REFRESH – Living a life you enjoy!

God’s purpose also includes our joy. Yes, I believe God wants you to be happy! God’s glory and our joy are not dichotomous. Rather they go hand in hand. God’s glory does not contradict our joy. God’s glory is our joy because we were made by God, for God.

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A number of years ago I hit a wall. My mind began to fracture and my body began to break down. I hit a critical point in my life that forced me to explore the way I was living. I won’t be going into specific contributing factors in my situation, rather I want to explore 6 principles that I have applied in my journey towards living a life I enjoy. I hope this series encourages you to consider how you are living your life and whether it is sustainable in producing long-term joy.

Let me explain the two big ideas behind this series.

1. God wants you to be happy!

I would fall into a Christian worldview category known as Christian hedonism. What the heck does that mean? Hedonism is the belief that pleasure, joy and satisfaction is the good and proper goal of human life. It’s the pursuit of pleasure. Christian hedonism, therefore, has a specific clarification of what it is that brings the human soul most pleasure. Let me unpack my understanding of God and joy.

It is my conviction that God created life. He did so with a purpose. One that is eternal and bigger than we could ever imagine or understand. This purpose includes, but is not limited to, his own glory. God’s purpose also includes our joy. Yes, I believe God wants you to be happy! God’s glory and our joy are not dichotomous. Rather they go hand in hand. God’s glory does not contradict our joy. God’s glory is our joy because we were made by God, for God. The human soul was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) in order to experience and relate with God. Additionally, the one who created us created us in such a way that our ultimate satisfaction would be him. While we may be immanent; we were made for the transcendent. While we may be created beings; we were made for the creator God. Likewise, in the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him…Not only is God the supreme source of satisfaction for the human soul, but God himself is glorified by our being satisfied in him.” Therefore Christian hedonism is the conviction that God’s ultimate goal of his own glory and our deepest human desire for deep lasting joy are intrinsically linked. Some would go even so far as to say they are one and the same thing.

For some, this may come as a surprise to you, particularly if you are not a Christian. Maybe you always thought Christianity was all about denying oneself of joy, living a spiritually disciplined life and making sure you keep God happy. To consider God as one who cares about your joy might even be good news for you. It has been for me.

 

2. God knows what will make you happy!

Learning that God’s glory and our joy are not at odds is freeing. It can reshape our entire worldview and approach to how we live out our human experience. Again, this is true for me. In the Christian hedonist view, the Christian life should be one of a pursuit of joy, ultimate joy. We are free to pursue happiness. This is not only a good thing but even a God thing. He designed us this way, with these desires. The exhortation needed therefore is to ask ‘what will make us truly happy?’. This is where the Christian worldview would claim that not only does God want us to be happy, but he also knows what will make us happy. As the master craftsmen, God has designed us in such a way that ultimate joy can only be experienced in Him and living according to His good design. In addition to this, sin has distorted our desires to seek shallow, temporal and short-term joy that ultimately leaves us dissatisfied, unfulfilled only to seek more of the same.

 

God wants you to be happy and he knows how you can experience true joy. Over the next 6 posts, we will explore how we can live according to his good design and begin living a life we enjoy!

1. Review – Where am I?

2. Rethink – Who am I?

3. Re-calibrate – What really matters?

4. Reduce – What’s really necessary?

5. Rest – Who’s am I?

6. Refuel – What energises me?

Tag along and let me know your thoughts as you go!

5C’s To The Best Marriage Ever – #5 Community

God’s desire is for you to enjoy your marriage not endure it. He wants your marriage to excel. It is designed for his glory and your joy. While it may take work, it can be joyful work and fruitful work. One of the great keys to a joyful marriage is having a joyful community. People you love and enjoy that edify both you and your spouse. Find this community. Do all you can to plug into it and benefit from it. It’ll do your marriage the world of good. 

“You are who you hang with,” said my Dad after drilling my brother and me for about 30 minutes with regard to smoking marijuana. A number of our friends had been caught smoking weed and word had spread that my brother had also participated in these extracurricular activities. While Dad believed us and had our backs he also had our future. My Dad in his wisdom laid out some strong encouragement about the importance of community in your life. Good community. What I learnt from one late night grilling would not only shape my immediate life but also my future marriage.

The Power of Community

While my brother and I were not smoking with our friends my father could see that our friendships were shaping us, and not in a good way. Dad didn’t discipline us for something we didn’t do. But he did warn us to be wise in who we decided to build friendships with. Communities shape us. The family, the society and culture we grow up in shapes us immensely. It is supposed to. We are relational beings that are shaped by those relationships, for good or for worse. We become who we hang around. The same is true for your marriage. While marriage is great, it’s not easy. It takes work. Yet that work is made easier when you share life with others that shape who you are as a person and your marriage for good. If you are going to have a great marriage it is imperative you have a great community.

Community is stronger than the individual. Don’t fight the crowd, pick the right crowd.

2.The Purpose of Community

Friends are supposed to add value to your life. Do you have friends like this? People that encourage you, believe in you, speak into your life and when times get tough they help you? You need a community that grows who you are simply by being in relationship to them. Over the past few years, I’ve had numerous friends support and help me, my marriage and my family. I am indebted to friends that have stood by us and encouraged us through the hard times. The community around us has literally helped bear burdens that were at times too difficult to lift on our own.

 

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:1-2

You need people in your life that are willing to tell you what you need to hear not just what you want to hear. Friends that won’t let you whinge and complain during tough times. Friends that will call you out when you’re lying to yourself. Friends that will encourage you to not quit on your marriage when times get tough. Rather they lift you up, strengthen you and then send you back to your spouse infused with new life. True friends speak the truth, but they do it in love.

 

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6

3.The Presence of Community

Because community has so much power you have to intentionally build the right community into your life. This can be friends. This can be extended family. This can be a church. But you are responsible to invest in those relationships in order for them to be present. I have seen multiple families move interstate due to a job relocation or career opportunity. The difference between one family and another settling and succeeding in their new environment is often down to how quickly they are able to build a new community around them.

As a married couple, you have to determine together who your community will be. What people will you hang around and build into your life that will influence your marriage for good? I encourage you to consider mingling with people that are further along the road than you. Whether that’s in age, maturity, experience, or simply a quality of life. Find people that are where you want to be in your near future and invest in those relationships. Ask older married couples if you can eat regularly with their family. And offer to bring dinner. Ask married couples that you look up to if you can take them out for dinner. Do whatever you can to get in and around the good soil. And let whatever it is they have, rub off on your marriage. Don’t wait for someone to offer to speak into your life and marriage, go get it. It’s out there.

