Five Ways To Combat Stress, a Guest Post by Dan Erickson

Dan Erickson writes about writing and blogging in a hectic world.  His blog,  “writing for the sake of my humanity,” is an eclectic combination of writing and blogging advice, poetry, music, and minimalism.  Dan has written two books including, A Train Called Forgiveness , based on his personal experience of being the child victim of an extreme religious cult.

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Dan EricksonStress.

I’ve had my share.

I was the child victim of a religious cult, basically a slave to a megalomaniac cult leader.  After my escape as a 16-year-old boy, I went to the opposite extreme and enjoyed my freedom a little too much.  I spent years wondering aimlessly, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, which be the way, didn’t relieve the stress.

After a dozen years of self-abuse, I finally found my way back to normal.  Whatever that is?  I went back to college at the age of 30, earned my master’s degree by 38, and was married about the same time.

My spouse wound up having extreme mental health issues.  More stress.  We lost our firstborn child.  Stress on top of stress.  She couldn’t care for our second.  Her meddling parents tried to convince her she could.  Triple stress.  That led to a divorce that took five years to complete, and to me becoming the single parent to my daughter when she was 11-months old.  Superstress.  Yes, that’s a new word.

So as you can see, I’ve dealt with my share of stress.  Recently, I added more stress to my plate.  I started a blog (or three).  I wrote a book (or two).  I bought a house (only one).  And now I’m teaching double-overload classes as a college instructor in order to pay for the house.  Geez!  Will I ever learn?

Yes!  I will.  And I have.  What I’ve learned is that one doesn’t necessarily have to eliminate stressful events, but rather there are ways to relieve stress during those events.  The key is balance.

Stress becomes harder to bear when we focus only on the stressors.  So we must find other outlets, other places to focus our energy.  We need to learn to compartmentalize our activities.

Here are five things I’ve done to help myself through the most stressful times in my life.

  1. Eating right: I put this at the top of the list because it’s essential to well being.  When we eat foods that lack nutrients, it’s like fueling our bodies with bad gas.  If you get bad gas in your car, it can cause it to sputter and run inefficiently.  When we eat junk we get tired and worn down.  This is the last thing we need when we’re under heavy stress.  Make sure to spend the extra time and money to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, and other foods rich in nutrients.
  2. Exercise: My divorce was strung out and frustrating.  The waiting and the expense was enough to drive anyone crazy.  So… I ran.  I discovered that running is an excellent way of dealing with pent up negative energy.  Something happened when I ran.  It was meditative.  I focused only on the moment, each step, my breath.  That allowed me to disengage from the stress of the divorce.  Exercise helps us think clearer.  It’s an essential part of dealing with life’s stressors.
  3. Team support: I’ve always been a bit of a maverick.  If I can’t do it myself then forget it.  When I became a single dad, I discovered that I could not be a one-man show.  I had to reach out to others.  What I found is that there are a lot of good people out there who are willing to help out someone in distress.  Several members of the church I attend stepped up to help take turns watching my daughter so that I could work and take occasional getaways.  Having people in your corner during stressful times is a Godsend.
  4. I’m a musician.  Music has always been an incredible outlet for me.  But sometimes life has become so complicated that I’ve set my music aside for short periods of time.  When I’m stressed I’ve found that returning to music is another effective self-therapy.  For you it might be writing, cooking, or gardening.  But having a hobby to turn to helps to balance things out a bit.
  5. Meditation: I’m not a Zen Master.  I’m not a Yogi.  In fact, I’m a Christian by faith.  But I’ve found that meditation can be extremely helpful in relieving stress.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in prayer.  I do.  And I practice prayer, too.  But sometimes prayer can cause us to focus on the problem when we should let it go.  I’ve found that practicing simple breathing exercises while letting the mind relax, letting thoughts dissipate, can bring down tension levels considerably.

I’m sure there are other things one can do to combat stress.  From my own experience, finding a balance that includes good nutrition, team support and healthy activities has worked wonders.

DISCUSSION: Tell me about a stressful situation in your life.  What methods were most effective for you in dealing with the stress?

