive and that’s tough for me to admit.

So here you’re not just talking about my sister.  You’re talking about, as my kids refer to them when they don’t call them their aunts, my sisters.

Stop it. You don’t know what (or who) you’re talking about.  Or who you’re hurting when you say these things.

 Gay folks are pedophiles

 Now I’m pissed.  You’re talking about my sister – and my sister-in-law – who I would trust with my kids before I would anyone else in the world.  And I have.

Statistically, there are way more straight pedophiles than gay predators.  That sentence really doesn’t make sense, because pedophilia is a whole different class of sexual attraction – whether it involves attraction to minors of the same sex or different sex, it is neither “gay” nor “straight.”

Acting on such an attraction is wrong because it is exploitation of power imbalance – a child cannot consent, so it is always involuntary.

Homosexuality is not a gateway drug to sexual perversion.  Pedophilia, even though it seems to be brought up over and over in these sorts of conversation, has nothing to do with homosexuality.

It has nothing to do with my sister, so shut up about it.

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s go to a related topic . . . 

Gay folks shouldn’t be parents because they harm kids

My sister would be an awesome parent.  I’m willing to back that up with the most precious gifts I’ve ever received – my children.  According to my wife and my wills if something happens to both of us (i.e. we die at the same time) my sister and sister-in-law will be the parents of my children.  They love them like nobody else does.  We all need somebody in our lives who loves us unconditionally, and for our children those people are their aunts.

It’s just a shame they live in a state where they could never (unless the law is changed) legally become their parents.  “The ideal is for a child to have a mother and a father.”  Yeah, we could have them raised by some of their abusive or addicted relatives . . . hey, it’s a mom and a dad, so it must be okay.  This is not an “ideal” world, nor is that an ideal solution.

We need to stop letting our prejudice get in the way of love.

Studies have shown that children being raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to get into legal trouble or to use mind altering substances. Being gay is not something you catch or that you learn.

I don’t have any fear that my daughter would “turn” if something happened to my wife and I.  I don’t think she is but if she’s gay she’s gay.

I feel the same way I did when someone asked me what I would think if she dated an African-American (although the questioner did not say “African-American”) or married “one.”  I said as long as he loved her and treated her with respect and agape, it would be great.  I’d feel the same way about a woman.

Gay folks can’t be Christians

So according to you my sister’s going to hell.  That’s about the worst thing you can say about my sister.

Even if homosexual behavior is a sin, where in the Bible does it say that it is unforgivable?  Where does it say that the blood of Jesus doesn’t cover it?

I know, I know.  Your argument is that if it is not repented it’s not forgiven.  Is that true of all sins, or just homosexuality?  If it’s true for all sins, heaven’s going to be pretty empty because the second most popular activity in most churches (behind potlucks) is gossip.  All those unrepentant gossips, are they going to hell?  And folks who are greedy or selfish and don’t even realize it because they’ve rationalized their avarice, they’re on the down elevator as well?

I’m all for repentance.  But repentance doesn’t mean being perfect in either behavior or understanding, it means doing our best, guided by the holy spirit, to turn toward God.  Some things we’re going to get right . . . and others we’re going to continually mess up.  Thank God we’re saved by grace through faith!

My sister goes to church a lot more faithfully than other straight Christians I know – in fact more faithfully than most folks in my church.  She never, as far as I know, professed to be an atheist (like her brother – me).

So really, who’s saved and who’s not isn’t up to you or me.  It’s up to God.

Stop talking about my sister like you’re God.

I have prayed, studied, and otherwise struggled with the issues around Christianity and homosexuality.  I still do.  We can, and should, continue to talk about these issues.  But we must never forget that we are talking about real people – like my sister.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit and directed by Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves, we can have that conversation without employing unfounded – and unloving – defamations like those listed above.

I’ve intentionally stayed away from statistics or links to references in this post because I wanted it to be personal, from my heart. For a more scholarly look at these kinds of misconceptions, read 10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

One last thought for those who make these sorts of statements . . . Maybe if you got to know some gay folks – like my sister – you’d stop saying such hurtful things.  Jesus hung out with folks all the “religious” people looked down on . . . and mostly criticized the religious people for their narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy.  Perhaps the key to overcoming this stuff is to be more like Jesus. Just a thought.

Biblical Grit – A Time to Heal

Purple Splash Cross

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Week 3: Biblical Grit – A Time to Heal 

“Hello, my name is (Name) and I am a sinner.

Have you ever wondered why addicts identify themselves by their addiction? The road to recovery begins with acknowledging our secrets and weaknesses.  Admitting our weakness takes away our secrets’ power.

