Don’t Go It Alone

Each month I write an article for a local magazine in Cumming, Georgia, and I enjoy sharing those articles with you guys, too. The theme for this month’s magazine is love and relationships, but I took a slightly different approach. Full disclosure: this is a reposting of an earlier blog, but it’s worth another read. Enjoy!

Not long ago I read through the book of Acts. Reading about the lives of the very first followers of Christ in one short chapter each day is a fantastic way to learn how to live an effective, bold, and impassioned life for the cause of Jesus.

Over those 28 days, I read stories about baptisms and life change and the persecution Christians faced. But, maybe my favorite part of the book of Act was the stories of relationships. Since most of the book focuses on the missionary trips of Paul, I was privy to an up close view of his faith, as well as his friendships. Without question, Paul had quite an impact on the known world. He taught countless people about Jesus, started churches in each town he visited, challenged the religious elite, raised money for the poor, and endured beatings and imprisonment.

But he was never alone.

Paul valued his friends. He took them on his trips. He prayed with them. He was honest with them about his temptations. He comforted them, and he knew how to accept comfort and help from them. He seemed buoyed by their companionship.

Could it be one of the reasons he was so successful in his ministry?

Being in relationships with other healthy Christ-followers is essential to our spiritual growth. When difficult situations arise, other believers can support us, as well as guide us through the challenges. When we struggle with temptations, other believers can help us stand firm. We grow in spiritual maturity as other believers teach us the lessons they’ve learned, and we do the same for them. Just as it was true for Paul, we buoy one another.

Together, we’re better.

I believe Paul was able to plant churches, travel all over the known world, and teach relentlessly about Jesus because he was never alone. He had a posse. He was supported, understood, encouraged, prayed for, and loved.

Are you? Are you investing into and developing healthy relationships with others? Not the surface kind. Not the kind where you pretend you have it all together. The authentic kind where you truly share your heart and life.

You need it. So do I. Open yourself to being challenged and supported by a trusted Christian friend. You’ll be better for it. Take it from Paul.

Show Me The Love

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming. As always, I like sharing the articles with you guys! Hope you enjoy!

 

As I thanked my friend for a lovely evening and prepared to leave her home, she encouraged me to drive slowly. Apparently someone was posting the license plates of potential subdivision speeders on the neighborhood Facebook page. I chuckled because this wasn’t the only neighborhood dealing with the exact same problem.

Theirs is not the only community experiencing a war of words on social media, either. One neighborhood Facebook page publicly names offenders and offenses of conflicts. Still another airs dirty laundry – as prayer requests, of course. My own neighborhood Facebook page has had its share of grievances and conflict, too. I am relatively sure every group Facebook page falls victim to occasional disagreements.

Do you know what each of the people who write online posts about these situations have in common? They are right. Speed limits should be obeyed. Conflicts should be addressed. Prayers should be offered. Did you know, however, that it’s possible to be right without being righteous? To be correct without being kind? Any time we wag a moral finger in piety or hate we are guilty of being right without being righteous.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, this month is all about love – kind sentiments and thoughtful gestures. Yet, love is truly more meaningful than a dozen roses and a box of candy. Love is seeking to understand before being understood. Being kind to people who don’t act or think the way we do is one of the most difficult things we will ever attempt, yet if we teach ourselves to think beyond our own desires and seek to understand another’s viewpoint, we just might reach common ground and peace.

For example, instead of complaining about the shenanigans of the neighbors, invite them to dinner. Get to know them. Then, love them.

I’m not suggesting we deliver roses and candy to our neighbors. I’m suggesting much more practical application, and the Bible is replete with ideas.

Motivate one another (Hebrews 10:24). Serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Humbly relate to each other (1 Peter 5:5). Be tender hearted toward one another (Ephesians 4:32). Don’t provoke each other (Galatians 5:26). Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13). Handle disagreements in private in order to protect one another’s dignity and reputation (Matthew 18:15).

If ideas for loving our neighbors are needed, God’s Word is a one-stop shop. But before we forward this page to that difficult person in our lives (there’s always one), let’s turn our wagging finger around and focus on ourselves. The bottom line is if each of us becomes a better lover of people, most of our conflicts would end more quickly and less painfully. Being right without being righteous will never win friends and influence people. It only serves to alienate.

