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Are you listening? 

Listening: give one’s attention to a sound; take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request; make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something. 

In recent years, mostly since the pandemic began, I have become aware that the people I had been most comfortable speaking to – i.e., bearing my soul to – are not good listeners. Not only that, there’s no evidence they take the time to hear any of the words I actually speak. 

All my relationships have relied heavily on telephone time for the last twenty years. None transitioned to social media well. I’ve rarely been in the same space or state with family or friends for well over a decade.  

Nearly two years ago, I returned to Milwaukee where I lived for high school and college, for what was supposed to be a summer stay. My goal was to purchase, renovate and flip a property while spending time with my sister. For nearly twenty years prior, home had been elsewhere. There were two old friends I had maintained contact with over the years. I had last seen them both in 2018. Neither were interested in connecting upon my return. After the initial sting, I was and am completely okay with that. Above all else I did not want to get wrapped up in the lives of people who hadn’t grown much in twenty years. My focus was my first real estate investment project and seeing where that would lead.   

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Third Trimester: Stretching for Home

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

If life is a full term pregnancy processing us for birth into the afterlife, then I met Charlene B. Ware during her third trimester. Life is its own master course and we all become the product of our beliefs, choices, and actions while running our own great race.

When I met Charlene, she was nearing the end of several stages. Retirement was approaching, her second marriage was unraveling, and the West would soon be calling. Charlene was transitioning fully into her third trimester of life with all cylinders on change. So, I was blessed to meet a woman in the prime of her life who was embracing the unknown with joyful anticipation. She had been married, had divorced, and raised two children while working full-time.

Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

When I make friends, I tend to befriend the whole family on some level. I met Cherre during my college internship twenty-three years ago. Shortly after she introduced me to her Mama, Charlene. I don’t remember a lot of our first conversation details, but I do remember her warmth, welcome, familiarity and a whole bunch of shared laughter. When we met, I was nearing the end of my first trimester of life and was gifted with a bird’s-eye view of Ms. Charlene as she was entering her home stretch.

Being able to witness her fearless, vivacious approach to life has been a beautiful experience. Nearly twenty years ago, Ms. Charlene spread her wings in preparation of exploring freedom – life after work, life after divorce and a technical empty nest, life as a full-time grandma, and life as a pensioned retiree in the Valley of the Sun. I met her when joy came easy, and laughter was free flowing. That’s how I know her. This is how she is remembered.

In the society we are formed in, life offers only three widely accepted stages for women: daughter, wife, mother. Though variations abound, they are rarely respected or appreciated. Women who don’t hit and hold all three marks are seen as lacking. This shortsightedness can prevent us from embracing our true selves and growing into our promise. Fortunately, some brave souls can free their minds and unchain their souls from societal conventions and allow their eternal light to manifest in their mortal lives.

The young woman who left home chose to hold on to close relationships throughout her life. Ms. Charlene’s sense of personal liberation allowed her to choose love and marriage again yet still not be broken by its heavy yoke. The self-knowledge and awareness needed to live her best life guided her. Not only did she decide to live in a completely different environment from her first and second trimesters, her secret to thriving as a transplant in the desert was being within close proximity of the true loves of her life, Napoleon and Cherre.

Love and relationship are the ties that bind all the stages of Charlene’s life together. You don’t get to live such a vibrantly full life without committing wholeheartedly to your choices and their harvests. This willingness to embrace life, come what may, made room for the people she met along way – friends who were embraced like family, neighbors who were embraced as friends, and of course the family she loved as extensions of herself.

She departed how she lived: surrounded and embraced by the love of her children.

If we truly believe that what we bind on earth will bind us in heaven then Charlene B Ware prepared her whole life for her life beyond (Matthew 18:18). May she rest well in the embrace of her Creator.

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
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People who hide themselves are impossible to know.

A long-term friend is coming for her first visit to New York City next week. I really didn’t think the visit would happen (it still may not) because she’s never made the effort to do anything really in our friendship. Even when I lived in the same city, she visited my home maybe one time. When I visited her from NYC over the last thirteen years, she has never wanted to leave her home. I’ve a l ways had to see her in her space.