What issues are on my list of hurts? Am I an alcoholic or addict?  Am I a cancer, rape, abuse or divorce survivor? Am I a victim? Or a bully? Do I struggle with the truth?  Do I gossip?  Do I wrestle with anger?  Am I in an abusive or dysfunctional relationship? Am I abusive? Is my body disappointing me? Have I been plagued with diabetes, mental illness or a chronic illness? Do my children, spouse, family or friends disappoint me? Who else has been hurt by these issues and where am I in the healing process?

Do I have support? Am I a good helper?

  1. Discuss how you react to a crisis. What problem, challenge or condition made your life unmanageable? Are you happy with the way you react? Why are you attending a bible study about overcoming challenges?

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate bad things, declare them good or believe we can handle them.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth is. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets. We are ready to heal.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD). Identifying ourselves by our weaknesses reminds us how fragile and precious we are.  It keeps us from slipping back into denial.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.

Cancer, illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty, natural disasters and other people are all out of our control.

By admitting we are powerless over the hurts that make our lives unmanageable, we stop pretending we are strong enough or able to heal ourselves. We put our burdens down, cry out for help and rest while we wait for our rescuer.

Read Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God is always there to listen to our pleas. God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

Admitting our weaknesses invites Jesus to join us in our suffering. Recovery begins when we give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

Accepting things we can’t change allows peace from a waterfall of grace.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

                                      ~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is enough 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.

  1. Turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself and discuss how it feels to admit your hurts.

“Hello, my name is (Name). I am powerless over my hurts. I admit I am weak. I am tired of pretending. I need help.”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Healing Relationships

Read Matthew 19:26

Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.”

 

  1. Describe a healing relationship. List and discuss comforting advice and help.

A healing relationship provides support, listens to our hurts, relieves our burdens and gives us strength. It may not heal us but it lightens our burden and provides hope.

Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 The Value of a Friend

Two are better than one.  They are more productive. If they fall, one will lift up the other; but the one who is alone and falls, does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. And with God our relationships are not easily broken.

Unfortunately, most of us keep going to the same dried up wells for help and support:

  • Advice Masters: Lots of suggestions. “Maybe you should try…” No help!
  • The Fan: Lots of compliments. “You can handle it!”  “You’re strong.” No HELP!
  • Exploder:  Goes ballistic. “It’s not fair!  I’m so angry for you.” No Help!
  • Blamer: “You made your bed now lie in it.” No help.
  • Helpless: Feels too inadequate to help. Can’t help.

I’m sure we can all come up with more.  And if we are honest, we may play these roles deliberately or subconsciously.

We also may find ourselves glad when we find out someone else is hurting because everyone doesn’t get their fair share of adversity. And we are grateful to know we’re not alone.

People say foolish painful unhelpful things because they don’t know what to say.  They don’t want to be hurtful.

Scared TurtlePeople who don’t adjust well model the same ineffective techniques they learned in bad situations. The ones who disappear learned to run away or seek shelter in a crisis.  They may believe time heals all wounds and are waiting for you to magically heal. While time does heal, it isn’t the cure for all wounds.

And people who make everything worse are also doing what they think you need or want.  They want to help but don’t know how.

Rarely do we suffer alone.  Adversity strikes families and groups. It may be difficult to help each other during a crisis. Personalities clash as one may try to pull everyone up while others need more time to sit in the dust. Conflict is common during crisis.  Without intervention we may grow together or apart.

Recovery includes forgiving others for their failures.  Forgiveness heals. It doesn’t make what they said or did right.  It simply acknowledges we all have weaknesses.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  Romans 3:23

None of us would seek a team of cheerleaders to fix our car. We would seek a mechanic.  So let’s seek professionals for our other hurts.

The number one expert in suffering is Jesus.

Jesus suffered. Jesus was born poor, out-of-wedlock in a barn. He wasn’t attractive, popular or wealthy. Jesus was bullied, beaten and crucified. He lost friends and loved ones to death.  Jesus understands our pain. Jesus weeps for us. Jesus meets us in our suffering.

God knows our hurts. God was there when we were hurt.  God followed us into our darkest moments. God stayed with us and is still with us. Confessing our hurts to God is simply acknowledging God was there when we were hurt.

We weren’t alone when we were hurt, we’re not alone now and we will never be alone in the future.  God promises to always be with us.

  1. Say out loud together Mark 1:11 to remind yourself of God’s love for each of us. Discuss how it feels. God says to each of us

“(Name)_ you are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Communication is a key ingredient in a healing relationship. Healing begins with prayer. Talk to God about your hurts.

Read Matthew 7:7

[Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will open for you”. 

Every misfortune has a psychological and spiritual impact. Our emotions alter our body’s ability to heal. We rarely have control over our emotions or how we will react to stress.  We need help. We need psychological and spiritual helpers on our team.

  1. Discuss why church people are afraid to share their hurts and seek help.

Chronic pain and other physical illness sufferers are reluctant to seek psychological help because they fear seeking psychological help affirms the accusation they have a mental illness and not a “real” illness. They are afraid their affliction is not treated or respected as a “real” illness.