Love, however, covers a multitude of sins. Ours and theirs. Whether we are the offender or the offended, let’s choose gentleness. Let’s choose respect. Let’s choose empathy. Let’s choose love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 “And do everything with love.”

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Hater or Fan?

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and I also enjoy sharing those articles right here at SharpenHer. Lately, my husband has been counting the days till the kickoff of college football which got my mind spinning on a related topic. Check it out:

A couple of months ago my son attended Nick Saban’s Alabama football camp for kids, and he had a blast. Saban has critics and fans, and my son happens to be a fan. The dictionary defines a fan as a person who has a strong interest or admiration for a particular sport, art form, or famous person. My son is a full-fledged fan of Alabama Crimson Tide football….right down to his Bama backpack and the Roll Tide blanket that lies on his bed.

I’m a fan of a few things, too. Like my son, I’m a fan of college football. I love tailgating food. I love campfires and fall foliage. I have Pinterest pages dedicated to these things and spend far too much time researching more pins. With school resuming this month, I’m reminded of a few things of which I’m not a fan: school projects that require my help, early morning routines, and the staggered school release times my family will endure experience this year.

We are all fans of something. We might even be a fan of some people. Yet, the truth is, some people aren’t fans of us. Pop culture calls those people “haters.” If fans serve to encourage and bolster, haters serve to deflate and undermine. Haters don’t like us. Haters have personality clashes with us. Worst of all, haters cheer against us.

I’ve worked in churches long enough to know that some people think God is a hater. Maybe they were raised in a church tradition that portrayed God as the Great Killjoy in the sky ready to smite us the moment we step out of line. Maybe life has dealt them a series of difficult circumstances leading them to believe that God is conniving ways to make them miserable. Or, maybe they simply haven’t heard any applause in the stands. In other words, they’ve taken the field of life and haven’t felt God shouting accolades for them. They feel alone. To them, God is a hater.

None of those depictions are true. Someone is absolutely fanatical about us. Someone is cheering us on. Someone wants the best for us. We have a fan. Not a fair weather fan who walks out of the stadium when we are losing or when we drop the ball at the goal line, but a fan who loves us no matter what we do.

Its one thing for me to tell you that God is our greatest fan, but let Him tell you Himself:

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 43:4a (ESV) “You are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Matthew 28:20 (NLT) “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

No matter what society or circumstances tells us, God is not a hater. He loves us – all of us. Every. Single. One. He is fanatical about us. He’s done some over the top stuff to prove it, too. He certainly has standards by which He expects us to live, but He doesn’t walk out on us when we make unwise choices. Instead, He longs to bandage our wounds and get us back in the game. He wants to see us win!

This fall, when we see all those crazy football fanatics donning their team jerseys and painting their chests, let it serve as a reminder that Someone is just as enthusiastic about us. God’s love and devotion are unshakeable. When the haters in your life get too loud, allow God’s Words to remind you of His certain devotion….to you.  

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There’s A Bad Apple In Every Bunch

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming. I enjoy sharing them with you guys, too. This month’s issue focuses on Father’s Day, which got me to thinking about families. Check it out:

 

bad appleEach year I read through the bible in chronological order which means I read the bible in the order that the events happened. I just finished Chronicles, including some chapters of family genealogies. You know what I’m talking about. So-and-so was the father of so-and-so. Verse after verse of so-and-so’s. It’s the type of stuff most of us usually skip over hoping to get to more enlightening reading.

But, this time I was enlightened.

Reading through the genealogies, I took note of the famous names, like Noah, Abraham, and David. These were men that God loved, men who obeyed God and earned fantastic reputations. In a way, I would expect that their family tree would be special….sort of blessed. I would expect that no black sheep would be in their families, after all, they would the elite of the elite. Yet, each one of these men had descendants who acted in honorable ways and despicable ways. As the family lines continued I saw that each generation had righteous people as well as wicked people. Apparently there’s a bad apple in every bunch.

