The Blog: On Second Thought

There’s a viral video going around the Internet today, featuring musician Micah Tyler doing a parody song about millennials. It’s hilarious. But guess what we spotted when we watched it: He’s wearing an I Am Second bracelet!

Here’s a screenshot:

 

You can see the bracelet on his left wrist. (Source: Facebook)

You can see the bracelet on his left wrist. (Source: Facebook)

The video was part of a church conference at Watermark Church in Dallas, Tx. Here’s how the church explained the video:

Micah Tyler opened up our talk on millennials at the Watermark Church Leaders Conference with this fun melody! (By the way, we LOVE millennials at Watermark. It‘s our privilege to minister to thousands of them every Tuesday night at The Porch at Watermark, and we know of many that are doing great things for the cause of Christ! This video was a parody that opened a talk about seeing past the stereotypes and recognizing the unique potential that millennials have!)

Watch the video below:

artist

Fear kills creativity.

One of the things I’ve found over the last few years with how quickly life seems to be changing is that many people I interact with are operating out of a deeply anxious space.

They’re anxious about the health of relationships, their career track, their future. Anxiety kills creativity.

Just picture this:

The more anxious or afraid we are, the more we back into a corner and begin to close our hands, hold tighter, and think defensively.

While it’s true that fear kills creativity, it’s also true, on the other end of the spectrum, that faith breeds creativity. Faith is opening our hands. Faith is a posture of expectation.

Faith hopes, it dreams, and it struggles to believe that, with God, all things are possible.


In walking by faith we embrace our potential to shape culture instead of react to it.


In walking by faith we embrace our potential to shape culture instead of react to it. Through faith we can dream of new solutions rather than trying the same old techniques, and we can embrace change rather than being crushed by it.

There’s a massive difference between living life as Christians by formula as opposed to living by faith.

There are two kinds of people in this world:

Those who create and those who copy.

I first thought of this in reference to leadership.You see, no matter how effective best practices or learning from the competition can be, ultimately we’ll never be on the front edge of leadership if we’re walking down a trail that someone else has blazed.

Over time I’ve come to believe that creating vs. copying is actually a difference in posture and mindset not merely in leadership but in all of life.

Some proudly use the word “copy” as a kind of bravado of honesty and transparency.

In this vein, Picasso is attributed with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” and Einstein with, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Or as Voltaire more mildly put it, “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.”

I think we all understand and can appreciate this sense of the word copy.

After all, only God creates completely from scratch. The adage for us is this: If it works, borrow it. If it doesn’t, ignore it.


It’s an honest admission that we all have been shaped by a thousand hands…


It’s an honest admission that we all have been shaped by a thousand hands, and much of our creative energy takes inspiration from what we have seen, experienced, and appreciated.

I recently heard Cornel West say it like this: “Nobody steps into the Hall of Fame alone.”

The sense of copy I’m using is neither the playful one nor the authentic one just described.

Rather, I’m talking about “copying” as a mindset that refuses to consider new ideas and new relationships. This kind of copying is a habit of never thinking outside the box, never adapting to rapid change, never being willing to fail. This kind of copying simply takes what is known and safe and repeats it ad infinitum.

Creators, on the other hand, do borrow much . . . but for the purpose of making things new. The Renaissance artists of Florence borrowed from Greek myths, humanism, and Roman architecture, but always with the mindset of transforming—not merely copying—what had come before.

That’s God’s call to us as well:

Don’t just be copiers, but creators.

We’ve all been given things from which to borrow: family histories, jobs, talents and skills, interests and hobbies—even our race and gender, the country we live in, our language, schooling, and stage of life.

Out of this raw material God invites us to create, to move forward into the fullest expression of God’s creative image in us. We are being asked to reject copying in order to create, extend, and breathe life into what is meant to flourish.

So we find things that work.

We study our heroes and learn about best practices. But we maintain a mindset of creativity and always look to transform rather than merely replicate.


In fact, there’s a close correlation to our creative mindset and our understanding of who we’re called to be…


In fact, there’s a close correlation to our creative mindset and our understanding of who we’re called to be and who we are as made in the image of God. Artistic ability may be a talent that some possess but creativity is a human trait. As Dorothy Sayers once said, “Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something.”

