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This Sunday in Church
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today|
No one is like you, O LORD;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not revere you,
O King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise men of the nations
Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish
But the LORD is the true God;
by Dr. RC Sproul
Scripture: Matthew 17:14–21
Matthew's gospel depicts the essential part faith plays in the events of Jesus' life as well as in His teaching. Joseph believed that Mary's son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by an illicit affair (1:18–25). Christ trusted the Father to sustain Him in His temptation (4:1–11) and marveled at the faith so often displayed by those outside of God's covenant with Israel (8:5–13; 15:21–28). Peter was given the ability to identify Jesus as the Messiah, though His grasp of all that means was initially incomplete (16:13–23).
Faith is the focus of today's passage. Having come down from the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:9–13), Jesus and His disciples run into a crowd. Apparently, He gets temporarily separated from the Twelve because a distraught father updates Jesus on an encounter he and his son had with the disciples alone. The man asked Christ's followers to heal his epileptic son but they were unable to restore the boy (vv. 14–16).
Jesus then laments the faithlessness of His generation, which the disciples' failure reveals clearly (v. 17). If those appointed to cast out demons, perform miracles (10:8), and sit at Christ's feet did not have the faith to heal others, what hope is there for all who are not apostles? We do not know the way in which the disciples' faith has been lacking; perhaps they had been trusting in the power of their words to exorcize demons, not the Creator Himself. The epileptic seizures may also have startled them, causing their faith to waver.
Jesus uses the moment to emphasize the power of faith no matter its size (v. 20). That faith can move mountains is not a literal expression, it is a metaphor that means faith can accomplish the impossible (see 1 Cor. 13:2). Of course, power does not inhere in faith itself; faith is not a magical way to manipulate reality. Instead, faith is effective because it is the means by which we access the help of God Himself, with whom all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Faith is the conviction, John Calvin comments, that "God will never forsake us, if we keep the door open for receiving his grace." And He cannot help but move in the lives of those who cry out to Him day and night (Ex. 2:23–3:8; Luke 18:1–8).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Today's passage does not define faith exhaustively; thus, it must be read in concert with other passages like 1 John 5:14, which emphasizes the importance of God's will when we pray. As Dr. John MacArthur writes: "True faith, by Christ's definition, always involves surrender to the will of God" (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1,156). Faith believes that God can move mountains, but it also knows to anticipate only those things He has promised.
For Further Study:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine.
by Max Lucado
WHEN I SEE a flock of sheep I see exactly that, a flock. A rabble of wool. A herd of hooves. I don't see a sheep. I see sheep. All alike. None different. That's what I see.
But not so with the shepherd. To him every sheep is different. Every face is special. Every face has a story. And every sheep has a name. The one with the sad eyes, that's Droopy. And the fellow with one ear up and the other down, I call him Oscar. And the small one with the black patch on his leg, he's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joseph.
The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them by name.
When we see a crowd, we see exactly that, a crowd. Filling a stadium or flooding a mall. When we see a crowd, we see people, not persons, but people. A herd of humans. A flock of faces. That's what we see.
But not so with the Shepherd. To him every face is different. Every face is a story. Every face is a child. Every child has a name. The one with the sad eyes, that's Sally. The old fellow with one eyebrow up and the other down, Harry's his name. And the young one with the limp? He's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joey.
The Shepherd knows his sheep. He knows each one by name. The Shepherd knows you. He knows your name. And he will never forget it. I have written your name on my hand (Isa. 49:16).
Quite a thought, isn't it? Your name on God's hand. Your name on God's lips. Maybe you've seen your name in some special places. On an award or diploma or walnut door. Or maybe you've heard your name from some important people—a coach, a celebrity, a teacher. But to think that your name is on God's hand and on God's lips . . . my, could it be?
Or perhaps you've never seen your name honored. And you can't remember when you heard it spoken with kindness. If so, it may be more difficult for you to believe that God knows your name.
But he does. Written on his hand. Spoken by his mouth. Whispered by his lips. Your name. And not only the name you now have, but the name he has in store for you. A new name he will give you . . .
'When God Whispers Your Name' is a book of hope. A book whose sole aim is to encourage. I've harvested thoughts from a landscape of fields. And though their size and flavors are varied, their purpose is singular: to provide you, the reader, with a word of hope. I thought you could use it.