We began as work friends. We met nearly twenty years ago in Milwaukee, WI when I was an intern at a company she was temping at. There were two other women on the floor we bonded with during our time at that company. Of the four, she and I have remained in contact.

When I think back on the tenure of this relationship, I see how I was willing to be a friend, comforter and aid for many years. I openly shared my own growing pains, failures, successes and hopes. I overshared, actually. For the past twelve years, she has only shared her bitterness, anger and resentment – fruit from a broken relationship. About ten years ago, I told her I couldn’t take any of it anymore. I was her dumping ground for everything negative in her life. Most interactions with her have drained me of energy. So we spoke less and less. Her anger towards her ex is always simmering at an explosive level below the surface. Nearly every conversation has circled back, involved or alluded to him for the last twelve years. To be fair, however, she can be the best hype person. Geeking me up when I shared good news or was uncertain of a decision I had to make usually gave her unchallenged space to introduce her unchanging gripes about her ex’s activities.

All this to say, all I know about my friend of nearly twenty years is her anger, bitterness, resentment and lack of gratitude.

I’ve been chasing her all week for a list of things she would love/like/hope to see/do on her first visit to New York City which is to celebrate her 50th birthday.

It took her three days to text a generic list that reads like the top ten free things to do in a NYC google search. I worked on researching and mapping out an agenda for her visit based on this list for a whole afternoon before I realized that if I allow her to not show up for herself, we would both be wasting our time and I’ll be wasting my money since I’m hosting.

So I texted her and told her I needed her true preferences, not a generic top ten. To which she responded, “I trust you. Anything would be great.” Her short, dishonest text, triggered this post.

She can’t trust me to know what she likes because she has never shared any of her likes, loves or joys with me. At least not in recent memory. She has hidden herself away in anger and hatefulness for so long, no one can see anything else. It’s very sad to realize I’m unsure of how to celebrate someone I’ve “known” for so long for a milestone birthday. Should I spurge on Broadway tickets? If so, to what type of show? Does she really want to visit a church during her Thursday-Saturday trip or was that on the list for my benefit? New York City literally has something for everyone at all income levels, including free. All I’m asking for is a general direction to go in. She can’t give me that. She refuses to give herself that.

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord . They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord . They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. ~ Jeremiah 17:5-10

Imagine. I want to celebrate her. I want to show her a good time. I want to bless her. Yet she refuses to do her part which is simply to open enough to receive.

She says she believes in God and she tries to live a solid Christian life, but her hardheartedness gives to lie to her belief. You can’t hold on to God and trust Him with your life when you’re wholeheartedly holding on to anger, bitterness, and resentment.

I’ve been telling her for years that the Word of God is hard for her to digest because she doesn’t listen. Everything has to be her way. She has to be in control. And she absolutely hates the fact that she has no control over the household of her ex, the father of her children. I hang on because her children are my Godchildren. They have long brought me joy and I can’t comprehend how she isn’t overflowing with joy, gratitude and a gracious, forgiving heart for the gifts she received in the form of her two children.

The bigger picture here is that God wants to bless her. Indeed, He already has. Not just with her children but in so many countless ways over the years. I’ve seen it. People show up in her life in so many capacities, I have to tamp down a bit on jealousy every once in a while. She says she’s grateful for the blessings, when she’s willing to acknowledge them. But she doesn’t act like she’s grateful. Her behavior doesn’t change. Her countenance doesn’t lift. Her anger doesn’t dissipate. Her attacks on her ex continue.