One of the fascinating things about creativity is that it begets more creativity. This isn’t just a great pragmatic insight, it’s also something deeply spiritual.

Our walk of faith, the practice of exercising the creativity of the image of God in us, and looking at the future through the eyes of imagination and possibility are all ways of talking about finding our humanity and aligning ourselves with God.

Life may be changing fast, you may be worried about your career, and the future may be uncertain, but as a deeply creative being made in the image of a creative God you can walk forward and dream.

This post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

NashRun

Christa and Valerie at the I Am Second run in Nashville, TN (Photo source: John Humphrey)

“I never expected to live past 17. I was sure that I would kill myself before my 17th birthday.”

Christa Williams experienced many traumatic events in her childhood, which then followed her into her young adult life. Neglected by her father, and fighting depression and an eating disorder, Christa was tired. She wanted to give up. She counted the days until her death.

It wasn’t until her college years when she finally started seeing a purpose to life. She found a supportive community that encouraged her to develop a relationship with God and taught her that her life mattered.

Fast-forward to April 2, 2016: Christa, age 25, participated in the I Am Second run in Nashville, Tennessee. After years of healing and placing her identity in God rather than her depression, she wanted to find a local run that celebrated the mere fact that she was still alive, and that every one has a story to tell.

Excited for the upcoming run, Christa shared her story of depression and restoration on her Facebook wall:

I run (or walk) because I can. Because I live. And because He lives in me and through me. And I am a witness and illustration of His healing love.

Enter Valerie Stinson.

Valerie, a new acquaintance of Christa’s, was inspired by Christa’s courageous post and immediately reached out to her.

“I felt it very brave of her to put her struggle with wanting to harm herself out there for the world to see. Not only that, but her boldness to thank God for rescuing her from that life she once lived,” Valerie told I Am Second.

“I started messaging her and asked her if anyone was going with her and she replied ‘no.’ Of course, I registered for the 10k right then and there, even though it would mean a two hour drive for me,” she continued. “I felt it was important that I walk with her.”

christastretching

Christa stretching before the run. (Photo source: Valerie Stinson)

On the morning of the run, Christa and Valerie, barely friends, woke up at the crack of dawn and rode together to downtown Nashville. The run began, along with their unexpected journey.

Christa’s bronchitis starting kicking in. Short of breath, she felt as if she couldn’t continue and quickly became tired and discouraged. Valerie, knowing that the run symbolized victory and hope, began encouraging Christa. “I immediately felt so empowered by her and her joy,” she said.

Then, after accidentally overlooking a few directional signs, Christa and Valerie realized they had fallen off-course. They were lost in an unfamiliar area.  But instead of getting down, they continued to feed each other with positivity.

They finally approached the finish line hours later, only to find that it was already torn down. No cheering, no dramatic finish, no pats on the back.


It wasn’t about the medal, or other people celebrating our accomplishment


“We were sad at first, but then the actual motivation settled in. It wasn’t about the medal, or other people celebrating our accomplishment,” said Christa.

Christa and Valerie weren’t running for the approval of others, but for those who have lost hope and feel like giving up. They were running to celebrate the life they have been given. They were running for each other.

Two women, both from different lives, different stories, once acquaintances and now friends, live with the same motto: None of us are capable of doing life on our own. We need each other. And that’s why it’s important to live second.

Here’s the irony: Even though they finished last, they finished second.


 

Is an I Am Second run coming to your city in 2016? Find out! 

Seidl and his wife, Brett, celebrating their anniversary. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Seidl and his wife, Brett, celebrating their anniversary. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Next month, my wife and I will have been married seven years. Seven years. We’ll also have known each other for a decade. I can’t believe it, really. And as we approach such a milestone (after all, this is when everyone starts finding ways to talk about the “seven year itch” so I consider it a milestone), there’s a few things I’ve learned that I think are worth passing along.

One important caveat, though: Just because I’ve “learned” something doesn’t mean I practice it consistently, perfectly, or adequately. That will become clear. Maybe it’s more accurate to swap “learned” for “learning.” This marriage thing is an ongoing process of self-reflection.