You've been on my mind as I've been writing. I've thought of you often. I honestly have. Over the years I've gotten to know some of you folks well. I've read your letters, shaken your hands, and watched your eyes. I think I know you.
You're busy. Time passes before your tasks are finished. And if you get a chance to read, it's a slim chance indeed.
You're anxious. Bad news outpaces the good. Problems outnumber solutions. And you are concerned. What future do your children have on this earth? What future do you have?
You're cautious. You don't trust as easily as you once did.
Politicians lied. The system failed. The minister compromised. Your spouse cheated. It's not easy to trust. It's not that you don't want to. It's just that you want to be careful.
There is one other thing. You've made some mistakes. I met one of you at a bookstore in Michigan. A businessman, you seldom came out of your office at all and never to meet an author. But then you did. You were regretting the many hours at work and the few hours at home and wanted to talk.
And the single mom in Chicago. One kid was tugging, the other crying, but juggling them both, you made your point. "I made mistakes," you explained, "but I really want to try again."
And there was that night in Fresno. The musician sang and I spoke and you came. You almost didn't. You almost stayed home. Just that day you'd found the note from your wife. She was leaving you. But you came anyway. Hoping I'd have something for the pain. Hoping I'd have an answer. Where is God at a time like this?
And so as I wrote, I thought about you. All of you. You aren't malicious. You aren't evil. You aren't hardhearted, (hardheaded occasionally, but not hardhearted). You really want to do what is right. But sometimes life turns south. Occasionally we need a reminder.
Not a sermon.
A reminder that God knows your name.
From When God Whispers Your Name. Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1999) Max Lucado
by Trent Griffith
What does it take to follow Jesus? It is called discipleship. Discipleship is the intentional pursuit of Jesus that produces increasing likeness to Him by believing what He said and living like He lived.
1. Discipleship begins when you decide to respond to Jesus’ call with obedience. You are not a disciple if you are just an admirer of Jesus from a distance. You are not a disciple if you used to follow Jesus. You are not a disciple if you are not seeking to know what He said or learn how He lived. Many call themselves disciples but aren’t. It’s got to be complete surrender.
2. Disciples are called to a radical, growing relationship with Jesus. Disciples are called to die to self in order that they may live. Disciples are called to give so they can keep. It is a call to put others first and themselves last. Disciples will be required to speak up when others remain quiet. Disciples are prompted to move in directions with no known destinations.
3. Disciples are required to leave old dependencies, loyalties, and paradigms. Money, power, and pleasure all take on very different meanings. The first disciples left their nets. Where would their income come from now? They left their boats. What would keep them from sinking now? They left their father. Who would love and instruct them now? Disciples know the answer to all three questions is “Jesus.”
4. Disciples will be met with the most severe opposition and great pressure to compromise. Disciples are often misunderstood, isolated, and belittled. Disciples are called legalists, bigots, and hate-mongers.
5. Disciples follow Jesus together. Look around. If you are not surrounded by other disciples, YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT A DISCIPLE. Who are your closest friends? Are they following Jesus? If not, you need some new friends. A disciple seeks out and listens to others who have walked with Jesus longer he or she has. Disciples pursue relationships with others to teach them the disciplines of following Jesus in practical ways. Disciples mentor and encourage one another in Bible study, prayer, marriage counseling, family counseling, money and time management.
What does it take to follow Jesus? Everything. To live your life you have to lose it.
What is my level of commitment to Jesus Christ?
As I look at the description of a true disciple above, what do I need to grow in? How will I do that?
Father, I want to be a true, totally committed Christ follower. I want to be surrendered, but my own sinful flesh keeps getting in the way. I find that when opposition comes, I don’t stand up very well against it. Forgive me for that, Lord. Enable me by Your Spirit to passionately, deeply, and completely follow You. Make me into the disciple You want me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Source: Our Journey Online
by Jill Carattini
Obedience is not a popular word. It conjures thoughts of condescending authorities, power imbalances and struggles, the uncomfortable choice of compliance or correction.
Disobedience carries thoughts of being punished, the risk of reprimand. Yet whether we see ourselves as generally obedient or disobedient, living courageously or cowardly, dutifully or defiantly, in all of life there is always risk. Christian author John Piper refers to "the enchantment of security" as a potent myth that pollutes our lives. He describes risk as a reality for all of us—whether living obediently or otherwise—because we don't know how things will turn out.