4.The Pleasure of Community

Invest in relationships that you enjoy. Due to the power of community, it is important to build with people that you actually like. The simple reality is that if you don’t like the people you hang with you won’t learn from them and you’ll probably isolate yourself eventually from them. God has designed life in such a way that we would experience the joy of true friendship and community. Therefore as individuals, you need friends you enjoy. That one friend that you can go to the movies with or out for a coffee and just feel refreshed and uplifted. You need people that just fill your emotional tank up. You want that friend that your spouse enjoys you going out with because they see the positive impact they have on you. You also want friends you enjoy as a couple. A small community you both enjoy being around. People that make you laugh, don’t take life to serious and genuinely lift your spirits.

My wife and I have some friends that we see once or twice a year. Every time we catch up as families we are uplifted by the simplicity of the friendship and the genuine joy of just being together as friends. We live in different parts of our city. Have kids in different life stages. Attend different churches. Yet when my wife and I get together with them for a meal and a few drinks our souls experience life-giving friendship. You just can’t beat having this in your life. Don’t let life get too busy that you can’t make time for community. It is essential to the health of your marriage.

God’s desire is for you to enjoy your marriage not endure it. He wants your marriage to excel. It is designed for his glory and your joy. While it may take work, it can be joyful work and fruitful work. One of the great keys to a joyful marriage is having a joyful community. People you love and enjoy that edify both you and your spouse. Find this community. Do all you can to plug into it and benefit from it. It’ll do your marriage the world of good.

With all this said, go build the best marriage ever!!!

5 C’s To The Best Marriage Ever – #4 Companionship

The deep desire of the human soul is intimacy “in-to-me-see”. We want to be fully known, yet fully loved. To be seen inside with all our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our fractures, yet still loved. It is what we long for. It is what we fear we will never have. So how do we cultivate it?

Happy Valentines Day Lovers!!!

 

Regardless of your view of marriage what is undeniably clear is that the human soul longs for companionship. Everyone wants to love and be loved. And this is exactly how God made us. The Biblical narrative opens with God as the great creator king. Whether the 7 days of the account are literal 24-hour periods or something more analogical (I prefer the latter personally) is debatable. What is clear however is that the entirety of God’s creation is intricately designed with a specific purpose and according to the narrative, in joyful approval as each day God declared his creation to be “good”. The only time this is not deemed the case is when the man is without a companion.

“18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen. 2:18

A man without woman would not enable humanity to image God well as previously designed (Gen. 1:26). As culturally insensitive as it may be, in the Christian worldview, men and women are different. We are designed to be different. The distinction between a man and woman is a good thing because through our unique differences we are able to get a greater glimpse of the God in which we image. Additionally it would not allow the man to experience what it meant to be fully human. God designed the human soul to express and experience love. Therefore God made Adam a ‘helper’, a companion named Eve. With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, Adam rejoiced in song upon seeing Eve. And thus the origins of human companionship are deemed by God to not only be good but to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Not only is God pleased but likewise the two companions enjoy the beauty of being both naked and without shame.

 

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Gen. 2:24

 

This is a picture true intimacy of two souls, bound together physically, emotionally and spiritually. Another way to think of it is that they were ‘fully known, yet fully loved’. The deep desire of the human soul is intimacy “in-to-me-see”. We want to be fully known, yet fully loved. To be seen inside with all our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our fractures, yet still loved. It is what we long for. It is what we fear we will never have. So how do we cultivate it?

 

1. Be Vulnerable and Be Trustworthy

You will never be fully loved if you’re never fully known. This is a big risk. To let someone all the way in where they see it all. God designed marriage to be the place where this level of vulnerability is possible. You can’t, nor should you be vulnerable with everyone. But you can and should be with your spouse. In fact, this is most likely why you married in the first place. Not only did you find your spouse physically attractive, you most likely found them to be someone you could be vulnerable with. Vulnerability requires trust, but trust can only be ascertained through initial vulnerability. A relationship essentially continues to develop as we open up and share and then see what the other does with it. As trust grows so does the vulnerability and vice versa.

 

2. Make Time

When couples begin dating all they want to do is be together. Young couples can be so enamoured with each other that they end up excluding all their friends and isolating themselves from the pack. It’s foolish and can have long-term implications. However, couples are often tempted to go in the other direction once married. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN!!! Find what works for your relationship but make time to be alone, together. Time to talk. Time to enjoy each other’s company and time to be vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to take up large amounts of time. It doesn’t have to tick all the boxes every time. It just needs to happen, and happen regularly and be effective. So make it happen.

“If there were more courting in marriage there would be fewer marriages in court”

If you have kids, don’t allow yourself to use them as an excuse. In fact, the quality of your marriage dictates the quality of your family. So do it for them. I’m yet to hear the young person who complains their parents love each other too much. Find a way. Swap babysitting duties with other couples. They babysit your kids one week and you sit their kids the following. Find a way to make time to look at each other, talk and listen.

Two great questions – How are you doing? How am I doing for you?

 

3. Read and Grow

This may sound odd but hear me out. I have been married 15 years. That’s 5475 days my wife and I have been together. How much do you think we don’t know about each other? How easy would it be to become bored with each other? In order to grow in our relationship, we need to grow as individuals. Every time my wife learns and grows as a woman, the more I see it and it intrigues me. It makes me lean in again because I realise I don’t fully know her. There is something new. There is something more. In my opinion, this is one of the great secrets to marriage. Countless times I have heard couples excuse away not executing the previous point because they simply don’t know what to talk about anymore. They’ve talked every day for the past 5475 days and there’s simply nothing new under the sun. This is a real problem for many couples but it is an uncomplicated problem. Learn. Grow. Read.

Learn about health. Learn about nature. Learn about history. Learn about God. Just get learning so that you keep growing and continue to be interesting to one another.

 

4. Sex

Two bodies merging together does not equate to true intimacy. But it is a significant aspect of it. I talk about sex in pre-marital as both a thermometer and thermostat. As a thermometer sex can give a gauge of the temperature of our marriage. It’s one of many indicators of marital health. Men, please read that last sentence again. As a thermostat sex regulates the temperature. It unites us chemically, physically and spiritually. Ladies, please read that last sentence again. Now there is no absolute prescription with regard to quality and quantity, therefore, each couple being must work this out in a way that meets both their needs.