So with that said, here we go.

1. I can be a jerk.

Someone once told me that marriage is like looking in a mirror. I can verify this is true. And you know what I see when I really take time to study the reflection? I can be a real jerk to my wife sometimes. And selfish. Definitely selfish. I think about my own wants far too often. I make decisions without thinking through how they may affect my family. And boy do I have a sharp tongue.

But the more I admit it, the more I become aware of it. So let me say it again: I can be a real jerk to my wife sometimes.

2. Love is a choice.

Love is not that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. I’m not sure what that feeling is (sure, I have experienced it with my wife), but it’s not deep love. Love is when you really, really want to watch the football game you’ve been looking forward to all week but your wife asks if you’ll go on a walk with her and you do. Love is knowing you’re right, but willing to concede the argument. Love is publicly supporting your spouse when you privately disagree. Love is sacrifice. As my pastor puts it, “Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.”

It’s a conscious choice.

I remember a few years ago a friend of ours announced that he was engaged. That wouldn’t have been odd if he had been actually dating someone. But he wasn’t. Of course me with my big mouth and because I’m always looking for a laugh, piped up: “So did you agree to an arranged marriage?”

The group of people we were with chuckled and turned to him. Then he responded, “Yeah.”

He was serious.

My heart sank. See, he was from India and arranged marriages aren’t odd, they’re common. “In order to find someone in America, you have to have game. And I don’t have any game,” he explained.

Today, he and his wife — who his family picked out for him in India — are happily married and have the cutest, little boy. I remember asking him a few months into the marriage how things were going.

“It’s pretty good. We’re kinda in the dating stage and getting to know each other right now,” he said.

Their marriage is thriving. Not because they “fell in love,” but because they decided to love.

Love is a choice.

Seidl and his wife during their first dance as a married couple. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

Seidl and his wife during their first dance as a married couple. (Source: Jonathon M. Seidl)

3. My wife is not my soulmate.

This point is closely tied to the previous one.

The idea that there is one person out there who perfectly satisfies all your desires, needs, and passions is not only idiotic, but it’s dangerous. Instead, love is a choice. (Are you sensing the theme?)

My wife and I both have a great understanding with each other: We both could have married someone else. That may sound so unromantic and counterintuitive, but it has actually brought tremendous strength to our marriage. That’s because it has helped us put to death the idea that marriage is all about feelings and helps mitigate questioning each other when things aren’t going so great.

After much prayer and thought during our time dating, I concluded my wife was definitely marriage material. She had all the qualities I was looking for. She did the same thing and felt the same way. So we chose to marry. Sure, there were those butterflies. But here’s the truth: If Brett would have told me no when I asked her to marry me, while I would have been crushed, I’m confident there would have been another woman out there that was marriage material that I would have married.

So, when I encounter times of just “not feeling it,” that doesn’t shake me. When I encounter another woman that is attractive and that I hit it off with, I don’t walk away wondering if she’s actually my soulmate or “the one.” My soulmate, if we must use that word, is the woman I’m married to. Period.

4. Kill your expectations.

One of the biggest hurdles my wife and I had to overcome early in our marriage was an ugly monster that begins with “ex” and ends in “pectations.” Once we slayed that dragon — or at least recongized that it was a beast that had to be slain — our marriage got decidedly better.


Resentment leads to distance, and distance leads to broken marriages.


Expectations take many forms, from how you think your spouse should act around your family to how many times you just have to have sex in a week. And if you let those expectations go unspoken and unaddressed, it leads to resentment. Resentment leads to distance, and distance leads to broken marriages.

So you know what I tell young(er) couples? Kill your expectations. Treat them like little mini vampires that have to be brought to the light. Because I will say a good percentage of the time, conflict in my marriage can be traced to unrealized or silent expectations.

5. Marriage is not about your happiness.

I generally find it easier to explain something by what it isn’t. My wife and I have counseled a few couples before they got married, and while many of them want to talk about what marriage is, I usually start by talking about what it isn’t. And you know what one of the biggest things it isn’t? It isn’t about your happiness.