Think about it: Judah sold his brother into slavery, yet Jesus Himself is in his family tree. David was a man after God’s own heart, but his son, Absalom, slept with David’s wives and tried to overthrow David’s kingdom. Eli was a righteous priest, but his sons were promiscuous and deceitful. The genealogies continue in various books of the Bible, occasionally pinpointing the righteousness or wickedness of specific people.

There’s a lesson buried in those so-and-so lists. It doesn’t matter who you came from or how good your family’s reputation is. The truth is every family tree has sin. We can’t ride the coattails of our Godly heritage, and neither are we limited by a disgraceful past. You see, we all make our own choices. We might bear a good name but we can choose to sully it. We might bear a sullied name but we can choose to reestablish it. I’ve seen children of godly parents walk a wayward road, and I’ve seen children of wayward parents choose more righteous path.

What will we choose to do with our lives today? Whether we’ve been given a good name or sullied one, we have the greatest power in the world – the power to choose. I’m choosing to never be limited by what came before me, whether good or bad. I’m choosing to keep my eyes on Jesus. To read scripture and live by it. I’m choosing to dust myself off when I fall and try again. I’m choosing to lay a Godly foundation for others to build on.

What about you? Don’t buy into the lie that sin must be a repeating cycle in your family tree. We can CHOOSE!

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My Plan To Serve

So my last few posts have been all about making plans – plans to turn our good intentions into our best successes – in 4 major areas of life:

Personal Growth

Leading/Supporting my family

Using the gifts God gave me

Building Community

If you ever feel as if life is running faster than you can keep up, these posts are for you. Making plans (and then sticking to them) is a key to success! Setting an agenda for key areas of our lives enables us to stay laser focused on accomplishing what really matters to us. Of course, interruptions arise and the unexpected comes along, but with a plan we can navigate our responsibilities with ease.

That’s why I’m sharing my plans with you. Maybe you’ll be inspired with one good idea…or two!

Today, I’ll share my plan to serve those around me by using the gifts God gave me. As a Christian, I know God has given me gifts – unique abilities to do certain things well (Romans 12:6) – and God expects me to use those gifts to benefit the church (Ephesians 4:16). But, the church isn’t the only place I’m called to serve. 1 Peter 4:10-11 tells us that when we use our abilities to help others, we bring glory to God. In other words, we’re called to serve the church and the world.

Understanding my gifts helps direct where I spend my time. Some of my gifts include organization, leadership, writing, and teaching. So here is my plan:

1. Using my gifts in the church:

  • I lead the women’s ministry in our church, teaching on a monthly basis. I write my teaching messages on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the 3rd week of the month. I review/memorize my messages for 3 days prior to each event. No other appointments take priority over this plan. On those weeks, errands/appointments are minimized.
  • As needs arise, I make myself available for other opportunities to serve. That’s exactly why I build margin into my calendar – unscheduled time to give me freedom to say yes!
  • I invest into the Ministry Team by celebrating important days and big wins in their ministry areas. Using Google Calendar, I mark birthdays, anniversaries, and hire dates. Setting alerts/reminders helps me! I also write an online newsletter for the ladies on our Team during the 4th week of each month. Of course, it’s scheduled on my calendar!
  • Finally, I partner with my husband for the work of our ministry. Brainstorming message ideas, planning future events, management concerns, or simply being by his side…..we schedule all of theses things on our shared Google Calendar! One of our best ministry ideas was to create our 10AM Friday meetings. We review his weekend message, discuss other ministry issues, and download any family business.  That meeting is GOLD!

2. Using my gifts in the community:

  • I write short articles about faith for a local magazine, Up In Cumming. With a readership of 70,000+, I’m able to leverage my influence for God in a great way. I also write my own lovely blog and am a contributing writer for Flourish.tv, a website for ministry wives. I don’t want to squander my gift for writing, so I’ve found a few good ways to use it to honor God. My plan: I write blog posts on Saturdays and Sundays for the following week; I write magazine/Flourish articles on Tuesdays during the 3rd/4th week of the month.
  • I also teach/mentor/coach others in various ways, both in personal and group settings. I’ll share more about this in my next post.
  • Whenever I can, I accept leadership responsibilities for the activities in which my family is already engaged. Team Mom for cheer squads or helping out with a football team….I never underestimate the opportunity that being in leadership affords: making relationships with people who I can hopefully invite to church. I usually complete any required work during my kids’ practices.