This attitude unfortunately perpetuates the faulty belief that mental illness is less traumatic, painful, harmful and real than having a cold, cancer or any other physical hurt. The “it’s all in your head” attitude also implies that people with mental illnesses have control over their illness and can heal themselves. Also not true, not biblical and not scientifically supported.

Family members often refuse to seek mental health support because they don’t believe they have a problem. They have the faulty belief that they don’t need help. They fail to recognize the psychological and emotional toll their family member’s illness has on their health.  They also have the faulty belief that their life will suddenly become manageable if they could just get their family member into treatment. They become so focused on other people’s problems, they lose sight of their own. And how their issues may hurt others.

Read Matthew 7:3

“Why do you worry about the speck in your friend’s eye and not the log in your own?”

God knows we can’t handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone. God wants us to cry out for help. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit we need help.

As a community of faith we have the power to remove the stigma from seeking help.  We begin by establishing our churches as recovery centers.

  1. Discuss your church as a recovery center. In what ways does your church help you and others?  How could it become more helpful? Discuss ways your church could remind members weekly that God’s house is a place for healing.

As a church we can offer local counseling resources.  We can share our recovery stories.

Read Hebrews 13:1-2

Loving one another.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have shown hospitality to angels.

We can also show our understanding that everyone isn’t able bodied in our bulletins and announcements by explaining and giving permission for people to refrain from our church work-out routine.  Specifically explaining that we sit, stand and kneel throughout our service as part of our recovery.  We sit and kneel to show our humility, our weakness and need for a savior. We stand to praise God for sending us a savior (John 3:16). We recognize that exercise heals and all are encouraged to sway or dance to the music.  But don’t feel obligated to participate. This is a healing church.  We are all on a road to recovery. God knows our hurts whether we are standing, sitting or kneeling.  God meets us wherever we are.

Read John 13:34

Jesus says, “Love…as I love you”.

Reprogram the voice in your head. Shake off well-meaning criticisms of our quirks and differences. Shed negative false non-biblical beliefs.  Replace them with the truth. Bad stuff happens to good people. Adversity isn’t a punishment.  It is a reality of this sinful fallen world. I can’t do it alone.  I need help.

DepressionCelebrate tears.  Tears are a testimony of love.  They have healing powers. Being sad doesn’t mean we failed.  It simply means we are grieving.  If we never cry, how would Jesus count our tears?

Psalm 56:8  You record my troubles. You keep a list of my tears.

The same rules apply to being a good helper. Don’t be afraid of tears.  The best thing to do when someone is crying is hold their hand.  We don’t need to say anything or even ask questions.  It doesn’t matter what they are crying about. They need comfort. Physical presence is the greatest testimony of love.

Pray: Talk to God with and for your loved one.  Pray with them; right then and right there.  If I receive a request electronically, I respond electronically such as writing out prayer on their Facebook page if they’ve asked for prayers.  And I keep praying for them, every time they enter my mind.  Not sure what to say:

“God be with (NAME), hold them, love them and give them your grace. Amen”

Here are a few other tips to comfort your neighbor when they are hurting:

  • Keep It Simple:Grieving people are rarely looking to join a bible study, nor do they appreciate being hit with scripture or reminded of their blessings. They aren’t looking for an apology unless you caused their pain. They want comfort.   If you don’t know what to say.  Don’t say anything. Just sit with them.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

  • Speak for yourself, not GOD. Before quoting God, make sure you know the chapter and verse in the bible.  Don’t make it up. Just admit, “I don’t know why bad things happen to good people”.
  • Speak Love:The bible is a love letter, it says that God loves them. God weeps when we weep and God wants to comfort us.

Romans 8:38-39

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Look for God: God will be there.  Christ promises to weep with us, count our tears and comfort us. When chaos strikes, look for the helpers. Identify the highs of the day by noticing the helpers or the things that made you smile. Seek help. Look for the people who feed, comfort and clothe Christ.

Matthew 25:35-36

I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your house.  I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

  • Accept help: Our strengths serve others while our weaknesses offer opportunities to serve us.
  • Expect setbacks: Setbacks are part of recovery. It is normal to take a step back before moving forward. We all need moments to catch our breath before moving forward or time to look back to see how far we’ve come.

Recovery is a daily process.

Read Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Healing isn’t guaranteed in this world nor is closure always possible. We may never stop missing the people we’ve lost and or the person we used to be. The bible doesn’t encourage closure in this world.  We miss what we have lost and yearn to be whole again.

When Christ was crucified, Jesus conquered death and all our other weaknesses on the cross.  We were rescued from death and promised to be reunited and restored.