 

5. Serve and Be Available

Do things that the other person enjoys or needs. My wife hates washing up. So guess what my job is? I love basketball. So guess what my wife pretends to enjoy hearing about? What cultivates companionship is showing interest in the other person. To show interest you have to be available. Stop scrolling through Instagram, put the phone down and give your attention. Value what the other person values. If it’s a clean bench, then help keep the bench clean. If it’s camping, then camp. If it’s romantic comedies, watch it with her. If its time with the boys, help make it happen for him. Whatever your jam, make it your priority to keep each other’s love and value tanks full. Work together, be available for each other and continue to serve each other. Do it, repeat it and don’t stop. It’s really difficult to fall out of love with each other when you continue to cultivate a life of love.

 

Happy Valentines Day!!!

5C’s To The Best Marriage Ever – #3 Communication

“Words are moving in either one of two directions. Either our words are moving towards life (grace, mercy, encouragement, love and peace, edification) or death (anger, vengeance, condemnation, malice, slander and gossip).”

Communication! How could it not be on the list of 5C’s? Everyone knows how important communication is to any relationship, yet it seems to be something most relationships struggle to do well. Why is that? Why is communication so uncomplicated in one sense, yet so difficult to master? There are numerous answers to this but one I believe to be fundamental is the concept of self-projection. That is the attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings, desires, and suppositions onto another. This is particularly true with regard to communication. We tend to communicate in a way that fits our personality, gender and upbringing without considering the audience to which we are communicating.

In his book, ‘Don’t Die With The Music In You’ NRL Super Coach Wayne Bennett writes about the importance of tailoring your communication to your audience. Wayne highlights the changes he had to make as a coach as new generations of players came through the team. In effect what he taught in the book is that effective communication is not as much about what is said but what is heard. Just because you’ve spoken something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve communicated it.

Take for example consider cross-cultural communication. If an English speaking person wishes to communicate something to a Chinese speaking person, a translator will be required. Without a translator all that will occur is speaking, but not necessarily communication. Another situation a translator is required is in marriage counselling. A counsellor is often significantly helpful through interpretation. They mediate between couples in the same way a bilingual translator would. I know with my marriage it took the best part of ten years before my wife I really began to communicate and understand each other well. We had to learn to speak in a way in which the other could understand

 

In pre-marital counselling, I like to walk couples through a three-step process to effective communication.

  • Speak the right things
  • In the right way
  • At the right time

All three must be accomplished to experience effective communication. Let’s explore each one.

 

 

SPEAK THE RIGHT THINGS

Effective communication requires knowing what to say and what not to say. This blog is an example of that. More words are deleted than posted. Every time I write I’m weighing up what needs to be written and what doesn’t.

When it comes to issues you have to pick your battles carefully. If you nit-pick, your spouse will eventually tune you out. And that’s not what you want. You want to be able to speak about what is important to you and to have their ear when you do. So choose carefully what issues are worth discussing and what isn’t. Proverbs often speaks of it in this way.

13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. Prov. 19:13

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Prov. 21:9

The indictment here is not on being a wife but on being quarrelsome. In my marriage, it was me that had this unfortunate ability. I couldn’t let anything go. Every little thing had to be dealt with in my way and on my watch. I was a quarrelsome husband, which led to either not having my wife’s ear or even worse, not having her heart.

A spouse can likewise tune out due to oversharing or simply too much talking. Just ask my wife. I talk her ear off. They may be genuinely interested in your day but it just takes too long and they get lost amongst all the details and detours. Therefore it’s important to consider your use of words. This can be particularly hard if you are a big talker and a stay at home parent. When you’ve been with children all day nothing can be as exciting as knowing that your spouse will be home any minute and you can finally have an adult conversation. Therefore couples need to consider each other’s needs here. The worker needs to prepare himself or herself for a spouse that needs to communicate with an adult. And the spouse that has been couped up in the home needs to consider not bombarding their spouse with a million pieces of information immediately upon arrival. Consider what is or isn’t the right thing to communicate.

 

 

IN THE RIGHT WAY

The way in which something is spoken has a great impact on how it is heard. Proverbs puts it this way.

18     There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov 12:18

4     A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Prov. 15:4

Successful communication is not only about speaking the right things; it’s about speaking them in the right way. In my experience, nothing influences my communication more than my emotional state. Just ask my kids? When I’m tired, stressed or frustrated the tone is completely different.

Notice Proverbs 15:4 said, ‘a gentle tongue is a tree of life’. The way of life is gentleness. Additionally, writer of Proverbs says

21    Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Prov. 18:21

Paul Tripp says of this verse that,

“Words are moving in either one of two directions. Either our words are moving towards life (grace, mercy, encouragement, love and peace, edification) or death (anger, vengeance, condemnation, malice, slander and gossip).”

A marriage that uses words to move towards life will experience just that – life. So consider both your words and the use of those words to build your marriage up and encourage your spouse because ‘the tongue of the wise brings healing’ (Prov. 12:18)

Check out Paul Tripp’s book and videos on ‘War of Words’. Simply brilliant (https://www.paultripp.com/war-of-words)

 

 

AT THE RIGHT TIME

Timing is everything. You can speak about the right thing, in the right way, but if the timing is wrong it still won’t be heard. This can be a difficult one particularly in the context of dual-income families, or couples with both work and study occurring simultaneously. In my context my wife and I have four children, I work full-time, study part-time and she works part-time. This increases the need for good rhythms. It’s a busy household and we can’t afford to slip into bad habits when it comes to communication.

Two common pitfalls of communication are nagging and stonewalling. Both are extremely ineffective and unhelpful. Stereotypically a man does one and a woman does the other, but it is not always the case. Following the key to cooperation from the previous post, it is important ‘to judge your spouse by their intention not just their action’. A spouse doesn’t wake up one day and decide to either nag or stonewall. There’s something within the context that moves them in that direction. This is most commonly the timing and context of communication. That is to say that nagging, while ineffective and even annoying is often the choice of communication because the spouse feels their partner isn’t listening. So they keep talking. Stonewalling is the opposite. It is generally done in an attempt to control the tongue from saying something hurtful. Timing and context make all the difference in avoiding these ditches. Each couple has to consider what works for their rhythm and relationship.

Some couples prefer to have a check-in night. One night a week where they sit down with a glass of wine, calendars out and just check-in with each other. This allows one spouse to know they have a set time ahead that is specifically designed for talking. It helps them to avoid nagging and keep their words until the right time following the wisdom of Prov. 21:23

23      Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Prov. 21:23

For the other spouse, it helps them prepare their ears, as they know this is the time to check-in. They have time to prepare themselves to listen and respond. Therefore avoiding withdrawing or stonewalling.