So, there you have it – my plan to love and serve God and the world. My goal is not to change the world….just to change my world, the immediate community in which I live.

What’s your plan? How will you use your unique abilities to do certain things well? To help the church? To serve the world?

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The Evolution Of Me

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and I like to share them with you guys, too. Check it out:

You and I have evolved. Or, at least we can. Before you get in a tizzy thinking we’re talking about apes, let’s define evolution.

Evolution is the process by which living organisms develop and diversify throughout history.

In other words, evolution is simply change.  Most of us think we hate change, but a quick look at the fashion over the last few decades proves that’s not true.  Otherwise, parachute pants and tight-rolled jeans would still be making appearances.  Or, how about the TV shows we watch?  From The Biggest Loser to HGTV, our DVR’s are full of stories of change.  And, who can pass up watching the makeover of a man with a 10 inch comb over?  There’s something about change that we like….maybe even crave.

People crave change?  Yes, I’m pretty sure we do.  That’s why every January 1st, we set new goals for ourselves, like spending less, being kinder, getting fit, or managing our calendar.  There is something deep down in all of us that wants to change for the better.  The possibility of change is the essence of hope. If we don’t think change can happen, we lose hope.  It’s true, isn’t it?  Consider cases of divorce, depression, or even suicide.  In those instances, people have lost hope that their situation – or maybe that they, themselves – can change, and they give up.

It seems we’re always hoping for change in our circumstances; for things to get better; for situations to improve.  And, for Christians, that’s where the Good News comes in! According to Philippians 2:13 and Titus 2:11-12, God can bring about the very change we crave! Check it out:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.”

Did you catch that? God gives His children not only the desire to change, but the power to do it!  Oh, it gets even better. I hope you are paying attention. God’s Spirit, who lives in every Believer, teaches us to say NO to those things with which we struggle. He teaches us how to live a life that pleases Him. You see, it’s not by sheer determination that change comes about.  Change begins when we allow God to teach us.

We can’t become the men or women God intends us to be on our own. We weren’t designed to. We were designed to be in a relationship with God, and in that relationship, God will change us on the inside – evolving our desires – until we want the things that God wants.

Are you hoping for change in some area of your life?  A habit, a relationship, an attitude, or a circumstance? God’s promise is to work in us, giving us the desire and power to change by teaching us how to live a life that pleases Him. We can evolve! We can change!

Why not sit at His feet and learn a while? Crack open your bible and listen to God. You might just find He is able to change your whole world.

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Remember Who You Are This Holiday Season

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and I always like to share them with you guys, too. The November issue kicks off the holiday season, and so do I with a look at dealing with all the guests we’ll host in our homes over the next 8 weeks. Enjoy!

Have you ever had to be reminded of who you are?

I have.

Recently, one of my children did something that disappointed me. But, disappointment wasn’t the first emotion I experienced. Frustration or anger better sums it up. In the moments that followed, I acted on those first emotions. I raised my voice. I focused on the wrong that had been done, rather than the lesson that needed to be learned. And I let my frustration show on my face. I’m sure my child got the point that I was not happy. I’m pretty sure everyone in the family got that message.

As most moms do, I laid in bed that night reliving the failures of the day. (Isn’t it amazing how those closest to us can push all the right buttons to illicit all the wrong behaviors from us?) Yes, I was still frustrated with the action of my child, but I was also aware that I could have reacted so much better. After all, I’m the parent. I’m the adult. More is expected of me because of who I am!

Have you dealt with people who have pushed your buttons?  You know, those people?  People who criticize, behave badly, speak harshly, or trample on your feelings?  People who take you for granted or have hurt you?

When we deal with those people, we can be tempted to fall into the game of cat and mouse – they make a comment, we respond in kind; they act a fool, we hold a grudge; they fail to show gratitude, we withhold love; they hurt us, we refuse to forgive. It’s in moments when we’re dealing with those people that we need to be reminded of WHO WE ARE.  We are children of God who have been forgiven much, loved deeply, and taught to turn the other cheek. As Christians, more is expected of us than to simply respond in ways that make us feel good in the moment.