The tomb was empty.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen

                                        Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Healthy Relationships 101: Healthy Farewells

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love (Name or Relationship) as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

 Leaving, departing, separating, moving on, moving ahead, and moving away is part of life.  We leave the womb, the hospital and home. We advance in grades and eventually graduate. We leave teachers, mentors and classmates.  We change jobs. We change churches. We meet new people, grow apart from others and lose some to death. We say goodbye to people, pets, places and things.

 

  1. Are you good at saying goodbye? Who taught you how to say goodbye? What puts the “good” in
    bye? Describe your best farewell.

 

 

Our ability or inability to let go is largely related to our personality. Specifically, our ability or inability to change. Change is stressful to almost everyone regardless of personality. Most adapt to the everyday hellos, goodbyes and developmental milestones because change is part of growing but it doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable with change.

 

We are born with a default setting to be either an initiator of change, eager to change, resistant or unable to change. Each has value and purpose. And each can be healthy or unhealthy in saying goodbye. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11  

 

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
        a time to tear down and a time to build,
   a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

        a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
   a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
  a time to love and a time to hate,
                                            and a time for peace.

 God has made everything beautiful in its time.

 

Individuals unable or resistant to change preserve traditions. They provide consistency and stability. They are loyal and faithful. They put time and effort into mending broken relationships. However, they are also vulnerable to abuse by remaining loyal to unhealthy relationships. It doesn’t make them responsible for the abuse nor does it mean they want to be abused. It simply means change isn’t easy for them and they value relationships.

People who initiate or are eager to change see change as an opportunity. They also value relationships and enjoy making new friends. They may be very good at helping others adjust to change.  And are called to create new ministries in communities of faith. They may be effective at saying goodbye. However they may be impulsive and too quick to abandon relationships.

CAUTION: Toxic people have difficulty making healthy changes and saying goodbye.  Toxic environments breed toxic habits and attitudes which become poisonous.  Don’t tell a toxic person you’re leaving. They won’t take it well. They are extremely fearful of change and any perceived loss of control. They react with violence and destruction.

You will need help, a safety plan and protection to get away. Toxic people make toxic relationships.  Both the victim and the abuser are toxic and need professional intervention.

 

So what is a healthy farewell? Healthy people in healthy relationships have healthy farewells. A healthy farewell is the healthy conclusion to a healthy relationship.

 

  1. How do we know if our relationship is healthy?

 

 

A relationship is healthy when both individuals feel loved and supported.  They know they are loved.  Love is the key ingredient in a healthy relationship. A relationship without love is not healthy.

The most beautiful expression of love is grace, mercy and forgiveness. Healthy people are able to resolve their differences or agree to disagree. Resolving conflict is the gateway to a deeper long lasting love.

Healthy people respect each other.  They appreciate one another’s gifts and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. They communicate.  They spend time together. The relationship works.  It is functional.

 

  1. If a relationship is healthy, why say goodbye? When is it time to say goodbye? How do you know?

Remember, just because a relationship becomes dysfunctional or encounters conflict, doesn’t mean the relationship must end. Conflict is normal and all relationships are dysfunctional because we live in a sinful fallen world. Everyone falls short Romans 3:23. Therefore our relationships fall short.

Dysfunctional relationships can be improved with intervention. But toxic relationships MUST end and both participants need intervention.

Our relationship with God is the only relationship that is always functional.  Even when we fall short, God provides perfect love that heals all wounds and repairs all hurts. We never need to say goodbye to God because we will never find ourselves at a crossroad with God.  Because of our baptism we take God with us everywhere, even into the darkest places of our life. Our relationship with God never needs to end.

As previously noted, there are natural farewells such as when we get married, send our children to school, start a new job or move away. It is time to say goodbye when we find ourselves at a crossroad and our paths must go in different directions.

Like Jonah, Joseph, Moses and all of Jesus’ disciples we may be called to leave our family, friends and community to bring the good news to others.

  1. Describe an unhealthy parting.

 

 

A bad breakup leaves the relationship worse than before they met. The participants are abusive, angry, resentful and cruel.  Bad breakups go on too long.  They guilt each other into staying together when their paths no longer meet.  You know it is a bad breakup when you want to throw a party when they finally leave.

Unless the relationship is toxic, it is not healthy to just disappear without saying goodbye or letting someone know how much they meant to you. Severing a relationship doesn’t make it easier or healthy.  It just ends it.

Seek help if you have trouble saying goodbye especially if your relationship is unhealthy.

Healthy Farewell Tips:Cinderella

Prayer:  God should be involved in all of our relationships form start to finish. Healthy farewells require prayer. We must be in constant prayer before, during and after our farewell.  We pray for our old and new relationships.

Remain Positive: Saying goodbye doesn’t mean there is something wrong with our current relationship or community. We don’t need to look for reasons to end the relationship.  Pointing out their flaws when we’re getting ready to leave is cruel. Everyone is flawed.