Let me say that again: Marriage isn’t about your happiness.

Now let me talk about what marriage is. It’s a lot of work. It’s about commitment. It’s about serving someone else. It’s about sacrifice and modeling the ultimate relationship.


Marriage is about joy. And joy is very different than happiness. 


Marriage is about joy. And joy is very different than happiness. How so? As my pastor recently pointed out, happiness is built on external circumstances, while joy is built on truth — especially deep, everlasting truth.

Happiness is fleeting. Joy is enduring. Happiness comes and goes with each argument, while joy is knowing that no argument will ever cause the other person to leave.

It’s not that happiness is bad, it’s that it’s fickle. I’ve learned that when I seek joy in my marriage, the happiness comes naturally. When I make my marriage about my happiness, that’s when it’s hard to find.

6. Take more responsibility than you think you should.

Some of the worst fights my wife and I have had over the past seven years have been when one of us knows we’re factually right and the other person is wrong. It’s then that we hold the tightest to our positions, bent on proving how wrong the other person is. It’s also, then, when we hurt the other person the most. You know the best way to diffuse that? Take responsibility.

Here’s how my pastor, Matt Chandler, puts it in his book, “The Mingling of Souls”:

This is critical to all healthy conflict in marriage — refusing to shift the blame and accepting whatever responsibility you can. […]

Paul Tripp said, “[Y]our biggest problem is not the imperfection of your spouse.”

No, the biggest problem in most of our marriages is us. And really, the only person we can control is us. We can’t change our spouses. (Haven’t you figured that out yet?) Only God can do that. So the only thoughts, actions, and words we can control are our own. Let’s ask ourselves, then, what we can to take responsibility in the midst of conflict. By owning our part, we can stop the escalation of conflict.

I can say unequivocally that anytime I work to take responsibility during conflict, even if my wife is more at fault, it always ends well. It really is amazing.

7. You need personal time.

Five years ago, you could have put me on a billboard to advertise the word extrovert. I was the most outgoing person my wife had ever met. But recently, something has happened: I’ve become a closet introvert. Whereas I used to crave getting together with people, now I find myself just wanting to retreat to my workshop, hop on my motorcycle, or do yard work to recharge. When it first started happening, I thought something was wrong with me.

But the truth is, since I’ve been married, I’ve realized that I need personal time away. I need to just be, to just think, to just not have to be “on.” And when I do that regularly, I’m a better husband.

For some people, personal time means hanging out with friends, for others it means curling up at Starbucks with a book. But whatever way you recharge, do it! And don’t feel guilty. It’s important to develop and exercise interests outside your spouse. That doesn’t mean you skirt your responsibilities or don’t have hobbies together. But find time to work on you. I’ve found working on me makes a better us.

***

Here’s to many more years and many more lessons.

Do you want to hear another incredible story about marriage? Check out this short film.

Seidl is the editor-in-chief at I Am Second. Follow him on Twitter (@jonseidl) Instagram (@jonseidl), and Facebook (Jonathon M. Seidl).

mom

A little over ten years ago her body was behaving strangely. I remember it well because, at the time, my husband and I lived next door to my parents.

I remember getting home from work and walking the dirt path that connected my backyard to theirs. I remember going into the house through their back door and sensing a heavy fog of uncertainty and frustration as she and my dad sat in the unknown of her mysterious lack of health.

Then she got the diagnosis: Parkinson’s.

It was handed to her like a new script for her life.

It was as though Parkinson’s itself entered our family as an obnoxious and unwelcome guest, forcing itself on my mother and saying to her, “here you go, here’s the new you,” and as hard as my mom fought against accepting her new role, the forcefulness at which it was thrown at her made it unavoidable.

As the days passed by, they took with them the ease of daily mundane tasks.


Parkinson’s did its darnedest to steal away all joy and hope and in all honesty, some days it succeeded. 


Things such as vacuuming, grocery shopping and walking across the room became huge, steep mountains my mom was forced to climb, or tumble down trying. Parkinson’s did its darnedest to steal away all joy and hope and in all honesty, some days it succeeded.