That’s not me talking…..that comes straight from the apostle Paul.  Check out this verse:

Col 3:12-15: “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.”

Paul is saying, “Since you are Christians, since you represent Jesus, since you have been forgiven so much, since you owe everything to Him, more is expected of you!”

As you deal with those people, show mercy. Be kind and gentle. Hold your tongue in humility.  Don’t expect perfection in those people; accept that they will make mistakes. Don’t harbor bitterness; forgive, instead.

You know, the holiday season is here, and some of us dread dealing with our dysfunctional families over the next few weeks. I know it’s not easy. Sometimes, years of hurt have piled up and healing seems impossible. But, I want to encourage all of us with this truth:

GOD’S WAY IS ALWAYS BEST! If he says we should show kindness and mercy and forgiveness in the face of hurt and betrayal, then we can be sure that path is a better choice than living with anger and resentment.

Remember who you are, friends. You are loved deeply and have been forgiven much.  Maybe, just maybe, God’s love will motivate you to see those people a little bit differently this holiday season.

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Instructions For Living

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and as always, I enjoy sharing them with you guys, too.  Hope you enjoy it!

I know a thing or two about instruction lists.  My husband and I have 3 kids, and my oldest often babysits for us when we have meetings or a date.  We spell out specific instructions about what we expect them to do while we are away.  Sometimes, we even write out the list to aid their failing memories.

Now, what do you think is the first thing I do when we return home?  You got it: I check to see if they’ve completed their list!

When Jesus lived on the earth, He, too, spent time teaching His followers what He expected them to do….how to live….how to love…..how to honor their Heavenly Father.  Just before He ascended into Heaven after His crucifixion, He gave His final instructions.  And, just like a parent would do before leaving their children at home, He explained what He expected them to do while He was away.  Take a look with me at His words:

Matthew 28: 18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Think of those words as instructions for living.  Essentially, Jesus was saying, “God has put Me in charge of everything, and I have specific instructions so that my Father’s plan for humanity will be accomplished.  Here they are: Use your influence to teach other people about Me. Teach them about my love.  Teach them my commands so they can obey Me.  Nothing else is as important in your life as this.”

If, as parents, my husband and I check to see if our children have accomplished the tasks we assign to them, how much more do you think our Heavenly Father is checking to see if we are accomplishing the tasks He assigns to us?  That’s good food for thought, friends.

No matter who we are or what we do, we can follow the most important instruction list ever given and leverage our influence with people for the good of God’s Kingdom.

Are you a stay at home mom?  No, you are an influencer of children who will become fully devoted followers of Christ!

Do you work just to make a living or provide your family with insurance benefits? No, you are an agent of God in a world that needs integrity, Godly character, and grace.

Are you a leader in a civic group?  No, you are influencer who can leverage your position to change the way people think about God and His church!

Are you a weekly shopper in stores in our community?  No, you are a representative of God’s goodness and kindness as you interact with the people who see you every week!

It’s your turn, Forsyth.  Who can YOU influence?

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Who Are You?

Each month I write a little diddy for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, which by the way is celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Shout out to UIC!  As always, I like to share the articles with you guys, too.  Hope it helps motivate you today.

personality traitsHave you ever taken one of those personality profile tests, like Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, or Strengths Finder?

If you haven’t, let me bring you up to speed.

Personality profile tests are questionnaires designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. In other words, the tests tell you who you are.

For instance the Myers-Briggs test people based on four variables:

*Introvert versus Extrovert

*Intuitive versus Sensing

*Thinking versus Feeling

*Judging versus Perceiving

The DiSC profile tests people on their levels of:

*Dominance

*Influence

*Steadiness

*Conscientiousness

And, the Strengths Finder tests people on 34 different attributes to determine a person’s top 5 strengths. I won’t list all 34, but two examples are Responsibility and Communication.

Bored, yet? You probably are….unless you’ve taken one of these tests.  If you’ve taken a personality profile test, you understand what it feels like to have someone tell you who you are.

The results of my own tests reveal tons about me.