Dan invited me to guest post on his site, “writing for the sake of my humanity,” earlier this month. Check out the post, “writing, why you should trust the process,” on Dan’s blog. Be sure to peruse the rest of the site while you’re there!

For the month of April, Struggle to Victory is focusing on my virtual influences by featuring guest posts, by guest posting on other sites, and by highlighting some of the regular visitors to this blog. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged, strengthened & challenged by these people as much as I have on a regular basis, people I am proud to say have an impact on my thinking in ways that matter eternally.

Interview with The Precipice Author, TC Avey

For the month of April, Struggle to Victory is focusing on virtual influences by featuring guest posts, by guest posting on other sites, and by highlighting some of the regular visitors to this blog. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged, strengthened & challenged by these people as much as I have on a regular basis, people I am proud to say have an impact on my thinking in ways that matter eternally.

THE PRECIPICE_coverToday’s post brings you an interview with author of The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends, TC Avey.

TC Avey is a Christian devoted to God, family and friends. She is passionate about encouraging Christians to live lives dedicated to Christ as well as to helping them understand the importance of preserving our national freedoms through knowledge and love. She blogs at Wisdom of a Fool. You can also follow her on Twitter. Her book, The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends, is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.

 

Why did you write The Precipice?

I love History and Current Events. In 2008 God began changing the way I view both. I can no longer read history, or news stories, and not see God. While God is a gentlemen and won’t force anyone to believe in Him, He can be seen everywhere. From the dawn of time, He’s been calling out to His creation, longing for a relationship. Far too often people explain Him away with science, logic, nature, or as coincidence.

I wrote this book to help people see God in the world around them. He is speaking to us through so many different venues, but sadly many of us aren’t listening. If we aren’t reading His Word, if we aren’t engaged in what is transpiring in the world, we can’t be effective witnesses of His. And we certainly won’t be the prepared bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13) He is looking for upon His return.

Do you think your book evokes fear in people?

I hope it doesn’t, but I can’t control how people respond after reading my book. Here’s something that’s sure to offend some: I think how a reader responds to this book tells more about that person’s relationship with Christ than it does about my book.

My book isn’t meant to inspire fear, but motivation. Motivation to build one’s life upon the Rock. Motivation to have one’s trust completely founded upon Christ and not foolishly placed in worldly goods, conveniences or governments. Motivation to seek God with all their heart, soul, mind and spirit.

I also hope it inspires people to become more aware of Current Events. To be active in our how world is being shaped.

People have more control over what is transpiring in this world than what they take. But having control means being responsible, responsible to Christ and responsible to others.

One of my favorite quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is…

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

There is great evil and great good in this world. Which side will you stand on?

Is there hope that the tides can change?

YES! 2 Chronicles 7:14 says,

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

God doesn’t lie. Therefore, we can have confidence that if we do our part, He will do His. (Again, we have to be individually accountable and responsible.)

Throughout history people have thought it was “the end”…and here we are. No one knows the hour of Christ’s return.

While Matthew 24 (and other places in the Bible) gives us clues to look for, there’s no formula we can use as a countdown to His return.

The best we can do is live is each day as if it is our last and make each moment count.

What advice do you have for those who are scared of end times and/or modern events?

Draw closer to God. Seek Him in His Word. He will give you revelation, peace, and whatever it is your heart needs. He created you, only He can satisfy what’s going on inside. We must stop looking to others for spiritual nourishment or solutions to our problems. Yes, others can help, but they shouldn’t be our source.

Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. Learn to trust Him by getting to know Him. That takes daily commitment. And remember,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, NIV)

Christ is that perfect love. Remain in Him, IN the Vine. (John 15) Let His love and work on the cross perfect and settle you.

DISCUSSION: How do you react when you hear of end time events playing out in the news? What other questions do you have for TC about The Precipice, end time events or any other topic?

NOTE: If you purchase The Precipice in its first week of publication on Amazon, you will also receive a BONUS PACKAGE if you email your receipt to the author BEFORE APRIL 14TH.

Back to the Basics

For the month of April, Struggle to Victory is focusing on virtual influences by featuring guest posts, by guest posting on other sites, and by highlighting some of the regular visitors to this blog. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged, strengthened & challenged by these people as much as I have on a regular basis, people I am proud to say have an impact on my thinking in ways that matter eternally.