This was the life my mom had no choice but to live in.

Frankly, it sucked.

Her new life now consisted of neurologists, tiny red, blue and opaque pills, special diets, and a motorized scooter. For a time in the beginning years of her diagnosis, friends and family would call daily offering her fragments of hope,

  • “Did you watch Doctor Oz yesterday? He said a cure for Parkinson’s is less than ten year away.”
  • “Did you see the interview with Michael J. Fox? Look how active he is.”
  • “Here, try this supplement/herb/essential oil.”

But this strange illness trying to take over my mom’s life did not seem to care about scientific advancements, and the supplements, special diets and essential oils, which never seemed to do the job they claimed they could do. The offers of hope being thrown my mom’s way always seemed to fall flat.

We quickly had to realize we could not place our hope in doctors or medication, in special diets or scientific breakthroughs.

The only place for our hope to find a home was the very place it sprang from—Jesus.

Maybe you are in a place of hopelessness today.

Maybe, like my mom, you are battling an illness that is trying to take over your very life.

Or maybe your hopelessness is in the form of a severed relationship, loss of control, unmet expectations. All of us have either been there or will be there at some point in our lives. Here are some things to remember when hope seems so far away:

  • Hope is a choice: Some of us are clinging to hope like a lifeboat, holding on tight with both hands, trying to pull ourselves onboard. For others, hope is the pin sized hole of light at the end of an all-consuming tunnel. Either way, we’ve got to hold on. It’s one step in front of another, breath in, breath out, repeat. If there is one thing my mom has taught me during the past ten years of Parkinson’s, it is that you cannot have hope if you do not choose it.
  • God is a God of Hope: While hope is a choice, there will be moments when choosing hope seems impossible. I know for my mom, and for our whole family, there were moments, especially early on, when the only feelings floating around our lives was one of hopelessness. I believe in those moments we need to remember, God is a God of hope and He has already chosen us. When it is seemingly impossible to choose hope, have peace siting in His good graces and His love for us. The hope will come…it really will.
  • It’s okay not to be okay: So you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed or frustrated. It’s okay. Maybe you’re going through something where one day you feel great and the next as though you are falling off a cliff, it’s okay. Sometimes trying to fix a tough situation is more difficult than just sitting in it and letting things be hard. Hard is not necessarily bad, sometimes it’s just hard. So often the hope we are looking for is waiting for us there, in the muck and the mud. My mom told me that once she sat in the hard, muddy places Parkinson’s forced her into, she discovered beauty in the form of compassion and empathy. Sometimes the only way to discover hope is by sitting in the dirt from which it blooms.

Today, my mom still has Parkinson’s.

But because of the hope she has in Jesus, Parkinson’s does not have her.

The past ten years have taught her hope is going to win, every single time.

She knows this life is a blink and she knows from where her hope comes. She has learned and taught me along the way, when you place your hope in Jesus, no matter how far away it may seem, it is always right there.

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

reflectWhat happens when your story hasn’t turned out like you wanted? When you feel there is a part of your story that you wish you could erase or edit out somehow yet no matter how hard you try, it’s there reminding you … accusing you.

I can feel good about where I am in my story and then, out of nowhere, something reminds me of harmful decisions I made in the past and shame hits me like the turkey buzzard that flew into my car on the interstate this summer. Feathers exploded 50 feet into the air like a giant pillow fight and cost me $2,500.00 in damage, though the bird fared a lot worse.


It’s difficult to see ourselves truthfully.


One of the most painful things about looking back is the realization that those decisions reflected on who I was, or the greater fear, who I am.

It’s difficult to see ourselves truthfully.

It means facing the dark part of our hearts. The reward from it brings us to a place of humility and to feel the need for mercy, which is exactly where you want to be when you are rewriting your story.

Having done everything “right” does not make your life a success.

In fact there are two ways you and I can be alienated from God: one is by being very bad and the other by being extremely good (from The Prodigal God by Tim Keller). Seeking to feel good or be good, both seek independence from God.

Instead let the events of your life, whatever they are, bring you to see your absolute dependence on God, who has always used people with messy lives to do significant things.