Those who believe in Him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” ~ John 3:18-21

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Why so prejudiced against Christians?

imagesCAAUGX5RI’m always shocked how quickly and completely people pre-judge me simply because I profess my belief and faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. After they know that about me, it’s like they deem me unworthy of getting to know. Suddenly, I have no opinions other than what’s popularly known, assumed or guessimated about the Bible. I have no sense of humor. I have no aspirations other than the second coming of the Lord. I’m one-dimensional. I’m unfair. A religious nut. A fanatic. A homophobe. Perhaps a racist or classist. Certainly superior. Irrational. Unintelligent. Unable to think for myself.  A know-it-all with a straight line to God. Misguided. Simple-minded. A target. Object of pity. Innocent. Naïve. Someone to take advantage of because forgiveness is a way of life. A non-sinner. Incapable of understanding struggle. Unacquainted with sin or sinful thoughts. A paragon at avoiding temptation. Self-righteous and overly ripe. I’m sure the list of assumptions and judgments continue endlessly, but these are some I’ve been confronted with.

Recently, I had a Facebook exchange with someone who just assumed I was in opposition to something that she supported simply because of my “religion”. This was our first exchange on the topic and her only comment to me about it. The first time I met her is the last time I saw her, about five years ago at an event. In the same comment she mentioned an appreciation of our “friendship”.

imagesCA4G8RUZThat’s the second thing that hit me after being pre-judged based on my faith life: What friendship? Friends communicate with one another. They take the time to get to know each other. Friendships are long-term relationships that grow DESPITE what we learn about the other person. A friend doesn’t learn one thing about their “friend” and stop learning. Stop speaking. Stop sharing. Stop growing and exploring the relationship. In other words, friendships are not based on pre-judgments. Friendships are based on openness and a willingness to get to know another person and accept them as they are. To share that person’s present reality and perhaps aid them in their future dreams. Friendships deepen with each new character aspect we learn about the other person and through each trial and challenge that is overcome together in the relationship.

Don’t claim to be my friend if you can’t even accept or respect me as a faith-filled person.

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A Taste of Partnership

The former head of my department at work implemented what he called the “two-partner” approach to problem solving. He encouraged his managers to call on each other to talk through difficult or complex issues. He assured them that the process of talking through the problem would yield perspectives and solutions that the solo person never would have considered. 

In the single female world, we call our girlfriends when we need to two-partner. But I’ve come to learn that girl talk is still one-sided as it is only a female perspective. I’ve also come to realize I have long been at a disadvantage without a male perspective to two-partner through issues with.

But God is good. This has been an exceptionally difficult year, but I can look back and see where God provided male voices I could hear, trust and listen to. As I sit here and write, I am exceptionally happy for their words of concern and guidance.

Usually, I am quick to say that I don’t have any male friends, but as I review this post, I see that there have been men who have stood as a friend to me in various situations through the years. They may not be a daily presence in my life, but when they have shown up, they have been fully present for me in that moment. This year, God has allowed some solid men to offer their voice to some of my decisions, dilemmas and transitions, and I must say I’ve been lapping up their words, suggestions and guidance with the eagerness of a leaderless scout following a glowing arrow in the woods.

A couple of years ago, I sat in on some small group Bible studies with an out-reach pastor in the City. Last spring, I sought him out before I left for Israel because I had some concerns and questions that I really needed to talk through. He was a good person to “two-partner” with regarding my desire to go to Israel and all the associated concerns. He asked for a follow-up meeting upon my return and from there we began meeting every other week to discuss any other Biblical topics or themes that came to mind. He has been a blessing. I had prayed long and hard for someone to discuss and explore the Word of God with. Our one-on-one Bible meetings have been incredibly thought provoking and edifying for us both. More than that, knowing that he’s a traditional Bible teacher who doesn’t believe women should be heard from in the assembly of the church (i.e. he quotes 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which says women should be silent in the church and ask their husbands questions at home regarding the teachings) added a very interesting layer to our conversations. To be told by a pastor, who’s been teaching for thirty years, that our discussions have him looking at the Word from different angles encourages me to continue to speak in faith even when entering a conversation with someone who has different viewpoints; when the Holy Spirit is present, understanding will come.     