THE PRECIPICE_coverToday’s post is by TC Avey, a Christian devoted to God, family and friends. TC is passionate about encouraging Christians to live lives dedicated to Christ as well as helping them understand the importance of preserving our national freedoms through knowledge and love. She blogs at Wisdom of a Fool. You can also follow her on Twitter. Her book, The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends, is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.

Technology is awesome.

It allows us to do a plethora of wonderful things. Yet, it can also become a god.

If we aren’t careful, we can place more trust in gadgets, science, and modern conveniences than we do in the Creator of the World.

Rarely do I think we mean to do this (at least those who profess to be Christian); it just sort of happens…so slowly we don’t even realize it until its roots are deep.

But if one is willing to take a close look in their hearts, they can see this “god” in various ways:

1438233_88338198

When an emergency happens, what do you do first? Pray or call for help?

When your feelings are hurt, who do you turn to? God’s comfort or man’s distractions?

When your world is on fire, where is your refuge? The Cross or an object/place?

When you’ve reached the bottom of your strength, how do you go on? In Christ’s name or a doctor’s?

An honest review like this will cause most people to say, “OUCH.” I know it does me.

But it’s this type of scrutiny that is needed if one is to get back to the basics in their relationship with Christ.

Back to the Basics is one of the themes in my book, The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends.

Life is fast paced.

Technology enables man to do more, be more and have more.

It also provides man with vast understanding, almost limitless access to anything a heart could ever desire, and even extends lifespans.

It showers us with possibilities, helps us to connect with others around the globe, and gives us almost instant satisfaction in having our needs fulfilled.

Technology can be a great thing, but it should never be our god.

It should never serve as a substitute for our Healer, Provider, Comforter or Salvation.

Often people have grand intentions, but when technology takes the throne of our time and energy, those intentions go out the window with God.

God is a gentleman. He will not force himself upon the thrones of our lives. However, as Creator and Sustainer of the World, He does speak to us in various ways.

The Bible is full of examples of God speaking to His people through calamities.

One such event is the Tower of Babel.

Man began thinking too highly of himself and God created confusion of speech and helped the people get back to the basis their need for God.

Today, our world is on a tipping point. God is calling out. But can we hear Him over our Bluetooth devices?

The Precipice can help readers identify where they place their trust and evaluate who their God is.

God is a jealous God. He won’t play second fiddle to anyone or anything.

I urge you, get back to the basics. God should be your “all in all.”

Yes, enjoy technology. It’s great. It’s a gift. But don’t let it be your god.

Only the living God can satisfy your soul and your endless quest for “more.”

DISCUSSION: How has technology become a “god” in your own life? What changes can you make today to put God over technology?

NOTE: If you purchase The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends in its first week of publication on Amazon, you will also receive a BONUS PACKAGE if you email your receipt to the author BEFORE APRIL 14TH!

Phone image courtesy of Stock.xchng.

The Role of Confidence and Trust in Stress

ConfidenceThe more consistent a person’s attitude, actions and words, the higher level of trust in relationships. When I know someone will dependably show solid character, my stress level where they’re involved significantly goes down.

For example, I trust my steady husband more than any other person. My oldest son and a couple of my friends tie for second. Whatever these people are involved with in my life holds a great deal less stress because of their consistent character. Who do you trust because of their consistency?

Of course, the reverse also holds true. The less consistent character, the lower the trust and the more the stress. My youngest son along with many acquaintances and friends, for example, fall into various places along the spectrum of fading trust and increasing stress because of decreased dependability.

To some extent, how well I understand the people in my life also impacts confidence and stress levels. The better I know someone, the better I can know the appropriate amount of trust to place in them. In other words, appropriately applying my knowledge of someone allows for an appropriate level of trust, which also decreases stress. How has your knowledge of someone adjusted your level of trust in them?

Of course, all of those relationships involve imperfect people that to some extent are unreliable and inconsistent. With God, the picture completely changes because perfection exists at one end of the equation.

