How would you describe your relationship?

“Which One Describes Your Marriage?” (click to read) was a post I read yesterday on the health of marriages. I’m still thinking about it today, and I’d like for you to read it, too. (I think the principles can be applied to all kinds of relationships, don’t you?)

I think the observation of “transactional” is be spot on. I have been there before — subconsciously keeping score on a few things, and it’s miserable. As the post says, it’s subtle. To the untrained eye, it might even look like it’s in the “Thriving” category, especially if you can keep up with pleasantries. However, you really can’t give your whole heart when you are relating to your spouse like that in the slightest.

Getting some advice from my pastor last year about ways *I* needed to alter my thoughts and behavior was life-changing. It was not only refreshing to my marriage, but my outlook in general. Specifically, I was taking things way too personally (especially when Tom would come home from a trip.. I was feeling a bit empty after not seeing him and wouldn’t give him much breathing room) and attributing every little bit of friendly sarcasm, criticism or disagreement as, “He must not really love me…” (Which wasn’t the case at all!)

I also had to realize that my happiness couldn’t primarily hinge on how I related to Tom (What pressure on him! How ‘used’ he must have felt!) but in my relationship with the Lord.

I hope the linked post is helpful to you. Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

If you read it, and realize that you would not place your marriage in the “Thriving” category, please do give me a call or send me a message. I’m happy to listen and to pray with you!

Much love,
Sarah

PS: No matter what you think of the Bible, you’ve gotta admit.. this is a pertinent, truthful description of real love:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered , does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

And, of God’s perfect love for us.. so much that he even came to the earth to die horrifically on a cross (Jesus didn’t pass quietly and peacefully in his sleep!) and pay for our sins with his own life:

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

The Not-Nice Tweet

While I was killing some time in between soccer games this morning (October 6th), the following (re)tweet showed up on my feed:

Jesus didn’t call you to be nice. He called you to be good. There’s a difference. “Holy” and “righteous” aren’t the same as “nice.” @TravelingMead

*20* People had retweeted it.

I sent it to my feed with the comment,

Kind? Tenderhearted? “@TravelingMead: Jesus..called you to be good. There’s a difference. “Holy” and “righteous” aren’t the same as “nice.””

And then, more directly, I replied:

That’s probably one of the most bullshit lines I’ve ever heard about Christianity. Do you write catchy church signs, too?

:D

First of all, I’m pretty sure Pastor Mead’s a godly man. It probably wasn’t entirely fair to him, a complete stranger, for me to treat him this way without at least first offering him a cigar and some bourbon. Over Twitter, he certainly couldn’t see the smile in my eyes or my smirking tongue-in-cheek expression :)

While his tweets were protected (I wasn’t able to find context for the tweet at the time, although his tweets seem to all be public now), he does link his blog to his profile. Check it out.

The problem I had with his tweet is this:

It was written to be some sort of inspirational truth statement to his followers, yet it contains the ridiculous false dichotomy that somehow you can’t be “holy” and “righteous” and “nice” at the same time.

After seeing my not-so-nice (wait, I thought we’re not called to be “nice”?) response,
@DanRevill shot back at me,

@mrsalbrecht I do think the word “nice” is an overused saccharine term. I understand what he’s saying, even if his eloquence could use work.

Eh, kinda. The problem is that when Biblical ideas are packaged into catchy phrases (or modern-day translations), they lose their punch. Paul notes this danger in I Corinthians 1:17-30, “…not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”

The truth is that we can be sincerely nice even if we are in conflict with someone. This isn’t “saccharine”. In fact, it is a form of acting upon our faith to be nice and to treat a believer caught in sin with love — that is a key to restoring the relationship — even if our heart is still hurting and we don’t feel like it.

Not only does Paul tells Euodia and Syntyche to knock it off, he encourages them to behave civilly toward one another for the sake of their church. Their feud was so bad, God allowed it to be recorded for posterity’s sake, and to be a lesson to us. Paul reminds them of their faith and urges them to be nice, even with nitty-gritty instructions on how to think and treat each other. Certainly it was a struggle for them! When we purposefully think and say the best of people and are gentle even when we don’t feel like it, peace is the result…or, at least, it can seriously take power and focus away from the conflict.