Healthy people don’t blame their departure on someone else’s weaknesses.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9

“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.

When Jesus told his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” of the towns that didn’t welcome them it was a call to leave the negative energy behind Luke 9:5.  It wasn’t permission to gossip about them to everyone else.

Separation anxiety and abandonment issues cause unhealthy people to spend too much time comparing new to old relationships. They make the old the villain and the new a hero.  This is particularly true for people changing churches. While their new church may be a much better fit for them, it doesn’t make their old church unhealthy for others.

Celebrating the Tears: Goodbyes hurt because the pain is a testimony of the love we have for one another. Being sad doesn’t mean we are making a bad choice. It simply means we are grieving.

If it isn’t difficult we probably stayed too long.

It is important to share our feelings with those we are leaving.  In each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, Paul graciously pours out each Church‘s strengths.  Remember to always build one another up.

Stay in the Moment:  It is important to focus on who you are with at the time. No one wants to hear about how great or terrible the “old” boyfriend or girlfriend was. If you really like the way your new partner treats you, focus on what you like about them not what you didn’t like about someone else. And thank them for the things you appreciate.

Time:  Time does heal all wounds.  Grief takes time.  It sends us on an emotional roller coaster. Time doesn’t give closure.  We may never stop missing the people we’ve lost and it is extremely important to know that the bible doesn’t encourage closure in this world.  We yearn to be reunited because Jesus conquered death on the cross and we are promised to be reunited with our loved ones again.

During our journey for love, we are called to make an honest assessment of unhealthy attitudes, beliefs and habits (sin) blocking our relationships.

Sometimes the most peaceful and loving resolution is a healthy farewell. Until we meet again.

Homework: Make a list of the people in your past that you have said goodbye. Make a list of the things you liked about them. Talk to God for these people.

Make a list of the important people in your life now and what you like about each. Talk to God for these people.

“God be with _____, hold him/her, love him/her and give _______ your grace. Thank you for our relationship. Thank you for their gifts of … Amen”

Goodbye

 

Healthy Relationship 101: Loving My Neighbor

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Love is the key ingredient for a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.

God is love.  God loves us.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, to love us and show us we are loved. Jesus commands us to love ourselves as God loves us.  In turn, we love God as Jesus first loved us with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.

Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves.  We accept Christ’s love, we love God, we love ourselves and share that love with others. Love is a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

  1.  What have we learned about healthy relationships? What makes a relationship healthy?

We want healthy relationships.  We want to be loved and supported. We don’t have to guess how to love our neighbor because God tells us how to love our neighbor (Exodus 20, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).  God’s commandments provide the healthy habits for loving relationships. They provide a simple structure of respect that we all deserve. When we follow these rules we are loving God, others and our self.

God wants us to call out when we are in trouble, to praise His name or give thanks. We want to hear our name used in kindness.  Our neighbor wants us to use their name in kindness.

God wants to spend time with us. We want someone to spend time with us and our neighbor wants someone to spend time with them.  God, our neighbor and we want someone to listen when we speak.

And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished.  If God wants these things and we want these things than it is fair to assume our neighbor wants these things. We love others the way we love God and the way we love ourselves.

  1. So let’s review God’s basic lessons on how to “be nice” to our neighbor. Make a note next to the ones you’d like to improve.

 Prayer

  • Serve, love, honor, cherish and respect our parents, neighbor and anyone in authority in our home, church, work or community.
  • Do not hurt or harm anyone. Protect our neighbor’s health and welfare. Feed, give our neighbor something to drink, invite strangers in, clothe our neighbor, care for them when sick and visit them in prison.  Matthew 25:31-46
  • We love and respect our sexuality. We don’t take advantage of our neighbor’s sexuality. We learn to control our sexual impulses and respect our neighbor’s choices. We don’t take advantage of the vulnerable. And treat sex as a special gift of God. We love, honor and respect our partner. We remain faithful.
  • We help improve and protect our neighbor’s possessions and income.
  • We love the truth. We speak the truth about God, our neighbor and ourselves. We are honest.  We do not betray, slander or hurt our neighbor with our words.
  •  We protect our neighbor’s property, blessings and loved ones. We never wish harm on our neighbor. We help restore what is lost or stolen.

The commandments tell us how to love. The Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated” Matthew 7:12 is another summary of the commandments.

Unfortunately, many love others poorly because they treat themselves poorly. They treat others the way they have been treated.  The Golden rule encourages us to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we are treated.

God has a great sense of humor because the Golden Rule comes right after Christ asks in Matthew 7:9-10, “Which one of you, will give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or a snake if he asks for fish?”

When we take the Golden Rule literally and give others exactly what we want them to give to us, we are giving our neighbor a stone when they ask for bread. For example, Jayne washes Tyler’s dishes because Jayne feels loved when someone washes her dishes.  But Tyler doesn’t notice Jayne did her dishes because she went to rescue a puppy she hopes Jayne will like but neither appreciates their gift because of miscommunication.