Perfection Changes Everything

“I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Christ the sameWhen I understand more about who God is — that He is my Lord and my God, that He is Holy and that He is my Savior — my confidence in Him automatically increases. In other words, the better I know Him and His ways, the more I trust Him. Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers focuses on this idea in Chapter 14. He expresses the truth this way:

“Confidence happens when we come to understand God and His ways. When we really get to know God, confidence is automatic. If we truly come to know Him, we’ll be confident that He will be true to His person.”

Because God is who He is, I can have perfect confidence in Him. Because I am who I am, I don’t.

Yet, Scripture like Isaiah 43:1-3 serve to remind me that my imperfection doesn’t limit Him. As Sorge says, “Confidence says, ‘I know He’s working on my behalf for good.”’ And I can know this because He has done it before in my life and in the lives of others, and because Scripture assures me that’s who He is. What has God done in your life that increased your confidence in Him?

As my understanding of who God is and of His ways increase, my confidence in God in every way automatically increases.

Confidence through Struggle

Let’s go back to the “fire” and “rivers” in Isaiah 43:1-3 for a minute and apply how understanding and knowing God leads to automatic confidence in Him to work in my — and YOUR — life for good TODAY.

What would you list as your “fire” and “rivers” right now? In other words, what are the main sources of struggle and stress in your life? (Yes, you can name a specific person… I did.)

For each of the “fire” and “rivers” you listed, tell God you trust Him with them. Think of all He’s done for you and of what Scriptures says of His ways and who He is, and let this knowledge strengthen your confidence in Him to bring you through your current struggles. He did it before, and He’ll do it again because that’s who He is.

Father does not changeDISCUSSION: How has the role of confidence and trust affected your stress levels?

Welcome to the Book club discussing The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Please leave a comment below. You can read more reflections on this book from Jason, Sarah, Dusty, TC, Glynn, and Joell.

 

Are Your Relationships Silver or Gold?

The Role of Thankfulness in Relationships

For the most part, my time spent in the Girl Scouts exists in my memory as a huge disaster. I’ll spare you the details and just tell the one positive I remember related to this short song learned in Girl Scouts so many years ago.

Silver & gold

As friendships change and grow with the seasons of life, marking each one with value and purpose helps appreciate the always fluctuating nature of relationships. In recent years, teaching this principle to my boys helps them as they transition into adulthood and see their own relationships impacted accordingly.

Realizing that relationships really reflect the stages of our lives helps understand their role in life’s seasons. But more importantly, our relationships provide the medium through which we express the love within us that grows out from our relationship with Christ as He continually develops our new natures. As we practice Making Allowances, learn to Love Others AS Ourselves, apply Wisdom in Relationships and Dress for Success in Relationships, we reflect the increasing love of our continually renewing relationship with Christ.

This understanding cultivates thankfulness for every relationship, however brief, experienced through the years. And that thankfulness creates a tie that truly does bind.

Tied by Thankfulness

Thankfulness unifies. As we read through Colossians 3, noting where thankfulness is mentioned, it seems clear that thankfulness seems to describe a characteristic of all the “clothing” talked about in this scripture.

Colossians 3:15-17 especially gets at the role of thankfulness in our New Nature Relationships.

Thankful

Every time we’re told to live out our new natures, a call to thankfulness is also issued. This tells us that not only do we need to take off the clothing of our old nature (v. 9) and put on the clothing of our new nature (v. 10), we are to also demonstrate thankfulness while we live lives where the love of Christ flows out from within us into our New Nature Relationships.

DISCUSSION: How can we infuse our New Nature Relationships with thankfulness?

Dress for Success in Relationships

494936_88709934While my13-year-old may not always, hopefully most of us put on clean clothing regularly. Feeling clean and fresh often motivates in a positive direction for the day ahead. In fact, one of the main suggestions for recovery from depression involves showering and putting on clean clothes every day.

Wearing clothing appropriate for the situation is also important. I won’t exercise in a dress, and I don’t wear my exercise clothes to church. Also, consider the fact that students often perform better on tests when they dress up. Appropriateness in what we wear impacts how we feel about ourselves and shows the importance we place on an activity.