Risk is built into the framework of our finite lives. That is to say, our plans for the future always carry the risk of being shattered by a thousand unknowns. Our declarations of love always carry with it the risk of dismissal. And for the Christian, though risk might be associated with disobedience, vows to follow after God carry with them the risk of obedience. As Jesus once illustrated to an agrarian audience, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
In the Old Testament book of Joshua, which recounts the battles Israel fought after crossing the Jordan, "possession" and "promise" are key words in this notion of risk. The people of Israel were commanded by God to go and take possession of the land God had promised them, to seize what had been given. But there is a distinction between the promise itself and the possessing of that promise. The land was not just given to them; they were called to fight and seize hold of what was promised. To take possession of the Promised Land required risk, and yet God imparts that it was indeed given to them. He declares through Joshua, "I gave [your enemies] into your hands.... You did not do it with your own sword and bow" (24:11b, 12b).
In pursuit of God's promise, the Israelites had to proceed courageously; many grew weary and some may have given their lives. The risk was certainly real. But each obstacle that blocked the Israelites' ability to possess what God promised was an illustration that God was among them. Though the risk was certain, over each trial they faced, God declared the promise of risk and the assurance of God's presence.
Thankfully our relationship with God does not hold risks the same way that our relationships with others pose risks. The risk is not with God; it is with you and me. When the covenant was made with Israel that they would be God's people and God would be their God, it was not God's ability to keep the covenant that worried anyone. Standing on the Promised Land in the excitement of victory and the confidence of possession, the Israelites declared that they would faithfully serve and follow God. Joshua responded flatly, "You are not able to serve the LORD" (24:19). Our promises to God certainly carry the risk that they will be broken. But as the Israelites encountered combat and conflict, risking their lives in obedience to the LORD, they were repeatedly reminded that the greatest of all possessions is the promise of God Himself. God not only kept God's vow but acted on their behalf knowing that they could not.
There is a risk to following God, a risk to obedience. But as God declared to Joshua, it was declared again by his Son, "I will never leave you or forsake you." The Christian is invited to seize God's promises knowing that she won't know the outcome of her days, but that God himself is more certain than anything else. In risk and in suffering, uncertainty and disappointment we are assured and instructed by the same words given to Joshua. As he weighed the risk involved in seizing God's promise, Joshua was told: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." God asks us to boldly follow and then carries us through the risk.
Source: A Slice of Infinity. Copyright (c) 2011 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
by Frank Broom
God gave Moses an instrument through which He would do great signs and wonders, a rod. It was God's will to deliver the children of Israel and his pleasure to show his power on their behalf. And it's his pleasure to show his power on your behalf. With the rod in Moses hand God demonstrated his power to bring his will to pass. But, notice Moses always said what would be done first. He would speak first then God would demonstrate his power. So, Moses words was an important role in seeing God's power manifested.
And your words are important in seeing God's power manifested. I believe God is taking us to where we see his power manifested as we speak in line with his will. Notice the first time the people cried to Moses for water in Exodus 17 God told him to smite the rock with his rod and it would give forth water. But, in Numbers 20 when the people cried for water God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would give forth water. God was teaching them to use their words. In Exodus 17:11,12 when the children of Israel was in battle and Moses held up the rod the children of Israel prevailed and when his hand was lowered the enemy would prevail, so they held Moses arms up so that they would prevail. And yet, in Joshua 10 when the children of Israel were in battle for them to prevail Joshua spoke. He commanded the sun and moon to be still and they obeyed. God demonstrated his power as Joshua spoke for God's will to be done.
Notice God is taking man from a rod in the hand to a rod in the mouth. In Isaiah 11:1 "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse." And what rod is that, Jesus (the word made flesh). And what is he going to do, "And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth." Notice the rod is no longer in the hand, but it's in the mouth. When Jesus came notice what he said in John 14:10, he spoke the words of his father and the father in him did the work. Notice he spoke the words and the father in him did the work. He spoke the words for people to be healed and the father did the works. He spoke for demons to be casted out of people and the father did the work. He called for the storm to cease and the father did the work. He spoke and the father did the work. His mouth was the instrument through which God demonstrated his power.
