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What Valentines Should Be About

Today is valentines day.

A day to recognize the significance and importance of any and all relationships, both present and past.
A time to reflect on those who have made an impact and let them know the significance of impact they have had in your life. Many people often single out a spouse, fiance, significant other, or best friend, but today is about more than just one person—today is about a multitude of people.

Today is about showing gratitude to those who support you (both past and present). Valentines day is about telling your family how much you love and appreciate them being there for you when you failed a college course or lost somebody you love. It’s about their support when you learned to fly, leaving the nest and jumping off into the air of possibility when your wings were not yet strong enough to carry you; you fell to the ground. Your delicate dreams may have been shattered and broken, knocked from the pedestal by the academics you pursue. They helped you put the pieces things back together. They loved and accepted you regardless of your performance.

The only person valentines day is not about, is you. Though valentines day is supposed to be about someone else, ultimately we wind up focusing on ourselves. We may concern ourselves with whether or not we will be anyone else’s valentine. We concern ourselves with how other people will receive the gifts we give them on this special day; whether they will really appreciate the thought and effort that went into the gift you gave them. Or perhaps we will not be grateful for the gratitude that is shown to us because they did not give us a gift, their gift wasn’t what we wanted, or even because we think that the gift does not signify the importance of the relationship.

If you are bitter, jealous, angry, or sad today, take a moment to step back from your perception of the world and think about what it looks like to others. What does your brother consider loving? How does your mother feel appreciated? What really shows your peers, co-workers, or mentors what they mean to you? The real take home is asking yourself, “What does this person perceive as loving and how can I do that?” I don’t do this as often as I should, it can be really hard—emotionally draining in fact—not to mention it takes a great deal of vulnerability.

Love everybody. Does this seem a bit disingenuous? We tend to ascribe value to things based on scarcity. If a lot of people love someone, however, that person in return only loves a few, it really means something to be loved by that individual because they only share it with a few. On the other hand, if a lot of people love someone, and in return they love everyone back, their love is considered as less valuable. I find myself attempting to place a value on the relationship I share with someone based on how much support I receive, how often we talk, or even how much we are alike… but the reality is every relationship is different. You can’t really compare your relationship between you and your mother and you and your best friend. There is nothing for you to measure the value of the relationship against. We should show everyone how much we love or care about them—no matter what.

Love in a way that they can see. If you asked a thousand people what love is, you might get a thousand different answers; everyone has their unique take on things. We tend to forget that we as a people are different. We don’t all share the same definitions, values, beliefs or passions. We all have our differences, and it is out of those differences that our  world is built. Love them in a way that really connects and shows your understanding about them. Take their interests into account, as well as yours, blending together a unique flavor of love.

So as you go about today, remember to show gratitude to everyone in a way that they can see.


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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. Belief: 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. Reason: 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. Circumstance: Do you have class, athletics, service, work, or some other point of contact? Your shared circumstances serve as a starting point for the relationship. If the relationship itself is the focus, chances are feelings will develop.
  4. Accountability: It’s 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 environment that keeps you accountable 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: 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. Honesty: At some point in time you will have friends of the opposite sex in which feelings start developing and you will have to decide to pursue a deeper relationship 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.. if not, but feelings persist, consider changing the dynamic or stepping back.
  7. Maturity: 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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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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Mistakes, Regrets, and Moving on.

I’ve made lots of mistakes, this past year is no exception. Relationships, goals, college, internship, sports—I’ve had plenty of opportunities to screw up—and screw up I have.  I swept conflict under the rug, wasn’t  involved at church, dropped the ball at work, was a selfish in relationships, and wasn’t moving towards my goals.  I should have moved out after my freshman year of college, changed churches sooner, worked harder to develop better connections at work, and been more selfless in my relationships. I messed up, but what did I do about it?

At first I wallowed in guilt and shame. I threw a pity party for myself. I was a victim and life wasn’t fair. Then I woke up to the reality I was living in and took responsibility; I made the changes I could. I learned to handle conflict more effectively, became more involved at church, contributed wholeheartedly at my internship, did what was best in my relationships, and selected a career path. I took advantage of every failure as an opportunity to grow, becoming more mature, developing stronger character and finding my passion for people. I reflected about what happened and the choices I had made. I asked the hard questions and challenged myself to grow closer to God throughout this time. What steps had I been taking?

James 1:2-4 (one of my favorite passages) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” The mistakes we make are those times of trouble, providing us with the opportunity to endure and grow in our faith! So let’s take advantage of all the opportunity we have, both in our success and failure.

Grow from your mistakes.

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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?

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College Involvement Thus Far

Three weeks ago I started school; my first year at Central Michigan University.I felt like a freshman again, excited and full of apprehension in the early weeks. Would I be able to get to all of my classes on time, find a way to manage my homework, and still have somewhat of a social life? So far I think I’m doing well in those categories. I have an old bike which saves me lots of time getting to class (which I will miss when snow comes). As far as managing my homework, I forgot about an assignment for the first time this past week, but after shooting my professor an email, he graciously gave me an extension.

The social life is definitely there. I decided to keep attending the Mt pleasant Community Church and get involved in a greater degree than I was last year.  I work in Kids life, leading a 3rd grade class during the first service every week (it can get a bit chaotic, but is rewarding). I also decided to commit to being a small group leader for the high school students in Student Life in our church. I wanted to have that mentor-mentee kind of relationship, helping young men navigate through some of the difficulties of life. I’m excited to see what happens.

The third church group I am involved with is Ulife (so much life, I know ;)! In Ulife I’m a small group leader and seeking to continue developing myself as a leader. Other church leaders pour into and support me, I’m able to join in christian ‘koinonia‘ (corporate worship with other believers), and be challenged to keep growing.

Outside of the church I am involved in something called ‘Alpha’s—a 5 week seminar that is put on by the Leadership institute. Last week was the first seminar; we were assigned to a team with two facilitators, and created our team name, cheer, and goals. We played a get-to-know-you game where one person stood in the middle with a noodle, trying to hit the person whose name was called, before that person called another person’s name (confusing, I know). We also spent some time getting to know each other. Judging from past experience, I think this is going to be a good team.

I have two groups for classes. One is for my small groups com class, we’re working on a project together. Another group (which I like a bit better), is for my leadership class. We will be raising money for a charity in honor of one of our classmates who passed away a little after our first week of classes (I’ll probably write about it in the future). I think I like this group a lot better because we’ve established some good roles, generated ideas, and made significant progress. I feel we have a really supportive environment in which we all feel we can share our ideas equally. My COM group hasn’t spent much time together outside of class.

On top of this there are a few other small communities I’m involved in, and more still I’m interested in joining.