Unhealthy relationships lack healthy communication.  Miscommunication reaps resentment, resentment reaps excuses which are translated into permission to treat others poorly. The Golden rule is twisted into an ethic of reciprocity or two-way rule has been used as an excuse to treat others badly. If our neighbor fails to love us, we don’t have to love them.

  1. How far do I have to go in loving my neighbor? What if my neighbor isn’t nice to me?

Jesus answers this question in our theme verses and parable.

Read Luke 10: 25-28

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and live.”

Our expert knows love is the one word summary of all the commandments and laws given by God (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Our expert is looking for a loop hole.  Like us, he seeks permission to end his obligation to some of his neighbors.  He asks for clarification.

Read Luke 10: 29-37

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

  1. Love All PeopleWhat does the man need from our “be nice” list? Identify and discuss vulnerable people in the news or community. What do they need?

 

He is naked, hurt, broke and vulnerable. We shouldn’t harm him any further. We should be truthful and not make up stories or blame him. We should respect his sexuality.  We should clothe and get him medical attention. We should help restore what he has lost.

Read Luke 10:31-32

 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

 

  1. Do we have priests and Levites in our society?

 

It is fun being a biblical spectator identifying the bad guy, rolling my eyes at the stupid guys and weeping over the least, lost and left out. It is story time.  We’re not in the hot seat.  Sit back and relax.

God, particularly Jesus, seems really hard on priests. Christ talks bad about the clergy, identifying their mistakes and chastising them for keeping the rules but missing the grace. What often gets lost in the translation or sermon is – love. We hear the rebuke, feel the sting and hope we never experience the wrath of God.

Truth be told, we’ve already been reformed into the priesthood of Christ (1 Peter 2:9-10). We may reject the collar but we were baptized into the priesthood. And like the priests in our story, we mess up.

Like the priest and the Levite, we are impure priests. As a congregation, we fail when we ignore the pleas of our neighbor.

Read Luke 10:33

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

Because of this parable, a Samaritan is now considered the definition of kindness but the expert in the law didn’t have a positive opinion of the Samaritan.  The expert considered the Samaritan an inferior ethnic group. The expert would be shocked the Samaritan took pity on the man and perhaps pitied the man for being touched by the Samaritan.

  1. Identify and discuss the unlikely ‘Samaritan” heroes treated with disgust but prayerfully become our neighbors.

 Prayerfully, our children will live in an age when they can see people in the LGBT community as heroes.  They aren’t taught to be afraid of transgender.  They don’t clutch their purses or call the police when they see a person of color.  They simply lift their arms and faces to wave and say hello.

Read Luke 10:34-35

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two days wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

  1. Discuss the ways the Samaritan cared for the man. Was it too excessive? Where can someone get this level of care?

 

The Samaritan believed in the same God as our expert.  He was guided by the same do good list.  He was taught   to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This parable implies the Samaritan must have loved himself to give the man such extraordinary care.

 

Read Luke 10:36-37

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

  1. Notice our expert doesn’t say “the Samaritan” was the neighbor. How many people are part of this story?  How many are “neighbors”?

We all become a player in this parable, yet not everyone was a neighbor to the man.  Therefore, Jesus’ message to our expert is also to us.

 

Read Luke 10:38

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

“Love does no harm to its neighbors. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

  1. Discuss ways you and your congregation can love like the Samaritan.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10: 27 (NIV)

Homework:  Read Matthew 25:31-46. Find a way to care for Jesus this week.  Read our “be nice” list adding “God loves me” before reading each commandment.

Pray:  Gracious Lord, help me hear your voice and feel your embrace.  Give me the courage to care for the least, lost and left out.  Help me to see those in need and give them comfort. Amen.

Healthy Relationships: All About Loving ME

Luke 10_27Does God really want me to focus on me?

1. How many times have you heard or said to someone “It’s not all about you.” Never focus on yourself. It is selfish to focus on yourself. Discuss whether you agree or disagree. Who should we focus on?

 

The right bible study answer is always God or Jesus; we must first focus on God. Right!?

Jesus said in John 13:34

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’”

Jesus wouldn’t command us to love if we were programmed to automatically, unconditionally love God, our neighbor and ourselves. We just would.

We are free to love or hate whoever we want. It would be easier if we were programmed to obey all the commandments. It would be easier if we were programmed to love. But we’re not.

We have a choice. We get into trouble when we focus all our attention or blindly cast our will to other people. There is no auto pilot for love. We can’t friend God on Facebook and be covered for life. Nor can we marry someone and expect them to know we love them forever with no further action on our part. And the same is true for loving ourselves. There is only one bath that keeps us clean forever – baptism.