On the work front, there’s a former colleague who’s been going through huge family growth and transition since we first met three years ago. He provided a voice of reason when I shared thoughts about a cross-country move in the late spring. Based on his experience as a husband and father, he suggested options and scenarios that never crossed my mind. He shared the things he considered when he and his wife made their first big move and when he moved his young family more recently. It was quite eye-opening, hearing the things a man thinks about in such a situation, especially because my own decision to relocate was completely based on my emotions. Sharing with him and hearing his feedback grounded me in a way that I couldn’t manage to ground myself. At the end of our conversation, I said with a little bit of awe, “I really need my own husband; you guys are awesome!”

Over the summer, I was able to connect with an old friend who proved to be a great support in the past. We hadn’t spoken in a while, but from the word, “Hey” it was laugh-therapy with quite a bit of sharing about how our worlds and focus have changed over the years. We spoke about our current challenges and the hopes that were sustaining us. It was nice to “two-partner” with someone who knows how I think and can understand my conclusions without a drawn-out personal history lesson for background. We just jumped right into the listening, guidance and support portions of the conversation. As always, I was uplifted by the exchange. 

There was another co-worker who, for well over a year, heard my gripes, joys and hopes on a regular basis. He listened with attentive ears and offered very insightful council. And more often than not, he shared his own gripes, joys and hopes as well. We were both cheerleaders and receivers to one another – often times in the same conversation.

This fall, I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a social brother I rarely see. We had something of a public disagreement last year via social media. We made up, in a way, via other forms of media. Since then, we’ve seen each other a couple of times in groups and got along well. But when we ran into each other a few weeks ago, he made a point of telling me that my public rebuke “had him feeling some kind of way”…. Even though he understood why I did it and acknowledged that a rebuke may have been necessary, he said he wished I would have pulled him to the side and said my piece offline. I thought about it. I heard him, really I did. I briefly defended myself by stating that I responded to the offense in the same forum that I received it. Then I assured him that, in future, I would endeavor to keep any criticisms for private conversation.

I don’t know about you, but that was huge for me. I’ve been telling people for years that you have to teach people how to treat you. The same holds true for me – I have to be taught how to respond to individuals in a constructive way for my relationship with them. Some people don’t pay attention to my bluntness. Other’s pay attention, but don’t care. Then there are those who hear and care, but would appreciate a softer word to respond to. The fact that we “two-partnered” our own relationship was enlightening and encouraging. What I took away from our conversation was the need to pay more attention to the masculinity in the man. To treat a man’s masculinity as something I wish to nurture rather than destroy.

Last in this short list of men who have given me a taste of two-partnerhood, is the neighbor who speaks to me so comfortably about some of his troubles that his wife has two-partnered with me a couple of times regarding him. He speaks to me of things his wife has told him (and me) that she has no interest in talking to him about or she doesn’t otherwise want to hear. I’m not suggesting this is a good practice to allow or encourage, however, I have learned a valuable lesson from them: I pray that when I marry, I learn to have an open ear and heart for my husband always. I pray I don’t become a woman who poisons the well of communication in my marriage.

The men briefly profiled here have provided positive examples of manhood for me over the past seven years. Looking back on what I’ve learned from my interactions with them, I am able to see that God heard my cry and answered my supplication in my book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey, where I wrote a great deal about how I had no positive examples of marriage while growing up. Throughout the book, it was evident that there was an early and long struggle for me to respect many of the males who had impacted my early life. In my early experience, men did not act like men and I saw no need to treat them as if they were. By the time I published My God and MeI had disposed of all that worn-out baggage and was looking for better experiences for my life.

Now, as I look back on what I term an “exceptionally difficult year”, I see an exceptional shift in my preparation for marriage. God has seen fit to connect me to men whose masculinity is tempered with compassion, humor, vulnerability and wisdom. He connected me to men who communicate and follow-through on their care and concern for my well-being.

I no longer see the negative representatives of manhood from my early life when I think of the man I will partner with. I see a collage made of:

Men who want to be husbands
Men who truly want to become fathers
Men who are actively caring for their children
Men who are dedicated leaders in their home
Men who work hard to provide for their family
Men who want to communicate with their wife
Men who want to share their real selves – the good, the bad and the ugly – with their wife
Men who actually want to be MEN – with all the strength and vulnerability that entails

I see a man who will be a confidant, friend, guide, lover, motivator, protector, provider, supporter, visionary and more to this woman who wants to be the same and more to him.