Somebody might say well that was Jesus, but look at Acts 3 where there was a lame man at the gate of the temple. He asked Peter and John for alms (money) and notice what Peter did. He said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaped up and walked into the temple praising God. And notice Peter's answer to the people, "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers hath glorified his son Jesus." Notice God demonstrated his power because Peter used his mouth (rod) for God's will to be done. Well, didn't Jesus tell them in Matthew 10:8 to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out demons, and to raise the dead. How were they going to do those things? The same way he did them, by the rod in his mouth, with their words. They were to speak and God would do the work. They would call for the will of God to be done and He would use his power. What are you going through right now, use your rod and watch God demonstrate his power.
by Oswald Chambers
A person's will is embodied in the actions of the whole person. I cannot give up my will - I must exercise it, putting it into action. I must will to obey, and I must will to receive God's Spirit. When God gives me a vision of truth, there is never a question of what He will do, but only of what I will do. The Lord has been placing in front of each of us some big proposals and plans. The best thing to do is to remember what you did before when you were touched by God. Recall the moment when you were saved, or first recognized Jesus, or realized some truth. It was easy then to yield your allegiance to God. Immediately recall those moments each time the Spirit of God brings some new proposal before you.
". . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . ." Your choice must be a deliberate determination- it is not something into which you will automatically drift. And everything else in your life will be held in temporary suspension until you make a decision. The proposal is between you and God- do not "confer with flesh and blood" about it (Galatians 1:16). With every new proposal, the people around us seem to become more and more isolated, and that is where the tension develops. God allows the opinion of His other saints to matter to you, and yet you become less and less certain that others really understand the step you are taking. You have no business trying to find out where God is leading- the only thing God will explain to you is Himself.
Openly declare to Him, "I will be faithful." But remember that as soon as you choose to be faithful to Jesus Christ, "You are witnesses against yourselves . . ." (Joshua 24:22). Don't consult with other Christians, but simply and freely declare before Him, "I will serve You." Will to be faithful- and give other people credit for being faithful too.
Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers)
by Craig Weatherby
Seafood Versus Depression and Inflammation - Omega 3s Gain Medical Ground
In fall 2004, one "superstar" drug after another fell from its pedestal, the victims of exaggerated claims and unforeseen side effects.
Vioxx was the first to fall, followed quickly by Celebrex. New information showed that each of these "COX-2" anti-inflammatory pain relievers appear to pose greater health risks than the far cheaper generic pain relievers—aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.—they were supposed to improve on. Even the primary reason for their introduction—reduced risk of gastric bleeding in comparison with aspirin and ibuprofen—has since proven false.
Omega-3s discourage depression
Now, the ubiquitous anti-depressant drug Prozac has taken an image hit. First came evidence that Prozac may cause violent and suicidal behavior. In October of 2004, the FDA ordered drug companies to place "black box" warnings on the labels of the most widely prescribed class of antidepressants—serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SRRIs—including Prozac, stating that antidepressants increase the risk of "suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents."
Then, an article in the January 1 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) alleged that Prozac patent holder Eli Lilly & Company had long concealed evidence of this problem. British medical regulators were especially upset over the alleged concealment by Lilly, since they had recommended that many antidepressants not be prescribed for children and teenagers, but had not included Prozac in those advisories.
According to news reports, some of the documents cited by the BMJ article date back to the 1980's and include memos between Eli Lilly employees that show a link between Prozac and violent or suicidal behavior among people taking the drug.
DHA considered vital to mood control
The omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA is a major component of cell membranes in the brain, and dietary DHA has been found to improve the symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. A growing body of evidence indicates that omega-3 fatty acids—especially DHA—offer a promising dietary defense against depression. (DHA is found only in seafood, and is concentrated in fatty, cold water fish like salmon, sablefish, and tuna.)
Research over the past few years yielded these highly suggestive findings:
People suffering from major depression generally have lower-than-average body levels of omega-3s (especially DHA).
Omega-3s alleviate major depression, according to the results of the first placebo-controlled clinical trial, published in 2003. As the authors concluded, "From the preliminary findings in this study, omega-3 PUFAs could improve the short-term course of illness and were well tolerated in patients with major depressive disorder."
People in geographic areas where consumption of DHA is high enjoy decreased rates of depression, according to most studies. (A recent population study in Finland found no connection.)
People who typically have below-average tissue levels of DHA—such as alcoholics, and women in the postpartum period—suffer higher than average rates of depression.