Another example involves getting new clothes, which often revives a stale season of life. Most women (along with their husbands) understand that a new piece of clothing can brighten a woman’s day.

While these changes of clothing are temporary, many seek long-term happiness in changing what they wear physically. In reality, though, our physical clothing has limited impact on our long-term reality.

New Nature Clothing

Our spiritual clothing works in similar ways to our physical clothing, but it holds far greater and more long-term impact. In fact, when our internal clothing reflects that of our new nature in Christ, we discover an eternal perspective that transforms our living, growing and connecting.

Consider how, based on Colossians 3, our new nature clothing impacts us not only individually but also in every relationship.

  • New nature clothing represents a growing knowledge of Christ. (v. 10)
  • The right spiritual clothing creates peace that rules the heart. (v. 15)
  • Style and social position don’t matter with new nature clothing. (v. 11)
  • Continued thankfulness renews & refreshes the “outfit.” (vv. 15-17)
  • Love completes the “look,” bringing unity to the whole “outfit.” (v. 14)

We don’t make our own clothing much anymore but instead have to purchase what we want to wear. Our new nature clothing was also purchased and not something we make on our own. Only through Christ do we have this “clothing” to wear. And not only did He purchase this clothing for us, it never wears out… it never needs replaced.

Renewed

Renewal & Relationships

So how does this continued renewal of our new natures by the spiritual clothing we put on impact our relationships? Our new nature clothing affects the atmosphere of the inner self which then creates the pervading mood that others see and that governs our relationships. In other words, how we dress our hearts determines how we live out love through our relationships.

Relationships provide the opportunity to express the love that our relationship with Christ generates. Only when we clothe ourselves in the new nature clothing of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, thankfulness and love that only come through knowing Jesus do we then have a demeanor that serves to positively cultivate New Nature Relationships.

DISCUSSION: How does your new nature clothing impact your relationships?

Wisdom in Relationships

Advice

Relationship Advice

Giving advice comes naturally for me. In fact, I’m so good at it sometimes, that those receiving the advice don’t have to say much at all. What I’ve noticed, though, is a serious lack of following of my advice. Wonder why that is…

Lack of follow happens because my advice too often comes from me and not Christ. Sure, it may contain knowledge, but it lacks a wisdom.

The key to giving advice that truly teaches and counsels others involves first letting Christ’s words dwell within us, making us wise. In other words, an internal work must take place before external works have value. And that internal work happens when Christ’s words don’t simply exist in us but when they instead “dwell” in us.

This word “dwell” means to “have its home” as a master instead of a servant. And, “richly” involves having a master that keeps a good house, with an influence that isn’t just a presence but has a direct and consistent impact on conduct in every part of life.

Christ’s wisdom must rule our own hearts before what we say truly has life. In other words, knowledge must be self applied, guiding our own lives in love lived out in every part of life as we are clothed with a brand new nature (Colossians 3:9-10).

WisdomWise Relationships

I need wisdom dwelling within me in order to have good relationships. Without wisdom, I’m not sure what to say to a friend contemplating divorce or to someone frozen by fear. Without wisdom, I don’t know how to help my boys have good relationships and to choose the best careers.

Without Godly wisdom, my focus falls to my selfish desires because that’s what the world shapes in me. And without His wisdom, my inner atmosphere shuts itself off protectively against hurt, struggle and control.

Wisdom built on Christ, through His words and example, unite me with Him. This wisdom, when it dwells within me as my master instead of my servant, guides and directs the affairs of my heart, how I live out love.

As my life lives in the wisdom of God’s Word, as it dwells within and directs my heart, only then does my advice have eternal value. Only then can words of teaching (the imparting of skill and giving of instruction) and any admonition (words of caution or even scolding) combine with New Nature Relationships to add value to the kingdom of God.

DISCUSSION: How might Christ’s word “dwelling in you richly” impact your relationships?

Refined by Waiting

Christian Powerpoint Religious BulletinFour years ago, I crashed and burned physically, mentally and spiritually, I couldn’t work, and I barely functioned at home. Socially, I ceased to exist. Spiritually, only getting by.