Love is not as simple or as natural as it’s portrayed in Hallmark commercials. Love is learned, it must be experienced, otherwise why would the Bible have so many instructions, chapters, books and verses about love.

God is relational. Love begins with God. It doesn’t begin with us loving God. It begins with Jesus loving us. Jesus tells us to love ourselves as God loves us. In turn, love God as Jesus first loved you with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.

The most basic step to a healthy relationship is self-care. Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves. Therefore, we must learn how to fully love ourselves. It’s not a sin, it’s a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

God wrote us a love letter to learn how to love. Our love letter tells us to cry out to God when we are hurt; no problem is too small for God. God loves us for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from before time to this day forward until death when nothing will keep us apart.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

2. What have we learned so far about healthy relationships?

Love is the key ingredient to a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.

3. Do you feel loved and supported? Do you know you are loved? It is easier to love someone you understand. How well do you know yourself? What makes you unique? How are you different?

God created us to be different with many different types of personalities. God uses different personalities to complement one another. Our strengths and weaknesses fit together into a unique community puzzle.

Unfortunately many don’t value differences. Society labels some traits as good and others bad.

When well-meaning parents, teachers, friends or spouses buy into these lies and try to “improve” their children, students, friends or spouse by telling them to be more outgoing, slow down, take control or be less sensitive they disrupt the unique balance of the different personalities. And they are rarely successful in making a positive change. Instead their criticism damages the self-esteem of the person they think they are trying to help.

We are born with our personality traits and have little control over changing them.

Therefore, it is important to shake off well-meaning criticisms of our quirks and differences. It is healthy to celebrate our individualities. All traits have value and shine in certain situations. Learning about the different personality types helps understand our own personality and the people around us. We learn how to nurture ourselves and find ways to improve communication with others.

Personalities are made up of many characteristics or traits which define how we relate to others, our pace or speed, attitudes, interests and actions. These traits are on a continuum with some stronger than others. Because they are on a continuum some change depending on our environment and the personalities around us. But our character remains the same. For example, you may be extremely organized at work but more relaxed at home but you’re still organized.

As we come together, our personalities interact and influence one another. For example, several friends may all be introverts but when they get together one may seem like an extrovert compared to the others. An accurate personality assessment requires a well-crafted evaluation. However most of us have a basic understanding of where we fall in the range.
4. Personality Characteristics: Note on the line where you fall for each personality trait.

Introvert_________________________I__________________________Extrovert

Being an extrovert or an introvert has little to do with whether we like people. This trait is more about energy than relationship. Extroverts seek an outside energy source and introverts have an inward energy source.

Extroverts draw their energy from interactions with the people around them. The more time they spend with other people, the more energized they become. Extroverts can be shy. They are not always loud or talkative but extroverts gravitate toward social interaction. Extroverts lose energy while alone and can become depressed in the absence of others. Therefore it is important to encourage extroverts to socialize.

Introverts reenergize in the absence of other people. Introverts find interactions with other people draining regardless of how they feel about the other person. Time with a loved one is just as draining as the person sitting next to them on the bus. So it is really important for introverts to have a space of their own to reenergize especially if they spend most of their day with other people.

If an extrovert and an introvert are invited to a party, the extrovert may feel too exhausted to go to the party while the introvert may be full of energy and eager to go. At the party the extrovert gains energy while the introvert becomes drained with each social interaction.

The spectrum is related to how long your battery lasts. An extreme extrovert’s battery runs down quickly in the absence of people so they needs lots of daily contact with people. An extreme introvert can go days without human contact and is easily exhausted by human interaction.

Extroverts and introverts can become overwhelmed, overstimulated and exhausted. Introverts and extroverts can equally be people-oriented or task-driven. They are equally intelligent. Extroverts and introverts may put others needs before their own and be overly concerned about what others think. Both may be sensitive.

Recently, there has been much talk about ambiverts or people who draw their energy from people and time alone. Ambiverts are rare. Jesus and God are ambiverts. Jesus spent lots of time alone in the wilderness to pray and lots of time with people. If Jesus was an introvert He probably wouldn’t have had twelve disciples. If Jesus was an extrovert He would have been exhausted after 40 days in the wilderness. Also we know that Jesus is with each one of us all the time and in all places. That is a lot of social interaction even when we don’t acknowledge His presence.

5. Name extroverted and introverted biblical characters.

 

Fast__________________________I________________________________Slow

The rabbit and the turtle compete with one another at work, home or in the community. It is no secret that we all work at different paces. Couples, parents, teachers and employers quickly notice when someone has a different pace but rarely agree on which is better because it depends on the project. Each pace has a place in our unique puzzle. There are tasks that require speed and quick turns while others require accuracy and precision. And some require both. Fast paced individuals talk fast, move quickly and get a lot done in a short amount of time. Others have a much slower pace with life in general. They are more cautious and deliberate. Slower paced individuals may not get as much done but they may be more accurate and thorough. Both may have short attention spans and be impatient. It is futile to try to change someone’s pace.