If you (or someone you know) struggle with feeling not good enough because of things you did or things done to you, below are some steps that helped me find freedom and the courage to rewrite my story.

I hope they are helpful for you.

1. Change can only begin from where I am, not where I pretend to be. Instead of avoiding that part of your life, step into it and write about it. Journal about what you felt, what you did, what you thought, maybe even the “craziness” of it. Explore your actions with honesty, not denial. God can do amazing things with a heart of confession.

2. Find someone safe and exchange being “real.” What we long for more than anything else is to be truly known; yet what terrifies us more than anything else is to be truly known. Shame is healed when we share who we really are (and have been) with each other and find acceptance.

3. “Who is this guy?” Start reading Matthew – John in the New Testament just to get to know who Jesus is. Maybe even begin with Matthew chapter 5 and imagine sitting on a hilltop hearing Jesus begin to talk. Listen for the compassion He has for people with broken stories throughout those books. When I began to see His eyes of compassion I began to trust His grace.

4. Avoid comparing yourself. When I compare myself with others there is always someone bigger or smaller; I’ll feel resentment or arrogance depending on where I look.

5. Pray. This is hard when we feel shame; we often avoid God instead. Literally get on your knees and pray that God will use your story in the lives of other people with messy stories. Your “broken” story may be the only one someone else can hear when they know you understand what they’re going through.

6. Make amends to people you have harmed, if possible, once you have done some of the things above and you can see yourself more clearly. However, don’t do it until you can let go of what you want from the person. Some very good ideas on how to do this can be found in 12 step recovery material.

Albert Schweitzer said, “The tragedy is not that a man dies, the tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.

Live!

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

forever

“Love conquers all.”

But does it….really?  It’s a sweet phrase that we like to put on posters and hang in our kitchens and even preach from our pulpits, but the problem is it’s a phrase that doesn’t ring true.

Love doesn’t conquer all, and we see that evidenced by the disastrous divorce rates both inside and outside of our church.

Today, most men and women go into marriage with high hopes, but slim to none with regard to preparation, and end up struggling through the pain of an unhealthy, dysfunctional, even catastrophic marriage situation.

Marriage is not an easy journey, and when the rubber meets the road, those who go into it ignoring the warning signs will always reap the harsh reality of the seeds they’ve sown.

Notice, It’s not an IF….it’s a WHEN.


But the thing about marriage is, it’s not something we take lightly, though we live in a culture that might think so.


But the thing about marriage is, it’s not something we take lightly, though we live in a culture that might think so. Marriage isn’t optional. It’s a binding covenant made between two people and the Lord, in which we’re given the responsibility and privilege of choosing a partner for life. And so it’s up to no one but us to make sure we choose well.

As a professional counselor, I’ve worked with far too many broken individuals and have endured one too many heart-breaking marriage counseling sessions not to graciously ask you to rethink your decision to get married if you and/or your fiance exhibit any one of the following signs:

You’re having major, recurring, obsessive doubts: 

When it comes to love, almost every single person will have a doubt at some point in their relationship. It’s normal to have moments of doubt, to get cold feet every once-in-awhile, and to feel a little nervous when it comes to thinking through the potential of lifelong marriage. But in a healthy relationship, time will always decrease doubts and fears. As time passes, the level of doubt and fear should not increase, but decrease. As you see your partner’s traits and qualities slowly unfold, the right relationship will move you into peace not panic.

If you’re having constant, recurring, obsessive doubts it’s a signal that either something is wrong in the relationship, or something is wrong within your self. Maybe it’s your personal past or baggage holding you back and causing you fear (see point #5), or maybe there’s something going on in the relationship that’s continually causing you to rethink your decision. But either way, recurring, constant doubts are never something you should ignore.

You’re caught in patterns of unhealthy conflict and communication:

I always say that communication is the life-line of a relationship. Your words are a pathway into your soul, and being able to connect on a daily basis is an important part of marriage. If you find yourself in a relationship where communication doesn’t come easy, and where things tend to escalate into unhealthy patterns of unresolved arguments and unhealthy conflict, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself if this is really something you want to commit to for the rest of your life.