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Unconditional is a lovely story about a woman’s recovery from hopelessness, a young girl finding her voice after trauma took it from her and a community of children claiming a man as their Papa Joe. It’s also a story of a man who remained a friend and a warrior for those under his care.

If you’re looking for a movie with a good story and message, you’ll enjoy Unconditional.

Two of my favorite quotes from the film are today’s lesson:

Bring hope and change into the life of a child. ~ Papa Joe

No storm can take the sun away. The sun is always shining. You just have to take a walk on the clouds. ~ Sam

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Are you trustworthy?

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  ~ Psalms 19:7

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?

This summer has seen several formerly close friends approach me and ask “to be friends” again. Some asked the question outright; others skirted around the words but were suddenly offering invitations again.

I’ve been cautious with all of them, because they violated the trust I had in them and our relationships. By “trust” don’t mean that they shared confidences outside of our space, I mean that the friend I believed them to be, they proved not to be by their words and actions. I no longer trusted them with my friendship or any part of me I had to contribute to the relationship. Why? Because they had misused what was freely given. The primary issue between us was trust.

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord. ~ Psalms 4:5

The first person to ask didn’t acknowledge her ill treatment of me at all. Our relationship broke four years ago. Throughout this time, we have interacted in social settings without a word being said about the breach in our relationship. Finally, this summer she said she understood that I reacted from my perspective and that was okay, she just wanted to be friends again. As I attempted to explain that it wasn’t just “perspective” it was my experience with her that taught me a hard lesson: I valued her and our friendship more than she did, as proven by her treatment.

From her point of view, she valued me more than I valued her. That was interesting for me to hear. I told her, “I’ve seen what you do for the friends you value. You’ve never done anything for me. Even when I told you I was in a fragile emotional state and needed help, you offered me nothing, but you continued to take.”

She tried to change the subject. She still didn’t want to talk about what led to the breach; she just wanted the breach to mend.

That’s not possible.

God tells us to confess our sins. Confession is a form of conversation. When we confess our sins (offenses) to God and to people, we have to talk about what we did, how our actions affected the relationship, and what we’re willing to do to heal that breach and move forward in the relationship. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us on how to point out a brother/sister’s offense against us. We are to tell them what they did and how it affected us. Jesus continues, “If they listen to you, you’ve gained a brother/sister.” The alternative is, if they don’t listen, we’ve lost them. If someone truly hears you and values you, their behavior will change in respect to your relationship.

If a person is not willing to discuss the affect their wrong-doing had on someone, but they are more than willing to offer excuses for their behavior, then they are not accepting responsibility for their speech and/or actions. They are not truly apologetic. They won’t really change their ways, because they don’t really think their ways are wrong. They think you’re wrong for being so “sensitive” to their behavior towards you.

I asked this first person what friendship meant to her because we were obviously operating from different definitions.

She said it means “fun” to her. “A friend is someone to hang out with and do fun stuff with!”

A friend is much more than that to me. A friend is love, support, availability and comfort… for starters. God is my friend. You have to be more than “fun” to be put in a category that describes my God.

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked. I wash my hands to declare my innocence. I come to your altar, O Lord, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders. I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells. ~ Psalms 26:1-8

The second person called after only a few months of silence and the occasional stilted conversation. She asked for forgiveness for and offense that had already been forgiven. Because there had been no resolution through conversation, she thought I was holding something against her. I wasn’t. I had released the offense and the relationship with my forgiveness – meaning neither had any hold on my thoughts or emotions any more.

She asked me, “I just wanted to know if you wanted to be friends still, because relationships take work. This has been like breaking up with a boyfriend – do I want to try again or not…. I don’t want to put in any work if you’re not even interested in the friendship. You don’t have to say anything now; I just wanted to get that off my chest.” Mmmmm… perhaps, that wasn’t quite a question….