6. Name fast and slow paced biblical characters.
Passive____________________________I____________________________Assertive

Being assertive is important in communication. Some people are naturally assertive and are generally given credit for being more healthy and honest because of their directness. But this is an unfair assumption.

Passive individuals are peacemakers. They seek ways to interact positively. They are polite. They hate and therefore avoid conflict. They are sensitive to criticism. They don’t necessarily agree but will avoid conversations that may lead to disagreement. They are rarely competitive. Extremely passive individuals may be difficult to get to know because they don’t share all their thoughts or feelings. They may run away from an argument or find themselves frozen like a deer in headlights.

Assertive people are direct. They are able to express themselves and stand up for themselves. They are competitive. They love debating issues. They may create conflict for entertainment. They can be demanding and forceful. It is important for them to feel in control. They are often accused of being controlling but they are simply trying to control themselves and their environment. They rarely shy away from a fight unless unequally matched. They can be the protector or the bully.

7. Name passive and assertive biblical characters.
Task__________________________I______________________________People

Task oriented people want to get things done. They like lists and have great pleasure in checking things off their list. They can become overly focused or worried about planning projects and activities. They value others for their accomplishments rather than as people. They have trouble understanding why they need other people as well as understanding the needs of others. It may be difficult to get their attention unless it relates to the task and they may have to be asked to look at the person speaking to them.

People-oriented people build relationships and develop community. People-oriented personalities focus on the needs of the people around them. They are genuinely concerned with building relationships and keeping people happy. They place more importance on the feelings and happiness of people than on their to-do list.
They are team and family oriented. They are more concerned for the group than the task. They may have unrealistic assumptions of other people’s motives or opinions. They may have trouble staying on task or difficulty understanding the importance of some tasks. They may need repeated instructions to complete tasks. They can become too focused on what other people think or what they want. They become stressed when trying to meet the needs of opposing relationships.

8. Name people and task-oriented biblical characters.
These are just a few personality characteristics that may bring people together or cause friction in a household. There are many other characteristics such as whether we make decisions with our heart (feelings) or head (thinkers). The important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong personality. They all have value in God’s kingdom.

It may be easier to get along with similar personalities but we restrict God’s grace and love when we restrict ourselves to people who look, act, think and believe just like us.

Our strengths help us to serve others while our weaknesses offer opportunities for others to serve us.

It is healthy to celebrate our individualities. Learning about our traits helps us understand why we do certain things different than others and see them as gifts and not weaknesses. Remember this week is all about learning how to love yourself.

ME_205_LoveYourself
How well do you take care of yourself? Take the assessment below to find out how well you love yourself. After completing the assessment, choose one item from each area that you will actively work to improve.

9. Check the ways you love yourself:

Communication

_____Prayer

_____Listens

______Honesty
_____Words of affirmation

______Apologize

______Doesn’t boast
______Voice Concerns

_____Admit weaknesses

_______Doesn’t criticize
______Don’t embarrass or dishonor

______Freely express feelings and thoughts

______Pleasant inner voice

______Sings
______Share ideas

______Able to cry

______Able to express anger

Kindness

______Acceptance

______Celebrate accomplishments

______Respect

______Healthy sleep and rest habits

______Exercise

______Eat healthy
______Generous

______Play

______Identify strengths
______Never too busy

_______Value yourself

_______Can list positive qualities
______Patient

______Seek counseling when needed

_____Goals
______Supportive

______Like– body, personality etc…

______Time – alone, fun, healing…
______Eat regularly

_____Take time off when needed

_____Seek medical care when needed
_____Try new things

______Find things to make you laugh

_____Spend time with others
______Balanced work, home & self

Healthy Conflict

_____Boundaries

______Compromise

______Don’t misuse name
_____Trustworthy

_____Never physically abusive

_____Forgive
______Truthful

______Humble

_____Not proud
_____Controls anger

______No mood swings

_____Never emotionally abusive
______No grudges

_____Don’t nag

_____No records of wrong
_____Don’t stress eat

10. In what ways are you good at loving yourself?
11. In what ways do you need to improve?

Remember, Jesus commanded us to love ourselves. It’s not a sin, it’s a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

Lord of Grace, you love me. You understand me. You have given me your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength and your body. Please Lord help me to be kinder and gentler with myself. Help me love myself the way you love me. Forgive me for the way I’ve treated someone you love dearly. Forgive me for the way I’ve treated myself. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Homework: This week pray to build a healthy, not hurtful relationship with yourself. Choose one item from each area of your self-love assessment that you will actively work to improve. Take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Carl Jung). Nurture an aspect of your personality.  Keep track of your progress. Add a new item from each area each week. Talk with God.