I’m an extrovert. Not new information to me.  I tend to be a thinker more than a feeler.  Again, the test hit the nail on the head.  I have a dominant personality, confirmed by my results (and by my husband). I tend to gather facts and make decisions based on realistic expectations, rather than stepping out into the unknown.  I tend to influence others to follow my lead, which can be a good thing if I use my power for good, not evil (again, confirmed by my husband).

These tests told me that I am responsible, that I am an achiever, and that I am energized by being around people.  Do you know what? The tests were right! When those results declared who I am, I somehow felt known and understood.  By naming my personality traits, those tests confirmed who I am, and it felt good to hear it.

Scripture says a day is coming when Christians will receive a new name….a name that will describe who we’ve been.  A name that will sum up our character.  A name given by Jesus, Himself. Check it out:

“…And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17b

Throughout Scripture, names convey the character of the one bearing the name. Some theologians believe this new name will be the same for every Believer – the name of God on us.  Yet, some theologians speculate that the new name will literally describe each person’s character….our journey with God…..our level of faith. In short, a name that says who we are.

That concept isn’t foreign to us, is it? Though our birth names may not indicate much, we still have a “name” by which others know us. Our name is simply a summation of our reputation, and it depends solely on us.  We can be quick-tempered or patient; we can be arrogant or humble; we can be eager or apathetic.  We get to choose.

Let’s live our lives to earn a good name, friends – a name that reflects a life of love and service.

Who are you? Or, better yet, who will you be today? 

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Don’t Know What You Have Till It’s Gone

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming, and I like to share them with you guys, too.  This month’s issue is all about pets – a topic many of us enjoy.  Check it out:

Black-Labrador-Retriever-dog-pet-animal-19We almost lost her.

We were told our 13 year old Labrador Retriever, Tori, only had two days to live.  She could barely stand and wouldn’t eat or drink, and my kids were horrified to see their dog in dire straits.  We spent the weekend giving Tori extra attention and mourning the inevitable when the unexpected happened:  she made a stunning recovery.  Literally overnight our dog bounced back to perfect health.  After examinations, the doctors couldn’t make sense of the turnaround, but our family wasn’t concerned about diagnoses or logic.  We were simply thrilled to have more time with the sixth member of our family.  Since then, my kids have spent intentional time with Tori.  She’s been been privy to extra treats, special car rides, and even a photography session.  Yes, they love her….and now they realize how much.

Relationships are like that.  We often don’t realize what they mean to us until we are at risk of losing them.  We overlook the importance of intentional time with the ones we love.  Or we assume others will excuse our brusque attitude as we rush through life. Before we know it, our actions can do enough damage to not only hurt a relationship, but end it.

Lately, I’ve been reading through the Bible focusing on many of God’s commands for His people.  And you know what?  Almost all of His commands have something to do with how we are to treat other people.  You see, relationships are a BIG deal to God.

Check out this verse:

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.”

Did you catch that? God doesn’t even want our gifts to Him until we have reconciled our earthly relationships.  It’s kind of like requiring your children to “make up” before you can enjoy family time.  Imagine trying to enjoy a lovely dinner while two of your children are bickering.  When our relationships are off kilter, everyone suffers.

Here’s another verse to consider:

Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and Prophets.”

How we speak and react to other people matters to God.  It’s not a issue solely between you and the other person.  Your relationships have a third partner – God.  And, He desires His people to show the same mercy and grace that He, Himself shows.

But, wait. There’s more. Check out these verses:

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Want a great self evaluation?  Ask yourself some of these questions:

How am I treating others?  With love?  With kindness?  With respect?

Am I taking responsibility for my actions and apologizing when necessary?

Am I forgiving of other people?

Am I spending intentional time to get to know others or invest into them in some way?

Don’t wait until a relationship is in peril to give it the consideration it deserves.  Be intentional with your time, love and schedule.  It’s not always easy, but I can assure you that God’s way is always best.  So, today, find a way to honor a co-worker, a family member, or a friend.  Or, yes, even the family pet.

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*Update: I originally wrote this article two months ago.  Since then, we’ve lived on borrowed time with our pooch.  This past weekend, Tori lost her battle with Thyroid cancer and our family has been mourning our loss.  We are immensely thankful for the tail-wags, slobbery kisses, wet-nosed nudges, and love she added to our lives.