A big part of my crash and burn involved adrenal fatigue. Essentially, healing from adrenal fatigue requires a lot of waiting. My body, mind and spirit needed replenished after years of stress, continual drain and constant overload. Only waiting and resting could make that happen.

Life as a whole involves a lot of waiting, small and big pockets of time spent waiting for what’s next.  All too often, I try ending the waiting on my own by forcing “things” to happen. Never works out all that well.

Who likes to wait, after all? Not me! Yet, so much of our lives require waiting. Lines. Arrivals. Departures. Growth. Maturity.

Since life involves so much waiting, we’re all experts, right? Again, not me. Just put another car in front of me going a bit slower than I want to go to illustrate how easily I get frustrated with waiting, with life moving slower than I think it should. Can you relate?

Focused WaitingGod-Or-My-Agenda

Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers calls waiting “the hottest flame” because it reveals the depths of our hearts. He also notes that God “is capable of applying as much heat as it takes to surface the garbage in our hearts.”

Garbage? The arrogance that makes me need to get ahead of others in line. The pride that refuses to admit mistakes. The lack of peace that leads me to force immediate answers rather than waiting for well-thought out responses.

Sometimes, pure selfishness fuels my inability to wait. But equally, and perhaps even more so, I simply give up on the waiting. I give up on God’s way and pursue life on my own terms.

Depth takes time to develop. This is true of one’s character as much as it is of one’s relationships. God wants to develop that depth, and He knows that waiting is often the best tool for making that happen.

A focus on Him in our waiting reveals opportunities from Him to cultivate depth. A focus on Him in our waiting leads us to pray for the mother of four in front of us at the checkout counter and to spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study as we allow our bodies the physical rest needed to recover from stress overload.

But a focus on the waiting itself and how much we dislike it turns our gaze toward pushing ahead and ending the wait, which causes us to miss out on God’s refining of our character. Instead of pushing and forcing and moving to get rid of the waiting, consider what Sorge says about how to wait.

“Run after Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is a stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.”

Be someone willing to wait for God, no matter the length of time. Be willing to give Him both your small moments and your seasons of waiting. Be aggressive in your rest, extreme in your stillness and vigilant as you listen for Him.

DISCUSSION: What does waiting for God mean in a practical sense? How do we live life and wait for God at the same time? Also, how does our ability to wait on God impact our relationships?

This post is a part of a weekly book discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter of Living Between the Lines. Be sure to check out their posts!

Loving Others AS Yourself

Back to the Beginning

While immediately associated with romantic love, Valentine’s Day’s ties to romantic love actually did not take place until Chaucer’s poetry in the 14th Century. Instead, Valentine’s Day originated in commemoration of at least one early Christian saint named Valentinus, martyred between AD 197 and AD 496 for their acts of sacrificial love.

This focus on sacrificial love – of focusing on others over self - ties with what Jesus said that ALL scripture hangs on (is summed up in and depends on):

Valentine 1

Paul amplifies Jesus’ words by connecting them specifically with new life activity in our relationships:

Valentine 2

So, loving God above all and then loving others AS yourself not only provide THE most important principles for our lives, but also THE most important article of clothing for our new natures in Christ.

A long-time struggle for me in living this principle lies with fulfilling the second of these commands, loving others AS yourself.

What if you don’t love yourself?

For me, years of chronic depression involved a great deal of self hate. Outside of that struggle, failures in relationships led to significant self dislike, while comparisons showed even more reason for wishing I was anyone but me. And this selfish focus blocked my ability to love others.

Over time, the impact of Jesus’ sacrificial love changed how I viewed myself. As my focus went from feelings, emotions and comparisons to how He saw me, I began to realize not only the importance of self love but that it must be rooted in God’s view of me and how He exercises His love.

Valentine 3

Focusing on AS

Realizing God’s sacrificial love for me helped bring me to a point of self love that allowed a focus outside of myself, one intent on love God and others AS I am loved.

The commands to love others and to love self are not two separate commands. Rather, they are two parts of one command to live out love for God, a love that consumes the heart, soul and mind.

Love for self does not include selfish pursuits that make us feel good or happy, and self love does not justify fulfilling the flesh’s wants and desires. This selfishness provides only a temporary emotional happiness fix.