I tried to reply that I didn’t have anything to offer other than what I had already offered in friendship – my sincerity as a person – and if that had been rejected and tossed aside, I didn’t know what she was asking for.

She said she loved me and would always have fond thoughts of me, but if her treatment of me was the only hardship I’ve experienced I was far more blessed than she. Mmmmmm….

I corrected her. She was by far not the only person to take relationship with me for granted. “Many have claimed to love me and proceeded to treat me in ways that didn’t represent love at all. So I have learned to hear peoples’ words as I look to match them to their actions. You’re talking about putting work in, what have you done for this friendship?”

“Well, nothing… yet…. I just wanted to know if I should bother trying.”

“That’s not for me to tell you.”

The conversation with the third person actually took place last fall. This was her second time apologizing for a grievous offense against me, so it wasn’t a long drawn out conversation to get her to stop making excuses for her behavior and stop looking for sympathy for all the sad things in her life. She owned up to her words and her actions and acknowledged the fact that her actions not matching up with her words led to a breach of trust in the relationship. She offered to make amends in order to mend the breach. Almost a year later, I’m still waiting on her to make amends.

I believe amends are necessary when forgiveness has been granted. Making amends is a way of showing your love. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture. It can be as simple as following through on your word the next time you give it. Each action you take to improve a relationship builds trust. When you make amends you are expressing your desire to remain in relationship with the other party.

I want all the breaches of trust to heal in my relationships, I do, but I can only do my part. I can only live up to my word. I can’t live up to the other party’s word, silent expectations, or defend myself against their unfair judgments. Rebuilding trust is a process that begins with a word and is followed by action – doing what you said you would do.

Think about it… that must be why God is so popular! He has performed His Word time and time and time again. We can trust in the Lord because He does what He says he will do. God is the ultimate example for everything we need to know in life, for every behavior we need to learn. When you get stuck on one Biblical principle, you aren’t exploring the totality of God or allowing for all the opportunities for Him to show up in your life. For example, if you’re focused on receiving forgiveness and what that feels/looks like to you, then you’re missing what you should be giving into the relationship once you’ve received the forgiveness you wanted. I’m looking for people to act on what they already have.

The long and the short of it is that the history of the relationships, not just one offense, has led to my no-confidence vote. I do not trust that these people will treat me well. Their brand of “love” is very selfish, very self-seeking. They do not have the love, respect, consideration
and compassion for me that the Bible teaches. I know they’re aware of it, because that’s what they want from me – Godly unselfish love.

The relationship may be stagnant, but I am moving forward. I do my best to live what I believe, so when I am rejected, the light within me is being rejected as well. Jesus taught that when we are not welcome or listened to in a space we are to “shake the dust” of that place off our heels as we leave it. (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). My role is not to convince people that I am worthy of their effort or time to mend the damage they did to
a relationship. My role is to offer the best of me every time I offer any of me.

Think of it this way, we all received forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross – that was the beginning of our work in the Kingdom, not the end. If we just take Jesus on the cross and keep Him there, we miss the whole point and benefit of the saving grace God provided through His sacrificial act and we miss out on all the promises God has made to His chosen. Forgiveness is the beginning of new, improved relationship. It’s not a way back to the former relationship. We have to take our forgiveness and walk forward in faith to give the best of ourselves in the relationships God has blessed us with. We are to give the first and best to God first. From what we offer to Him, He multiplies for us to offer to others.

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. ~Psalms 13:5-6

Anytime is a good time to ask yourself these questions for any relationship you’re laboring in:

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?
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Playing for Change – Stand By Me


This video brought tears to my eyes and clutched quite a few from my heart as well. The power music has to transform, incite, unite, uplift, commiserate, to express our deepest feelings is illustrated in this video collage of street muscians from around the globe.  This seamless collaboration was produced without any of the musicians meeting each other. They just listened to each others words and instruments.

Be a blessing and stand by someone.