ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

LEADING AN INTENTIONAL LIFESTYLE


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Platonic Relationships

(This post is co-written by Luke Dehart and myself)

Growing up I was not your typical boy. I didn’t like to spit, wasn’t interested in sports, nor did I adapt many of the habits other boys did at my age. Not to say I didn’t have male friends, I did, but in a group setting it just seemed so much easier to fit in with girls. I think there were a few reasons for this, the big one being emotionally availability. In small groups at church there is this feeling of expectation, a pressure to share. But when I was in groups of women because of the perceived gender difference it was expected that I be “the tough guy”, allowing me to safely remain emotionally closed off in attempts to protect myself.

They did not ask about how my life was, where my spiritual journey was, or if I was experiencing any difficulties—perhaps because they didn’t think I would respond— feelings are supposed to be discussed with other men, not women.

In church we tend to polarize guy-girl relationships. If we talk to a member of the opposite sex about feelings, we should only do so in pursuing a romantic relationship (with the goal of marriage). If we are hanging out with too many girls, we may be called flirtatious and told to get more guy friends.

Shouldn’t women be able to trust the men that are in their life to be supportive? I think we can do better at this — I can do better at this — Platonic relationships are tricky. Because men and women were created different, communicating effectively and making sure you are on the same page is no easy task.

If you’re interested in having platonic relationships, then there are some guidelines/rules that  you might find helpful. Maintain a safe emotional distance between the other person by deciding not to talk about breakups, romantic interests, or whatever it is that might stir up feelings and jeopardize  the [platonic] relationship.

When platonic relationships bloom, they can be a truly beautiful and beneficial thing, but, how do you know whether or not you should pursue a platonic relationship with some one? Below are some thoughts that may help guide your decision.

  1. Can men and women be friends? You first have to believe it is possible. It wont matter what I tell you, because what you believe, you will.
  2. Why do you want to be friends?  Are you are trying to fulfill an unmet desire for intimacy? I suggest you to fulfill that need elsewhere or else you might find yourself in a one-sided friendship. Forming a friendship with someone you work with is a logical reason.
  3. Do you have the right circumstances? Do you have class, athletics, service, work, or some other point of contact? If the circumstances are not present, it wont work no matter how hard you try. In a non relationally focused way
  4. Be accountable. Accountability is important in all areas of our lives, however, having it is crucial that you are accountable if you plan on being in (or maintaining) a platonic relationship. Create an accountable environment to ensure success. Hang out in group settings, always stay in the public eye, and have those (same-sex) friends who call you out if they believe you act inappropriately, never hang out alone.
  5. History has influence. Have you been friends? Were you romantically involved at one point in time? If so how has your friendship changed, developed, and matured?  Have you found yourself wishing for a romantic relationship with this person? It is difficult to form/maintain a platonic relationship with past romance. Time may heal wounds, but it does not wash memories away. Old feelings usually resurface in some form and will have to be dealt with.
  6. Be honest, at some point in time you will have friends of the opposite sex in which feelings start developing and you will have to decide if you would like to pursue a deeper relationship with that person and date them or not. If you do decide you would like to date the other person, talk to them about it that way you both are on the same page.
  7. Be mature. The biggest problem when it comes to opposite sex friendships (or relationships of any sort) is immaturity. Try to understand why the other person is behaving the way they are. What are they feeling? What has been going on in their life? Use those critical thinking skills that are so often lacking in society, because if you don’t, you probably will end up with a lot of frustration.

    —If you have friendships that do not line up with the guidelines above, I would seriously recommend re-evaluating those relationships and why you are in them.


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Humility not humiliation.

What if we all strive to make everyone feel welcome in our lives? What if we truly dared to be open and transparent, how would that change us? How would the world see us? More importantly, how would that change the world? These are the questions I think about… but today, I want to focus on just one, what if we build others up with our words?

As a Christian, I know my actions will influence the way other people  see Christ. Because when we dare to call ourselves followers of Christ other people believe us, regardless of our actions. However, it is our actions that people use to discern who is trustworthy, honest, fun, genuine, hardworking, generous, and empathetic. Just because I am a Christian does not mean all these things magically come to me.As a human I have a sin nature, a natural love for that which is sinful and displeasing to God. It takes hard work to develop the right habits and change my attitude to keep moving forward—but it can be done. People can and do change—regardless if you see—the way they live their lives.

So why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because our culture sees disrespect as a weapon to wield, to break down their opponents, using their shattered remains to build upon their foundation of confidence.