Phillippians 4:2-9 “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Admittedly, it is of great irritation to me when Christians flippantly decide to “cut people off” as if it’s some righteous thing to stop associating with people who cause them “stress”. (Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners (see Luke 5:27-32) — yet how many Christians do you know refuse to attend family holiday parties because someone offended them in the past? This isn’t being “good” – avoiding a potential conflict – this is being bitter!) There is a hint of this in Mead’s tweet — because of the false dichotomy. How different would it be if people actually followed Matthew 18, with the goal of RESTORATION to relationships? How different would it be if, instead of the goal of trying to get rid of people by excommunication we took it to the next step and, in treating them as an unbeliever, would pray for them and minister to them?

Peacemaker Ministries, in their foundational principles resource, The Four G’s notes that some people are unreasonable, but that we still need to treat them with LOVE.

Be Prepared for Unreasonable People

Whenever you are responding to conflict, you need to realize that other people may harden their hearts and refuse to be reconciled to you. There are two ways you can prepare for this possibility.

First, remember that God does not measure success in terms of results but in terms of faithful obedience. He knows that you cannot force other people to act in a certain way. Therefore he will not hold you responsible for their actions or for the ultimate outcome of a conflict.

All God expects of you is to obey his revealed will as faithfully as possible (see Rom. 12:18). If you do that, no matter how the conflict turns out, you can walk away with a clear conscience before God, knowing that his appraisal is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Second, resolve that you will not give up on finding a biblical solution. If a dispute is not easily resolved, you may be tempted to say, “Well, I tried all the biblical principles I know, and they just didn’t work. It looks like I’ll have to handle this another way (meaning, ‘the world’s way’).”

A Christian should never close the Bible. When you try to resolve a conflict but do not see the results you desire, you should seek God even more earnestly through prayer, the study of his Word, and the counsel of his church. As you do so, it is essential to keep your focus on Christ and all that he has already done for you (see Col. 3:1-4). It is also helpful to follow five principles for overcoming evil, which are described in Romans 12:14-21 :

  • Control your tongue (“Bless those who curse you;” see also Ephesians 4:29)
  • Seek godly advisors (identify with others and do not become isolated)
  • Keep doing what is right (see 1 Peter 2:12-15; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
  • Recognize your limits (instead of retaliating, stay within proper biblical channels)
  • Use the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (see also John 3:16; Luke 6:27-31)
  • At the very least, these steps will protect you from being consumed by the acid of your own bitterness and resentment if others continue to oppose you. And in some cases, God may eventually use such actions to bring another person to repentance (see 1 Sam. 24:1-22).

    Even if other people persist in doing wrong, you can continue to trust that God is in control and will deal with them in his time (see Psalm 10 and Psalm 37). This kind of patience in the face of suffering is commended by God (see 1 Pet. 2:19) and ultimately results in our good and his glory.

    So… there it is. Took me long enough to have a moment to respond!

    I am curious to know what Mead was thinking when he wrote his tweet, and how it was that he came to this supposedly biblical conclusion, beyond being catchy and trying to make a point by use of semantics, that we’re not called to be “nice”.

    Whether or not he responds, it was therapeutic for me to write this :)

    And, in replying to a pastor who posts fart tweets, I don’t feel bad about my use of the word “bullshit”. I think he can handle it :P

    Work: Evaluating Our Hearts

    As part of the children’s school, we’ve been reading through CMI’S Christian Character Curriculm Vol. 2. This is from the lesson on Virtue:

    “How would living (working) to please God differ from what we commonly call ‘good works’?

    The former follows our submission to God, while the latter, all to often, are done to find acceptance with God.”

    Eh… I don’t quite agree with the implication that “good works” is negative — it is a phrase positively used in scripture. I do, however, appreciate the opportunity to evaluate the motivation of my own heart. I’ve rewritten this quote to help apply it to me:

    “Am I doing this work because I love God, or because I’m trying to get Him to love me?”

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:4-10

    Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. – Colossians 3:23-24

    Carried Away March Giveaway : Five Kawaii Japanese Canvas Totes

    “Many hands make light work.” – John Heywood, English playwright and poet

    Have you ever used your chin to hold onto a stack of library books? I have… and that’s when I’m just carrying my books!

    With plenty of children who love to hear stories read, two of whom are avid readers themselves, trips to the library (on the base, two hours away) would be pretty daunting if I didn’t have my helpers!