You see continued signs of major character flaws:

In my book, True Love Dates, I explain that in a healthy relationship perfection is not the goal, but rather, perspective. But there are times in a relationship when things are actually FAR from perfect. If you’re in a relationship in which you’re seeing patterns of unhealthy behaviors emerge, there’s a good chance these behaviors are going to stick around for the long haul. Things such as dishonesty, rage, infidelity, addictions, and the like are patterns that point to a deeper issue. Without a doubt, these things need to be dealt with and overcome before you should ever enter into marriage.

Your most trusted friends and family are giving you repeated warnings to rethink your decision:

When it comes to relationships, oftentimes we’re blinded by love. There could be flaws and red flags that we don’t see because our emotions are leading the way. But an important component to a healthy marriage is having a supportive community: people who love you, believe in you, and support your relationship. Friends and family often see things that we’re blind to. So if you find yourself in a relationship in which your friends and family aren’t on board, I would highly suggest you take their feedback into consideration. Invite some trusted people to speak into your life, and then take the time to listen to what they’re saying before you move forward in haste.

You have significant emotional or psychological baggage that you’ve ignored in your personal life:

Like I said before, none of us are perfect. We all have habits and hangups that we’re dealing with and trying to move away from. But there are some issues that are more severe than others and can actually get in the way of a healthy relationship. If you find that your past baggage, or current habits, sins, and struggles are getting in the way of your ability to function well in a relationship, you need to take the time to work on yourself before you try and work on your relationship. In True Love Dates, I discuss the importance of “dating inward” as a significant part of the equation of a healthy relationship. Deal with your past baggage, understand your identity in the present, and cast a vision for your future. Because you will always attract a relationship that’s on YOUR level of psychological and emotional health.

This blog post originally appeared on True Love Dates and was republished with permission. 

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from over 150 articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

whitehousenight

(Photo source: WordSwag)

I write about the news for a living and I will be honest with you: It has not been a fun year. I’m sitting here watching a TV monitor filled with images of Americans screaming at each other over a canceled political rally in Chicago. All I can think about is what this is doing to my soul. Quite frankly, I want to give up on politics altogether.

This is not going to be a post about whether or not you should vote for a certain candidate. I’m not even going to offer a bold critique or endorsement of anyone’s polices. I’m just going to be honest: It is breaking my heart to see people so demonstrably divided over issues that we’re supposed to be fixing together. And it’s even more disheartening to see the dialogue taking place in comment sections across the Internet.

This post is about challenging us to do better. To be better.

The common belief is that you should not get into a discussion about politics because your emotions get involved and emotions are difficult to control. The last part is right, but the middle part is wrong. Yes, emotions can be hard to control. But emotions should always be involved in any discussion you have; they just have to be the right emotions. Hatred, vitriol, and disrespect aren’t those.


What I am saying is that we have to be better to each other when we do disagree.


I’m not trying to say, “Why can’t we all just get along.” I’m not. We will have disagreements, and differences of opinion are vital to society. But what I am saying is that we have to be better to each other when we do disagree.

There is an old story about Jesus regarding a fight that broke out among some of his closest followers. They were arguing about who was the “greatest” of them all. Jesus’ response wasn’t at all what they were expecting.

“The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves,” He said. “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

It really is a beautiful moment: The God of the universe referring to himself as a servant.

Whether you are a Christian or not, don’t you think we’d all be a little better off if we served one another? Now think about what that could look like in the context of this election season.

The next time you engage with a supporter of a politician you may disagree with remember that there is a real person behind those opinions and beliefs. That person may be hurting or they may be in need (and not because they disagree with you, but because they’re people). Those needs should come before our desire to express an opinion.


I must be careful with my words and I have to pray for the people that I disagree with.


I’ve been broken by this election. I am a loss as to what to write about or what to say. I can’t make predictions anymore and I can’t provide a thoughtful analysis without repeating myself. But I am so grateful that I have learned this: I must be careful with my words and I have to pray for the people that I disagree with. Being a Christian is incredibly difficult, and I am failing more often than not. But Christ has given me a responsibility to love others, and I am an ambassador for Him.