Other couples prefer to talk on the run. It’s a constant conversation. Before work, while cooking dinner or cleaning up, or just plain old pillow talk. They don’t have a specific check-in time rather they are constantly checking in. Whatever suits your relationship, the important thing is to be creating clear space for effective communication.

 

Words drive the direction of your life. What you say, how you say it and when you say it matters. So choose life. 

5C’s To The Best Marriage Ever #2 – Cooperation

Weddings. Who doesn’t love a good old fashion wedding? They’re the best. Love is in the air, great people. great food, great drink. And the dance floor. Come on. It’s the greatest. But let’s be honest, the wedding is the easy part. Once you’ve made the exciting choice to marry, then you’ve got to learn how to do the dance. This is the idea of cooperation. A great marriage is one that is able to move from being all about ‘me to being about ‘we’. It is two individual people working together to become one. This is the view the Bible portrays of marriage. Before the first-ever marriage in Genesis 2, God outlined marriage in this way.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Gen. 2:24-25

Jesus likewise confirmed this view

and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matt. 19:5-6

The word ‘one flesh’ Hebrew אֶחָד (echad) and Greek εἷς (Heis) are used to describe God in Deuteronomy 6:4 which says “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The picture is of one unit. A word you may be more familiar with is ‘shalom’, meaning peace and harmony. As God, Father, Son and Spirit is one, a husband and wife are to be so united to one another that it’s like they are one. Working in perfect harmony. What an incredible privilege we have as men and women to reflect the image of God through our marriages. Now for God ‘echad’ comes naturally, it’,s simply who God is. For us, it’s not so natural. Our natural disposition is to compete against each other rather than cooperate with each other.

Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. These two are very different from one another. A contract is built upon mutual distrust whereas a covenant is built upon mutual commitment. A commitment to cooperate. We commit work together to make each other more beautiful, more wonderful, more glorious and more holy. It is a daily choice to keep that commitment. As a wise person once said, ‘In the beginning, opposites attract but later opposites attack’. What often intrigued us in the beginning about our spouse can actually become something that leads to conflict later. It is important to identify and clarify these differences and learn how to make compliment each other rather than compete.

 

Below are 4 common areas of difference

 

HOW WE ARE ENERGIZED

Every person is energized differently and energy levels matter. When your emotional tank is low it has a significant impact on the way you communicate. Nothing affects your ability to cooperate more than energy. When you are well rested and your emotional tank is full, you are kinder, more patient and less selfish. You consider your words more carefully and are less tempted to respond out of frustration. Therefore understanding how each other is energized helps to create an environment where we are running on a full tank rather than on fumes.

 

HOW WE GIVE AND RECEIVE LOVE

Gary Chapman wrote a helpful book called “The 5 Love Languages – The Secret to Love That Lasts”. Its practical, filled with humour and stories to convey with clarity the simple idea that everyone gives and receives love differently (check out 5lovelanguages.com). In it, Gary highlights what he labels the five most common love languages – words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Our natural tendency is to love others how we ourselves receive love. This is not a bad thing, Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves. What separates a good marriage from a great marriage is the ability for a couple to give love in the way the other receives love. This is much harder than it seems. It’s unnatural and goes against our instinct. But it matters. In fact, this is one key to keeping those emotional energy tanks full. Life is so much more enjoyable and easy when you feel loved, respected and valued by your spouse. And it takes two to tango. Both spouses need to find ways to love the other in a way that actually hits the mark. Additionally, you need to learn how to receive love in the way your spouse naturally gives it. Because it will be more natural to them it will be a joy to love you in their own special way. So learn to accept it, rather than demand to be loved a certain way. Great marriages learn this dance.

 

HOW WE USE WORDS AND PROCESS INFORMATION AND EXPERIENCES

Some people are expanders. Others are condensers. An expander is self-explanatory, they expand … everything. They talk. A lot. And then talk some more. Expanders dominate a conversation. Provide all the unnecessary detail you don’t even care about. While you’re telling your story, they’re not listening. They’re thinking up a better story to trump your story. Expanders believe words are powerful and unlimited. So they use them. All of them. They tend to process verbally and need to talk things out

A condenser is straight to the point. No fluff. No bubbles. Just the point. Condensers believe words are powerful but limited. So they ration them. Just in case they run out. They tend to process internally and need to think things through.

One word really matters here. TIMING. You have to learn the skill of knowing when to use words and when not to. More on this in our next post.

 

HOW WE APPROACH CONFLICT

Nobody likes conflict. It’s the worst. But to have a great marriage you have to learn how you and your spouse will approach it. Two approaches are most common. The engager and the withdrawer. An engager is someone who always wants to fix everything and make sure everybody is ok. One of my favourite leadership axioms by Bill Hybels is, “when something smells funky, engage.” The big idea is to not let stuff fester. Unresolved issues can poison a relationship. Therefore they engage and go head on in, even if it’s the most inappropriate time. The engager wants to move toward their spouse in order to quickly resolve the conflict in which they hate. A withdrawer is someone who also wants the problem resolved but is fearful that engaging will only make it worse. Talking about it is like pouring fuel on the fire. Therefore they withdraw in an attempt to let things settle. The withdrawer wants to move away from their spouse in order to avoid increasing the conflict unnecessarily.

By now you’ve probably identified some of your relational differences. So what’s the secret sauce to cooperating? How do we cooperate when we are so different? It makes no difference knowing these differences if you don’t apply this last principle. This is the key to cooperation. This is the key to experiencing echad.

 

JUDGE YOU SPOUSE ACCORDING TO THEIR INTENTION, NOT THEIR ACTION.

 

Due to our differences, we instinctively judge each other by actions not intentions. Yet the intentions of the heart make all the difference in the world. When we understand the reasons and motivations behind the behaviour of our spouse it helps us to not only extend grace but also to receive those actions for what they really are – love.

Go ahead. Why don’t you sit down with each other and talk some of these differences through and ask the question, ‘when you do this what is your intention?’ Then listen and seek to understand and receive their love. Decide to begin to cooperate with each rather than compete against each other and experience God’s joyful design for your marriage to be echad and experience shalom.

5C’s To The Best Marriage Ever – #1 CHOICES

Too many people are looking for “the one”. This is very common, but not limited to the Christian context. The concept is that there is one perfectly designed soul mate out there somewhere. Find them, marry them and live the happily-ever-after you always desired. Thank you, Jerry Maguire and every other romantic comedy ever produced.