Instead, self love involves accepting ourselves – personality, physical appearance, even weaknesses and faults – because our own identity lies grounded in Christ’s unconditional love for us exactly AS we are right now. Out of this flows a love for others that comes through in our attitudes, actions and words as we live in relationship with them.

When our identity exists grounded in Christ, in His love for and acceptance of us, we discover a self love that gives us the capacity to love others AS Jesus exhorted. To help grasp this, think about what’s at the heart of you feeling loved, of your feeling genuine acceptance of who you are AS a person. Gifts and even kind acts mean very little in the absence of genuine acceptance of who you are AS a person.

Something significant happens in how we view ourselves when our our Christian identity involves being accepted by Christ and is not earned by works or moral standing. This creates a love for self that transfers to how we love others; it serves as an example of HOW we are to love others.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day

With the idea of Valentine’s Day’s original intent in mind along with understanding the tie between loving others and loving self, celebrate Valentine’s Day with fresh perspective. Celebrate the sacrificial love that seeks for the greatest good, that accepts how God made you and others. Celebrate a love that sacrifices any focus on self and instead embraces personalities and makes allowances for faults. Live love that comes only through complete focus on God’s love for us.

DISCUSSION: How does loving yourself change how you love others, and, ultimately, how God’s love exists in your life?

Making Allowances

Fault 2While I appreciate the sentiment of this statement, I have one major problem with it: Sometimes it does. Sometimes, poor planning – what many consider a “fault” - by another requires emergency action on my part.

Consider the following “faults,” inserting your own story.

She doesn’t handle last-minute changes well.

He doesn’t keep track of commitments.

She does most of her work last-minute.

He does not listen very well.

In such instances, there was a time when I would verbalize my irritation and either let others flounder in their faults or at the very least be uncomfortable in the wrath of my irritation. But then Colossians 3:13 got into my spirit:

Faults 1

For years, I simply did not want to make allowances. I wanted to correct people. I wanted to be justified in walking away in times of emergency or at least in making my annoyance clear as I bailed them out once again. Unfortunately, those reactions only allowed my emotions to rule and failed to cultivate relationships.

The only way I could begin applying what Paul meant when he instructed the church in Colossae to “make allowances for each other’s faults”  involved admitting that I too am part of the “each other.” In other words, I too have faults that others need to make allowances for regularly. And I want them to, right?

Doesn’t that mean they will, but I can only control my end of the “each other” and no one else’s. This involves realizing that making allowances doesn’t mean saying the faults are okay and don’t need changed; instead, it means that we take the fact that we all have faults into consideration and our New Nature Relationships strengthen as grace flows.

AllowancesHow to Make Allowances

Let’s look at Colossians 3:13 in context (vv. 12-15) for instruction on carrying out this aspect of cultivating relationships as we put on our new nature clothing showing we belong to Christ and are grateful for Him choosing us, making us holy, and loving us. In other words, how we treat others, including how we respond to their faults, reflects our inner ensemble, which includes:

  1. Tenderhearted mercy – Making undeserved allowances in a way that avoids hurting the offender even when justified in doing so.
  2. Kindness – Instead of lashing out because of chronic inconvenience, proceed in a way that preserves and strengthens the relationship.
  3. Humility – Not showing your rightness, but instead covering others weakness. You can either be right or have relationship; humility chooses relationship.
  4. Gentleness – Allowing and even helping the offender maintain and move forward with dignity.
  5. Patience – Allowing the mental space to recognize and correct faults, which are likely a frustrating struggle.

Right after instructions for making allowances, Paul says to complete the outfit of our new selves by forgiving others and by wearing love, which he calls “the most important piece of clothing.” Paul stresses forgiveness because “the Lord forgave you” and love because it binds believers “in perfect harmony.”

Cultivating Relationship

As we look at the details of cultivating New Nature Relationships, we begin to see how the focus must come off self and onto showing love. In our own efforts, impossible. But through the Holy Spirit, we are free to operate wearing the clothing of the new nature.

DISCUSSION: How might your current relationships benefit from “making allowances for each other’s faults”?