No matter what images come across my TV or my computer screen, my goal is not to misrepresent Him. No matter how angry, heartbroken, or disgusted I get.

David Podhaskie is a legal writer who lives in New York with his wife, Elisabeth.

friendspark

My husband and I were talking in the car the other day, and he said something about a friend of ours. He said, “She’s really good at being a friend.”

And in the silence, we were thinking of a couple people we love very much but who, frankly, are not so good at being friends.

They are our friends, certainly.

Which means we share history and care about one another and are always happy to see each other, but when it comes down to it, they don’t DO what good friends DO very often.

And, of course, that led us into a conversation about all the ways we don’t always DO what good friends DO either. Because it doesn’t matter how you feel in your heart about your friends—what matters is showing those feelings through words and actions.


What matters is communicating that love in a way that they can understand and feel that love.


Aaron had a college professor who said over and over, “It doesn’t matter how much you love your kids. What matters is communicating that love in a way that they can understand and feel that love.”

And the same is true for friendship.

As it is true for marriages and all relationships.

It’s so easy for me to feel warm, loving thoughts about friends or family members… and then go on about my day, never reaching out, sending a text, or setting a date to connect.

I think about them all the time, pray for them, and watch the details of their lives spool out over Facebook—first day of school photos, last moments of summer photos. I feel connected and warm, full of affection for these lovely people.

But how on earth would they know that?

Anyway, back to that original conversation in the car about the person who’s good at showing love and the one who’s not so good at showing it.

We were on our way to a birthday party for me, and after dinner each person toasted my birthday and said one kind word about me. The not-so-good friend blew my mind, saying something so lovely and sweet and meaningful, something that I had no idea she felt about me.

How often is that happening in our lives? The things we feel about one another so often go unexpressed, because we’re busy or thoughtless, assuming they know, assuming it’s more than clear.

Is it?

Since that day I’ve been noticing all the times that I think loving thoughts about the people in my life… and then produce no corresponding action to show that love.


I’ve looked people in the eye and said, “I love you. I’m thankful for you.”


Since that day, I’ve sent more texts and emails, a couple old-fashioned letters. I’ve scheduled a walk and a coffee and a dinner. I’ve looked people in the eye and said, “I love you. I’m thankful for you.”

Because at the end of the day, Aaron’s professor is exactly right: It doesn’t matter how much you love someone. What matters is that they know it.

So let’s do it: who are you going to show love to today? Text, email, phone call, love letter. What would being good at being a friend look like in your life today?

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

Ries tells his story to a church. (Source: YouTube)

Ries tells his story to a church. (Source: YouTube)

Ryan Ries is a professional skateboard team manager who used to be the opposite of a family man. Heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy were all as essential as oxygen to him. That is until he found faith. His life changed dramatically, and he soon found himself married and trying to have kids.

But as with so many couples, Ries and his wife Crystal were unsuccessful. Like his life, that soon changed drastically, and the story’s conclusion is just awesome.

Here’s taste.

During Ries’ wild days, his girlfriend got pregnant. As he says in an I Am Second video, that woman then had an abortion. But in a new video he explains how that same woman actually got pregnant again, only to have yet another abortion. And those abortions combined resulted in the death of not two, but three babies. That’s because the second one involved twins.

Fast forward to today. After resigning themselves to the idea that they would not be able to have kids of their own, Ryan and Crystal found out they had gotten pregnant on the last try. But they weren’t just pregnant with one child, they were pregnant with three. And not just three, but the second two were twins.

Coincidence? Well, that’s not how Ryan describes it.

“You may think this is coincidence, but I see it as 100 percent God doing God business,” Ryan told I Am Second after a long night with the triplets. “This is the creator of the universe doing what he does. He makes the impossible possible.”

“God gave me the identical twins and the fraternal [child] all in one,” Ries says in the new video. “Which is insane!”

Watch him talk about it below:

You can also check out his I Am Second video where he talks about his past life, and transformation, in detail:

Learn more about Ryan here and his group, The Whosoevers, here.