This a story answers that question:

Anna is five years old, running up the playground steps when she sees other kids playing a game of tag, she gets excited at the thought of being able to play with them and make friends (because when you’re 5 everyone you meet can be your friend)! She asks the boy who was it, lets call him Ron, if she can join. “You can join, but you have to be it first.” Anna quickly accepted the offer to play, as she was full of excitement and a new challenge. But her excitement soon turned into apprehension as Anna quickly realized that she was the only girl playing in this game of tag, and the other boys were a grade older and much quicker than she anticipated. They soon began to ridicule her calling her slowpoke, telling her she should just quit, and even suggesting that boys are better than girls. After a few minutes of not being able to catch anyone, Anna ran over to her mother crying and looking for comfort.

Today is the first day of high school for Ron. He’s been looking forward to this ever since he was in the 6th grade and after his reign on the playground as the most athletic 8th grader he was excited to move on. Although, part of his reign as the most athletic had to do with constantly belittling his peers and using coercive tactics, he thought nothing of it. But after a couple weeks of high school, Ron was sorely disappointed with the way things went. He was no longer the big man and his monopoly on athleticism had dissolved. There were a lot of other kids who were faster, stronger, and even smarter than Ron was; soon he found himself on the other end of the spectrum. In gym class he was bullied and pushed around, told he was stupid, slow, and worthless (much of the same things he spread in his middle school years). As a result he became bitter and hated school. He hated the prospect of learning, it was pointless wasn’t it? He didn’t want anything the hierarchy which he used to be on top of. He thought of suicide at times, struggling to cope with the bullying and the anxiety that it caused.

People told him college would be different, so he held out in hopes that it would be. It was, a bit. The difference was that some people had grown mature and made decisions to become successful. Not as many people were tearing each other apart trying to build themselves up. He met some particular people, in fact, who seemed to do quite the opposite. They were building people up. Ron will call this group of people his friends. After hanging around them so often, Ron found his anxiety disappear as he no longer feared being bullied or rendered socially inadequate. He became confident and open to new things and ideas. After about a year he asked one of the men, Jim, why they were all so different.

“Well” Jim said, “in short the reason I am different is because of someone I met many years ago. This man challenged me to look at my life and what I was living for. He asked me if I was satisfied with what I was doing—I wasn’t. He told me that someone had something better for me. He said that Jesus had something. An accepting love that would wash away all of my past failures.” Jim paused for a moment, looking down then over at Ron shaking his head as if he did not believe the words he was about to say, yet he was grinning ear to hear. “I didn’t believe him at first, so he invited me to his church; I went. After thinking about the message that was shared that Sunday morning—living a purpose filled life—I realized I didn’t have a reason to live.” He paused again as to reinforce the importance of the words he was saying. “Later that afternoon, I called the man who had invited me to church and asked him how to become saved and we prayed together right then and there on the phone.”

Jim looked up towards the sky, it was a bright sunny autumn day. The leaves were changing and a cool Michigan breeze rolled off the water. “That moment my life was changed.” With a brief look of confusion and interest Ron asked, “What do you mean your life was changed?”.
“Up until that moment my life was all about me. I did whatever it took to build myself up, it didn’t matter if I had to break other people down and humiliate them—it was all about me.” He looked down a little; you could hear the regret in his voice. “Because I found God and his love I was changed. I saw that when we were struggling in life we were called to build each other up, encourage one another, and help lift each others burdens. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.”  -Ron accepted Christ as his savior that day.

 

What do you think? “Pfft… It’s just a story, life isn’t like that.” You’re right, this is just a story, the truth is, anything can happen. God can choose to work through us in many ways, ways beyond our wildest dreams! The question is are you living in a way that God would choose to use you? Either your life does look like this or it doesn’t. Either you routinely build others up with your words or you tear them down. Build others up. I can’t count the number of times I see people put down others in order to build themselves up and create some sense of security. It is sickening. What’s worse? How often this happens among Christians. People who claim to follow a loving God, yet are still breaking other people apart to build themselves up.

Do you build others up or do you tear them down? Are you known for your encouraging words, or do people laugh and expect your criticism? Do you dare to call yourself a Christ follower? Live like it and you might be surprised at just how much God does through you.

How could living differently change the world? What if every Christian lived to build others up and share Christ’s love?


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Waiting

I don’t want to wait—I want it now. I want to be done with the mundane so I can move on to important things. I want to spend my time with people I love doing things I am passionate about; connecting with other people, going on trips, and dreaming up ideas. I don’t want to have to wait for the opportunity to become successful, develop character or skills, or feel satisfied or content.  I don’t want to waste my time checking out at the grocery store, waiting to be seen by the doctor, visiting the Secretary of State to renew my license; I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to have to wait for college to be over with because I already know what I want to do with my life (just kidding, I don’t have a plan).