In a couple of weeks, I kick off a new series at Life Centre Church called “Citizens – Living as God’s Kingdom People”, based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. I’m really excited to preach through it, as Jesus’ teaching is exceptionally relevant for today. As it relates to this topic Jesus had a few things to say about marriage, lust, anger, promises and divorce (Matt. 5:21-48). These are very practical and challenging. At the time of Jesus’ sermon, a large controversy about divorce and marriage was being conducted between two popular rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai. It was into that context in which Jesus spoke. What has been reinforced to me through my study is that God is far more for marriage than he is against divorce. God created marriage for our joy and God wants to elevate the blessedness of marriage in our eyes and to help a culture that is divorcing and separating left, right and centre how to experience joyful and fulfilling marriages.

So with this in mind I thought I’d do a short series called the 5 C’s To The Best Marriage Ever.

 

#1 – CHOICES.

The first principle to experiencing a great marriage is simply to make good choices. God has given us the means within our faculties to make choices. So choose well, before marriage and after marriage. Choose well.

Choices Before Marriage.

I often make the somewhat controversial statement that “It is not who you marry it is what you marry!” This may seem somewhat simplistic and even redundant yet it is such an important piece. Much of what leads to a great marriage exists well before the wedding day. Consequently, if you marry well, you immediately alleviate half the obstacles. A great marriage takes a great amount of work. It requires all sorts of compromises and adjustments that are not always easy. This highlights even more reason why choosing well before you marry is of such importance.

Too many people are looking for “the one”. This is very common, but not limited to the Christian context. The concept is that there is one perfectly designed soul mate out there somewhere. Find them, marry them and live the happily-ever-after you always desired. Thank you, Jerry Maguire and every other romantic comedy ever produced. While I do not wish to discount some couples experiences or the notion of compatibility altogether, I do find the concept of “the one” fraught with problems.

The first is a shaky foundation. Beneath the concept of “the one” is a subtle selfish agenda. That is, you are looking to get from someone rather than give to someone. Whether it is meaning, security, affirmation, identity, respect or love. You have an expectation that when you find this person these are things you will receive from them. Now, none of these things is wrong. In fact, they are all necessary in some sense to have any sort of meaningful relationship. The issue comes with only seeking to receive these things rather than giving these things. Many a couple got married, expecting their spouse would humbly serve them, only to find out that their spouse was expecting the same thing. If this is the foundation of a relationship then when times get tough, which they will, the relationship will collapse and you’ll be tempted to believe that maybe they just weren’t the one after all. It just wasn’t the right fit. But the problem isn’t the fit the problem is the foundation.

A great marriage requires both. Both parties need to feel valued, understood, loved and respected by the other. In order for that to be a reality, both have to prioritise the giving of these not just the receiving of them. If two people seek to receive, no one receives. If two people seek to give, both give and both receive. It’s beautiful and it is joyful.

The second is a misguided focus. The focus becomes to find someone and then marry someone. These are the ultimate goal. To be sure, no relationship exists without finding someone. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.” You have to go looking, whether physically or digitally, in order to find a spouse. You have to take some risks, put yourself out there, and give it a go. But marriage is more than just finding someone; it’s about finding a spouse. Someone you will unite and covenant with for the rest of your life. And marriage is more than just about a wedding day. It’s about building a life together.

Now I hate to inform you of this truth, but the unfortunate reality is that the external fades over time. I turn 40 this year and my body is only moving in one direction and that’s south. So yes find a person you are physically attracted to. That’s legitimately important. But it’s really easy to get caught up by someone’s highlight reel without examining their behind the scenes. What are they like behind closed doors? The attraction needs to be both externally and internally. A great example of this can be seen in Genesis 24 where Abraham’s servant is sent to find a wife for his son Isaac (thank goodness I didn’t grow up in those days). The servant notices two things about a woman named Rebekah. 1) She was very attractive in appearance (Gen. 24:16) and she had a servant heart (Gen 24:20). Not only did Rebekah offer Abraham’s servant water, which she had to draw herself from a well. She also drew water for the servant’s camels. She was generous. She was kind. She was beautiful inside and out.

Sure he might be a really cool guy, or she might be a hottie but are they secure or insecure? Are they givers or takers? Do they use words to build others up or pull people down? Are they humble or arrogant? Are they personally growing or stagnant? Do they have the same faith as you or a completely different worldview? These things matter. It’s not just who you marry, it’s what you marry.

You need to like more than what you just see on the outside. As part of our church pre-marital counselling, I often say to young couples, “you’re going to talk a lot more than you are going to have sex. So make sure you actually like each other.” I don’t say it to be provocative. I say it because it’s true. You need to like the person you marry. You need to be attracted to the whole person, inside and out, including their mind and their heart. I can honestly say that I am far more attracted to my wife now, 15 years in, 4 children later, than on the day I married her. We are better friends than ever Why? Her character has continued to blossom. Her internal beauty shines brighter and brighter each and every day. In my view, I married a hottie not just externally but internally. And one day if God grants us the time we’ll be in our 80’s not looking like we did in our twenties but we will be far more satisfied, fulfilled, complete and joyful than even on our wedding day.

Choices in Marriage

The choices before you marry are important and the choices in your marriage are important. While a happy marriage may begin when we marry the one we love, a happy marriage blossoms when we love the one we marry. A great marriage is a result of thousands of little choices each and every day, week, month and year to love one another and do all you can to make the other even better than they would be on their own. Therefore make choices that not only benefit you but benefit the other and coincide with God’s plan for their life.

Tim Keller sums up a Christian vision of marriage.

Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”  Tim Keller

As you reflect on the quote above consider the choices you can make in your marriage to make it the best marriage ever.

4 Ways To Make 2018 Great

Happy New Year!!! 2017 has been and gone and 2018 is here. I don’t know how you approach a new year. I love it. I reflect. I dream. I imagine. I plan. I pray. And then I go about life hoping some of those dreams and plans become a reality and that the year is great.

Here are four ways to make 2018 a great year.

 

1. MAKE DECISIONS RATHER THAN GOALS

We all love a fresh start. Sometimes I think God created time just so we could have the possibility to say goodbye to the past and anticipate the future. 2018 is simply that. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life… wait that’s Michael Buble’. Sorry, I’m still in Christmas mode. You get the point. 2018 is a fresh start. Take advantage of it. It’s a gift. Say goodbye to 2017 with all its joys and sorrows and begin to dream about 2018. As you reflect on the past and dream of the future proceed to make some decisions. Dreaming is good. It gets the good vibes flowing. We feel inspired and energised. But in order to capitalise you’ve got to crystalize. (I literally just made that up). But you get the point. You’ve got to do more than just dream and set goals. You have to make decisions.