    Across the street from our house is a grocery store. Next door is a farmers market. How sweet it is to have children who help bring home food that will nourish our family!

    More than moving items from Point A to Point B, having children help out in this way is good for their little hearts and souls.

    Helping to carry things…

  • teaches them to lend a hand and to help others from an early age
  • gives them a job they can do (one or two books or a loaf of bread may be a light load, but it is important.. and they feel important carrying them!), showing them that they’re not too little to make a difference
  • teaches them how to stick to a task, one that builds character (it’s not always easy to carry things, and the distance isn’t always short!)
  • helps them to be responsible for the items in their care (like their library books) as they have to transport them carefully and not lose their bag
  • Burdens, or things that have to be carried, are also a great Biblical metaphor for teaching our children about entrusting Gods with the things in this life that weigh us down. This burden could be anything from sin, an illness, a difficult relationship situation, to a house that doesn’t sell.

    Trusting in Him gives us a soul-deep version of the feeling we get when the very straps of our heavy bags are cutting into our hands and dad comes along and carries it the rest of the way home.

    Psalms 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

    Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    This month’s giveaway is of five kawaii (that means painfully cute in Japanese!) totes so you can carry your things to and from wherever you need to go. There are four smaller totes, a pink bunny, an orange pig, a brown bear and a yellow lion, to encourage your helpers to lend a hand, and a larger tote for you!

    To enter, in the comments of this post, please leave a story about carrying something or something being carried for you. The burden could be a physical one or a metaphorical one. Please mention how carrying this burden, or having it carried for you, shaped who you are today. You must leave a pertinent comment to win!

    My hope is that this giveaway will encourage others to help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and to trust that the Lord is carrying us through.

    1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

    * * *

    Want to improve your chances of winning? Add these skills to your giveaway repertoire to gain up to three bonus entries:

  • Add SarahJoyAlbrecht.com your blogroll and leave the link to your blog with your comment
  • Write a post about this giveaway and leave the link to your post with your comment
  • Tweet about this giveaway (via @mrsalbrecht) and mention it with your comment
  • Please leave your comment and complete bonus entries by 9PM EST, Friday, March 26, 2010.

    The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

    If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

    Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in March, 2010, you cannot enter again until March, 2011.

    Best wishes! :)

    Half-Empty : Optimism, Pessimism and Realism

    John writes:

    I’m getting pretty sick of people with the whole optimist outlook. Call me rude or whatever else, but isn’t it appropriate at times to be angry, upset, etc? I see optimists as people who don’t have the sense to take off the sunglasses when it starts raining.

    Now, some people call this pessimism. I, however, argue that I’m a realist. I see the world more or less as it is.

    Some say the glass is half empty; others say the glass is half full. I simply say the glass is too big. Maybe the person was expecting too much. I have at this point begun to see the world with resignation. Things are neither good nor bad. They just are.

    Thoughts, gentleman?

    Dear John,

    Bad things happen, and they happen to good people. We live in a fallen world. It is a wonder than any of us are okay at any given time. From a spiritual perspective, I wrote about this in my post regarding the earthquake in Haiti.

    While we don’t have control over what happens in life (and giving up control to God is very liberating), we do have control over how we react to them. We can choose to push back in anger, as if we are owed happiness and perfection — or we can accept the circumstances, make the best of them, and praise God anyway.

    Another thing we can do is make a habit of doing good to others, even people who are not kind to us. As you pointed out, bad things are never in short supply. Consider for a moment, then, the impact you can have as a person by doing good things to others. Quite simply, it is shocking, heart warming and compelling to the recipient. It is unexpected.

    My friend Nate started a site called ItStartsWith.Us — a “club” of sorts (free membership) where a mission is given each week to do something that will make a difference. It could be as simple as putting someone’s cart away in the grocery store parking lot (hmm… might have to suggest that one to him ;) ) or writing a thinking-of-you note to a child who is suffering from terminal cancer. Please take a moment to check out the site. Consider the Change the World statement and the idea behind it. We’d love to have you join us.

    Since being intentional about helping others, I have realized just how far a little kindness will go, and how strong it is against the “bad things” in this world. Bad things can happen, but a little bit of love goes a long way.

    We cannot see the love in this world if we are only looking out for ourselves.

    Realistically,
    SJA ;)

    PS: You can follow Nate @itstartswithus. Please mention my name when you introduce yourself :D