There are many different situations. Knowing how long I have, the end in clear sight, other times it feels like I’m living in a cloud, trying to see through the haze of distractions. Waiting—like sailing—can be full of uncertainty; the wind may blow me swiftly across the water or it may die down leaving me dead in the water.I may wait for days, weeks, months, or years, the answer isn’t always clear. I wait for important things like goals—things I really want to focus on—and I wait for things that don’t seem to matter, or that I don’t even care about. I wait to chase after my passions. I wait for change.

What if I never had to wait again? Would I have more time for the things I love and less stress? Perhaps, but that’s not how life works. The issue isn’t with waiting, it’s my perspective on what waiting really is. Waiting is a choice. I wait at the doctors office because I believe my health is worth it. Waiting shows significance. The longer I am willing to wait for something (or someone) the more important.  My life is filled with lots of waiting, however, I must confess I have not been waiting efficiently. I can get things done while I wait and make much better use of my time.

Be aware and wait with intention. When I schedule an appointment to see my doctor I realize that I will spend time waiting in the office. I prepare by either bringing a book or something else I wish to accomplish. While waiting for something with a more ambiguous timeline—such as marriage—I prepare. Asking couples about their experiences, joys, difficulties and challenges. I seek to consistently work on my character and relationship with God. While waiting on a job opportunity I review my credibility and character, “How can I be the kind of person they would want to hire for this job?” (reflect). I wait proactively, taking the necessary actions rather than rather than being a victim to circumstances.

We are called to wait expectantly and confidently. Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” When we are waiting in our lives we are called to trust in the Lord’s plan confidently; God will provide. However, many people forget the second part. We are to wait expectantly, preparing ourselves for that which we wait for. What are we waiting for? Waiting to graduate so you can start your dream job or career? Waiting for your children to mature so that you can teach them greater things? Are you waiting for your career to advance? Are you waiting on emotional healing from broken relationships? Whatever it is we wait for, we should wait expectantly with confidence.

Prepare yourself and trust in the Lord, he will do the rest.


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Scattering the Seed

Today, I read the parable of the farmer scattering seed (Matt. Ch 13). Growing up in the church, I have heard heard this passage many times.

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13 NIV)

Scattering seed

I’m ashamed to say the parable lost its significance as I recklessly plowed through the word looking for some divine revelation.

“20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

There will be people who never understand, don’t grow deep roots, and or are distracted by the world… Fruitless labors.
Those who understand will grow to have a strong faith are the disciples we should seek to make… Very much worth our time.

Use your time to wisely. Sew the seed among fertile ground. Disciple those who will barer fruit.


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Save the Ones You Can

Save the ones you can. The rest you've got to let go.

A movie came out back in 2006 (The Guardian). It was about a young mans journey through the Coastguard training program and his experiences shortly there-after. The Instructor tells Jake he has to let go of the past; the people who he couldn’t save. He and several of his close friends were driving home one night after a party and the car crashed. Jake was the only survivor. Here is the quote,

” And if I can’t answer that for me, I’m certainly not going to try to answer that for you. Have a seat. I want you to start being a member of this team. The team you have now. You have a gift Jake. You’re the best swimmer to come through this program, hands down, by far, and you’ve got a whole record board to prove it. But you know what I see when I look at it? I see someone fast enough who’s going to get there first. I see someone strong enough who’s going to last. I see someone who can save a life maybe no one else could. You really want to honor the initials on your arm? Then honor your gift. “Save the ones you can Jake. The rest, you’ve got to let go.”

“Save the ones you can.”

 It’s important to remember that in life is insurmountably filled with people in need. We are called to help those people by using the gifts we’ve been given (1 Corinthians 12). Uniquely equipped with different passions and gifts, we are commanded to glorify God; taking advantage of the opportunities God sends our way. Looking back sometimes we can see the ways God prepares us, other times we can’t. Regardless it’s important that we step out in faith and use those gifts and passions we have been given. It might be feeling called to go work at a summer camp with children because you have that desire to work with young people, or it may be befriending someone who God has put in your path. Have faith and step forward.

“The rest, you’ve got to let go.” 

The sad reality about our broken world is that no matter what, we can’t help everyone. We will fail. Opportunities will be missed because we are too busy helping someone else or helping ourselves. There have been many times in my life where I’ve spread myself thin, striving to help people work through difficult issues. I want to be there to support everyone I know, however, that can’t be the case. When we discover we do this we find ourselves maxed out; at a point of exhaustion and may look to God in our despair. We can’t hang onto the pain of this world, there’s too much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge that what happened did, but accept the fact that we can’t help that person in that way. God provides, whether through us and through others; it’s self-centered and wrong to think that if we don’t act, God wont.

So, how do you distinguish who to save and who to let go?