Goals tend to be generic, something out there and afar off. Decisions are here, now and specific. Goals refer to what I want to achieve at the end. Decisions designate want I will do right now. Goals are about desire; decisions are about discipline. Goals are about dreaming; decisions are about achieving.

For example: Rather than setting the generic goal of eating healthier, make a decision as to what you will cut from your diet and what you will add, RIGHT NOW. Rather than setting the generic goal of taking a holiday with friends or family this year, make the decision. Pick the place. Pick the time and pay the deposit. Make the decision now.

 

2. BUILD YOUR RELATIONAL NETWORK

This sounds so formal, ‘Relational Network.’ Eww! What even is that? By relational network, I mean a diverse community of both encouragers and equippers.

Encouragers are our friends. We all need friends. We need people that we do life shoulder to shoulder with. We laugh with friends. We share experiences together. We help each other and enjoy being in each other’s pockets. We rub off on each other. Make each other better.

17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17

In 2018 you need friends. Good friends. But friendship is a two-way street. Having good friends is a result of being a good friend. So commit this year to build friendship around you by being a great friend to others.

 

Equippers are our mentors. We need those that are out in front of us. People that we may not have a whole lot in common with but are vital to helping us learn and grow. These are the people that speak into our lives. These people are ahead of us in the game. They have insight. They have wisdom. They have experience. Learning from personal experience is the slowest and most painful way to learn. Life is far more enjoyable when you are able to avoid slipping into ditches along the way. So pursue specific growth relationships. Ask certain people if you can buy them lunch and pick their brain about something. Invite yourself around for dinner at their house. Oh and a little secret… you pay for everything. Pay for the coffee, pay for the food. Pay the time and do the drive to them. Pay the cost and reorganise your schedule to suit them. The best way to get the most out of a mentor is to make it as low a cost to them as possible. This reveals to them that you value them. The more a mentor feels valued by you, the more likely they will add value to you.

 

3. EXPAND YOUR CAPACITY

Personal growth is one of the most satisfying accomplishments. There’s just something about being able to look in the mirror, figuratively or literally, and see that progress has been made. But it takes effort. Everybody lives life with a lid or a ceiling. This is your capacity or competency in any area of your life. You have a knowledge lid. A limit of what you know. You have a skill lid. A limit of what you can do and how well you can do it. You have a character lid. A limit of what type of person you are. Unlike God we have limitations. We have capacities and competencies that exist with a lid. Yet at the same time, because we’re not God we can grow. We can improve. We can expand.

 

Three important principles to consider:

Pace Yourself – Don’t go crazy and overdo it. Life’s a marathon so pace yourself. Be patient. Give yourself grace and go for the long-term result, not the short term. A few years ago I decided I wanted to expand my knowledge capacity. So I committed to reading one hour a day from 10 pm – 11 pm. I loved the first few months. I really grew and enjoyed it. By the end of the year, I read 40 books. The problem was I fried my brain. Instead of increasing my lid for knowledge, I lowered it. The next year I struggled to read at all. Since then I’ve found my pace of a book a month.

Narrow The Focus– Don’t try to improve every area of your life all at once. Pick a few things to work on, not everything to work on. We’ve all got areas we need to grow in. Sometimes we don’t grow at the rate we hope for is because we’re trying to grow everything at the same time. But what if you just grow by 5% every year. I’ve taken this approach to building my character. My focus every year is two of the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). I figure if I focus on two I should be able to grow in at least one. So narrow your focus. Pick a couple of things this year that you want to grow in and make those your focus.

Work on your strengths – Often when we consider personal growth we begin with weaknesses. This is ok. But God has also given you strengths and it’s probably your strengths that have got you to where you are today. You can’t be all things, to all people. You can’t be good at everything but you can be great at something. So get at it. Look at your gifts, your skills your personality and character and keep expanding in those areas.

 

4. INVEST IN PEOPLE

I am asked constantly how I remain so passionate about God and church. My simple answer is I do something with what God has given me. If you want to see personal growth on steroids, just look at new parents. Becoming a parent forces you to grow up in a really unique way. Why? You are forced to invest in someone other than yourself. You are forced to give away what you have for the benefit of another. You are forced to sacrifice and serve in a way you have never done before. And you’re all the better for it. You don’t lose your life, you increase it.

Isolation and stagnation poison the soul. If you don’t do something with what God has given you, your soul becomes stale, stagnant and even callus. It’s just how life works. When your life remains about you, it shrivels. When your life is about others it grows and blossoms. God’s made it this way. As we give, we receive. As we sow, we reap. As we bless, we are blessed.

So live a blessed 2018 and use whatever God has placed in your hand. Whether it be money, possessions, time, words of encouragement, opportunity, whatever it is. Use it to invest in someone else and I guarantee you, the reward is worth it.

 

Now go get it!!!

My Story by Bethany Bruce

Anxiety tells me that nothing is secure. Depression tells me that there is no hope. Jesus tells me that I am safe in Him.

From my first interaction with Beth I knew she was awesome. She is kind, she is brave, she is my friend and this is her story…

To avoid a very scripted introduction, I will stick with basics: My name is Bethany, I am 20 years old, and I have an experience that likely resonates with most. Whether it be your personal journey, or the life of someone close to you, I pray that what I am about to discuss is of some benefit, wherever you are at. Let’s have a conversation.

In 2014 I was diagnosed with severe depression and extremely severe anxiety. I had only just graduated high school and, after 12 years of routine, no longer had anywhere to be. I didn’t have to wake up at 6am, so I slept. I didn’t have to do assessments, so my brain was never engaged. My behaviour slowly dissipated and became unpredictable. I wouldn’t sleep at night because that was a waste of time, but sleeping throughout the day gave me an excuse to avoid interacting with the people around me. I lost 10kg over the space of one month, because the thought of getting out of bed and preparing a meal was overwhelming. My face and skin were pallor in appearance. My hair was thin and began falling out. My body was not healthy and longed for even the slightest touch of the sun; a healthy meal; an established diet. I began to question things that had been secure in my life for so long. Do my friends really like me? Am I a burden to my family? Will my boyfriend get sick of this? These thoughts continued on until I finally realised things weren’t normal. It was Christmas morning when I woke up absolutely deprived of energy or emotion. My mother asked me what was wrong, and all I could say was “I don’t know, but I feel nothing.” I imagine my parents could tell things weren’t right, but waited for me to come to this on my own terms. I am grateful for that and was supported from the onset.

I started therapy and was initially seeing a Christian psychologist. While this was not a positive experience for a number of reasons, I came to understand the severity of my condition. I taught myself how to cope. My safe place became my bedroom, and art became an outlet. Mind you, I wasn’t good at art — but art was good for me. It was a distraction and meant I didn’t have to deal with things right away. I started on anti-depressants, eventually went on a higher dose, and continued on medication for about 2 years. It cleared the fog and I found a therapist who really did help me, and continues to. My brain was balanced and I could think rationally and address the issues I had. I still can’t understand how some believe that antidepressants are incompatible with the Christian faith. The ability to see and feel God, even for the shortest time, was the most comforting thing throughout this time, and this was only possible with the corrections my medication had made. I treasured those moments — thanks to my newfound clear mind.

I started university at the start of 2015 and my structure was back. I had a place to be, I had a purpose, and my brain was being engaged. Things were better, but they still weren’t good. Why was my emotional stability placed in earthly routine? It was a false dawn, and I began to slip again. The biggest unfamiliarity was that I was no longer in control (not that I ever was). God liked to remind me of this, which was painful and confronting. I did all the things that people said had helped them. It was of no benefit as the issue was that I had tried to control the condition I was facing, rather than relying on God’s grace and trusting that He knew what would eventuate. The less I tried to control things, the better they became. It was okay to have a bad day. It was okay to spend some time on my own. I allowed myself time to heal and rest.

I went off medication at the end of 2016. I didn’t want to do this, and it was uncomfortable for me. What I had constructed as my safety net for the past 2 years was about to be taken away, yet I knew it was the right decision after much prayer. My fiancé (who has continued to love me and trust God throughout this season) and I are now apart of a church community who have accepted us as family. I have implemented healthy boundaries and routines. I still have depression and anxiety, but know how to manage these conditions. Therapy continues to be important. Trusting in God’s plan gives me peace.

My therapist has taught me one lesson that has never left me: if a tiger is not physically waiting to attack you at this very moment, then you are safe. Nothing or no one can ever take God away from you. People can say and do awful things. However, there is security in God. No one can make God love you less, or alter His plan for you, or love you better than He does. Regardless of what happens, so long as there are no tigers, you are safe in this very moment. You are held so tightly and safely within his righteous right hand. Anxiety tells me that nothing is secure. Depression tells me that there is no hope. Jesus tells me that I am safe in Him. God may choose to heal me completely, or He may not. His timing is always perfect and His ways are good. I am so thankful for suffering as it has shown me more of my Lord’s character, and I yearn for more knowledge of Him. His ways have been revealed to me through my pain and my hurt.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Depression and anxiety are both battles I come up against daily, allowing me to help others who struggle with similar issues. God has not caused me to suffer and then abandoned me, but rather He has allowed my suffering to glorify His name. Mental health is a very predominant struggle for so many Christians today — more common than most tend to think. It is not a measure of the quality of your faith. It is not an issue of salvation. It means you are a human, born into sin. Today, I thank Jesus for promising me eternal life with Him. Until then, my chemicals might be a little unbalanced, yet His word will continue, steady and unshaken.

Beauty and Being a Dad – Lessons From Beauty and The Beast

My daughter is longing for this world. Every time she gets a glimpse of it her heart springs forward as for a brief moment as she encounters God’s true kingdom… It’s there in the sunset. It’s there at the dinner table filled with friends and family. It’s there at the park as the breeze whistles through the trees. It’s there when she laughs, when she cries and when she lays down her head to rest at night. God’s kingdom is here and it’s all around her, everyday, in everything and it’s all pointing to her great God that loves her and promises that he’ll bring her into that kingdom with all the colour, with all the life, beauty and joy. On that day her heart will rejoice and behold like no other.

 

I am not a nursery rhyme, fairy tale kind of guy. Don’t ask me why but they just didn’t stick with me from my childhood. I know we grew up with them because my other siblings remember my mum reading us the stories. But for some reason I just don’t remember any of the stories or rhymes. This became apparent after I got married and began having children. My wife would sing the songs and tell the stories and it was like I was hearing them for the first time. She would always look at me with disbelief wondering how it was possible to be an adult with little to no recollection of the stories and characters in the most famous of fairy tales. Maybe I was more interested in other things. I don’t know.

Since having children however fairy tales are commonplace in our home. Children love stories. They never tire of them. There is something about a good story that captures their hearts attention. The more I learn about the power of a story, the more attentive I am to what stories I allow to shape my kids.

Now this is not an over-reactionary Christian blog post about the semi homosexual innuendos portrayed by Lefou. Sometimes my own team disappoint me with their unreasonable expectations of secular culture or their impetuous opinions voiced with a veneer of hypocrisy. While I can sympathise with parents concern over Hollywood’s willingness to continually push the boundaries, I cannot validate their grievance of a homosexual agenda in Hollywood when staring them in the face is an explicit story of a female falling for an animal. We call this bestiality. For me, if you are not offended by this component of the story, you shouldn’t be offended by anything else. Anyway, enough venting on my part.

This post is rather some lessons I learnt from watching this fairy tale for the first time. I took my oldest daughter and for the record I loved it. She gave me running commentary throughout, constantly nudging me, pointing out whom each character was before they had even been properly introduced. Watching her captivated by this story prompted me to consider what it may tell me. Here are 4 things I learnt about my daughter.

 

  1. My daughter is looking for more than just physical provision.

Gaston is attracted to Belle and wants to marry her. Unfortunately for him Belle is not interested in marrying him. Unfortunately for her, this is partly what makes her so attractive to Gaston. Belle knows what she wants and she is unwilling to settle. Gaston approached Belle again attempting to manipulate her into marrying him pointing out his ability to provide for her after her father passes in the future. Belle emphatically assures Gaston that she will never marry him and breaks out into song singing, ‘I want more than physical provision, I want adventure and I want love.’

Sure, Belle is singing about the man she wants to marry but it still applies to me as the first man in my daughter’s life. She wants more than just a roof over her head or food on the table. She wants adventure. She wants to be cherished. She wants to have a man in her life that is aspiring to provide emotionally, relationally and spiritually as well as physically. She wants a man that will pursue her heart and go beyond what Gaston is offering to provide Belle. While I want my daughters to find men like this, the reality is that I set the standard. If I become this type of man for them now, then they’ll have a higher chance to be as Belle was – unwilling to settle.

 

  1. My daughter needs the weapon of hope

At one point in the story, Belle is perplexed as to how the living household objects are able to maintain hope in spite of their dire circumstances. While not having a full comprehension of the situation, Belle empathised with them. In her mind there was no hope. Yet hope shone through. This is the nature of hope. Rick Warren often says, ‘you’ve got to have hope to cope.’ It’s so true. Hope is essential to perseverance.

As a dad this leads me to consider what my kids are putting their hope in. Can it deliver? Will it last? What part do I play in shaping this? I’m not sure I have all the answers to these questions but I do know hope is one of the great weapons for overcoming adversity. In the Christian worldview hope is more than wishful thinking. It is a certainty that is secure in God’s nature. God can’t lie, therefore when God says something will be, it will be. It’s certain, it’s sure. This is the hope I want my daughters to have. A hope that is beyond an imperfect father or future husband and in a perfect unfailing God whose promise is sure and true.

 

  1. My daughter needs a soft heart not a hard heart.

The moral of Beauty and the Beast is that a soft-hearted girl named Belle is able to soften a hard-hearted angry beast. As a dad it’s important to remember that while discipline is necessary in developing my kids, nothing is more important than my heart towards them. If my heart is hard, my discipline will be hard and more likely to produce another hard heart. On the other hand if my heart is soft then the necessary discipline will be in love and able to produce the desired outcome.

Additionally I want my girls to have soft hearts. While I want them to have thick skin and to be secure women, there’s nothing more unattractive than a hard heart. This is where I’m really grateful I have a God that has a perfect heart towards us. God can change my hard heart. God can soften my daughter’s hard heart. This is really good news especially as my heart is often hard.

 

  1. My daughter loves extravagant beauty

There were three scenes in particular that made my daughter and I gape with wonder. The first was when the beast introduced Belle to the library. It was incredible. If you know me, it won’t surprise you that my I was filled with envy. Even my daughter turned to me and said, ‘Dad imagine if that was your library and it was just filled with Bibles.’ She knows me well. It was amazing. The second was the ballroom in which Belle and the Beast first danced. The room, adorned with polished marble floors, lavish crystal chandeliers hanging from the high domed ceiling was exquisite. The third was near the end of the movie after the curse had been removed and everything had been restored to its original beauty. The colour returned, life restored and joy filled the entire kingdom once again.

All three scenes reminded me that we have an innate proclivity towards extravagance. Leaving aside the actuality of the greed and financial disparity within the world we live, I believe our hearts are designed for wonder and beauty. It’s why we gaze; it’s why we esteem; it’s why we treasure; it’s why we behold. There is something within us that is drawn to extravagant beauty. The Bible would tell us that this is the deposit of the eternal placed within each human soul. We are longing for a kingdom not of this world but of another, where colour is returned, life is restored and joy is unending.

My daughter is longing for this world. Every time she gets a glimpse of it her heart springs forward as for a brief moment as she encounters God’s true kingdom. As a Dad I want to help her to see the beauty of God’s kingdom all around her every day. It’s there in the sunset. It’s there at the dinner table filled with friends and family. It’s there at the park as the breeze whistles through the trees. It’s there when she laughs, when she cries and when she lays down her head to rest at night. God’s kingdom is here and it’s all around her, everyday, in everything and it’s all pointing to her great God that loves her and promises that he’ll bring her into that kingdom with all the colour, with all the life, beauty and joy. On that day her heart will rejoice and behold like no other.

 

P.S. Keep an eye out for the upcoming posts from my friends on mental health conditions. I’ve read a few of them and they are going to be really helpful. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing.

Living With Mental Health Conditions

However you define it, mental health is paramount to one’s quality of life. When someone suffers with any type of condition and to any degree it has the ability to affect his or her whole life. According to Beyond Blue over 3 million Australians are currently suffering with some form of anxiety or depression. That’s a large number of our fellow countrymen and women struggling with their quality of life.

In the coming weeks a number of my friends have agreed to be guest bloggers and share their stories of dealing with mental health issues. This is something I am personally passionate about as in 2015 I was diagnosed with having post-traumatic anxiety. This has made life more difficult and complicated for me as well as my family. My goal through these series of posts is to help lift the lid of mental health and encourage those that may struggle or have a friend or family member that struggles. I’d love it if you would consider sharing these upcoming posts through your social media with the hope of encouraging as many people as possible through the stories of my brave friends.

In this post I’d like to start the conversation with a general overview of mental health and take a snapshot of different approaches people take in dealing with mental health conditions. In the coming weeks a few of my friends will share their stories and insights in the hope it encourages many.

 

MENTAL HEALTH DEFINED

Mental health is often defined as, ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.’ Additionally ‘Beyond Blue’ (a mental health support organization) points out on their website (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health),

“According to the World Health Organization, however, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

So rather than being about ‘what’s the problem?’ it’s really about ‘what’s going well? So when speaking of conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and the like, Beyond Blue would categorize these as ‘mental health conditions’. However you define it, mental health is paramount to one’s quality of life. When someone suffers with any type of condition and to any degree it has the ability to affect his or her whole life. According to Beyond Blue over 3 million Australians are currently suffering with some form of anxiety or depression. That’s a large number of our fellow countrymen and women struggling with their quality of life.

 

APPROACHES TO MENTAL HEALTH

Weakness – People with this approach completely dismiss mental health conditions as genuine. Rather they consign them as weakness on the part of the person struggling.

Warrant – People with this approach view mental health conditions as an excuse used by many to avoid dealing with real issues of life or even to escape hard work. Anytime something of significant effort comes up the person claiming mental health conditions throw the, ‘anxiety or depression’ card down.

Whatever – People with this approach may not necessarily look down on someone claiming mental health issues rather they simply wipe their hands of acknowledging its legitimacy due to their lack of understanding. They may not rule out these conditions from the realm of possibility, but have not experienced themselves and therefore they ‘just don’t get it’.

Warmth – People with this approach sympathize while not experiencing mental health conditions first hand. They readily acknowledge the struggle is real and difficult and move towards those struggling with compassion. Often they are close to someone dealing with these conditions or have previously struggled themselves.

Wrestle – People with this approach have been or still are in the heat of the battle. They personally wrestle with these conditions on a day-to-day basis. The wrestle is real.

Regrettably I used to fall into the first approach. While not vocalizing my opinion publically, I definitely thought those that struggled just needed to toughen up mentally. They were just weak. Looking back I can see this came through in my approach when counseling others. My motivation was good, my overly simplistic approach was uninformed and naïve. I’ll leave my personal story for a later post but in short, one day in 2015 everything changed for me as I came crashing down. Hopefully I now sit in the ‘warmth’ approach as I continue to wrestle with my own struggle each and every day.

I guess we call this being humbled 🙂

Up next will be my friends and their stories. I hope this either helps move you towards warmth and compassion to those that struggle or helps you to continue your wrestle with hope.