This is not to say that people diagnosed with depression can safely toss their prescriptions in favor of eating lots of fish: researchers say that controlled clinical trials comparing DHA against standard antidepressants are required before doctors can prescribe DHA as an effective and safe alternative therapy for depression and related mood disorders, such as anxiety.
That said, increased DHA intake is certainly a safe preventive measure. As researchers at Harvard Medical School noted in a year 2000 review article, "Considering that natural medications generally seem best for treating mild to moderate illness, the role of DHA as a therapy for minor and subsyndromal depression also should be considered."
Omega-3s seen as anti-arthritis ally
Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 21 million Americans, most of them over the age of 45. This most common type of arthritis is caused by gradual degradation of the cartilage in people’s knees, hips, backs, and ankle joints. Loss of cartilage results in two sources of pain: 1) rubbing of bone against bone, and 2) indirect pain from the inflammatory response the body mounts in response to injury of tissues surrounding the joint. (Cartilage itself has no nerve endings.)
While their modes of action remain a bit of a mystery, aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), Vioxx and Celebrex provide effective relief from osteoarthritis pain, primarily through their anti-inflammatory actions. (Vioxx was withdrawn from sale last fall following reports of its risks to heart health.)
Omega-3s also dampen inflammation, but not strongly enough to provide the kind of pain relief people get from taking pharmaceutical drugs.
However, dietary omega-3s exert physiological effects that can help slow the progress of osteoarthritis, and limit related pain and immobility. Test tube studies involving cartilage cells (chondrocytes) show that omega-3s decrease the cartilage degradation and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. As the authors of one study put it, "… our data provide evidence supporting dietary supplementation of n-3 PUFA [omega-3s], which in turn may have a beneficial effect of slowing and reducing inflammation in the pathogenesis of degenerative joint diseases in man."
What about the far less common, far more debilitating disease known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? This highly painful condition is caused by a mysterious malfunction of the immune system that causes the body to mount an inflammatory attack its own joint tissues. Since omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, it’s no surprise that most clinical studies show that people with rheumatoid arthritis report substantial relief from dietary omega-3s.
Yet, for a purely non-medical reason, omega-3s remain an under-prescribed therapy for either form of arthritis. As the authors of a recent research paper explained, "Since fish oils do not provide industry with the opportunities for substantial profit associated with patented prescription items, they have not received the marketing inputs that underpin the adoption of usual pharmacotherapies." In other words, drug companies can’t make money selling natural products like omega-3s, because they cannot be patented and, compared with novel drugs, offer little profit potential.
Last, but not least, one huge advantage of fish oil over nearly every pharmacological solution is its safety. Only a fishy aftertaste ("repeat") occurs with some brands, which is completely harmless and usually passes quickly—a very small price to pay for fish oil’s manifold, well-proven benefits.
Mischoulon D, Fava M. Docosahexanoic acid and omega-3 fatty acids in depression. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2000 Dec;23(4):785-94. Review.
Su KP, Huang SY, Chiu CC, Shen WW. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003 Aug;13(4):267-71.
Colin A, Reggers J, Castronovo V, Ansseau M. [Lipids, depression and suicide] Encephale. 2003 Jan-Feb;29(1):49-58. Review. French.
Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers' milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord. 2002 May;69(1-3):15-29.
Hakkarainen R, Partonen T, Haukka J, Virtamo J, Albanes D, Lonnqvist J. Is low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids associated with depression? Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;161(3):567-9.
Curtis CL, Rees SG, Cramp J, Flannery CR, Hughes CE, Little CB, Williams R, Wilson C, Dent CM, Harwood JL, Caterson B. Effects of n-3 fatty acids on cartilage metabolism. Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 Aug;61(3):381-9.
Adam O. Dietary fatty acids and immune reactions in synovial tissue. Eur J Med Res. 2003 Aug 20;8(8):381-7. Review.
James MJ, Proudman SM, Cleland LG. Dietary n-3 fats as adjunctive therapy in a prototypic inflammatory disease: issues and obstacles for use in rheumatoid arthritis. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2003 Jun;68(6):399-405. Review.
Source: Vital Choice Seafood
Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please contact your physician for any advice on treating diseases. FDA hasn't evaluated or approved the information provided here.
by Sharon S.
This is the time of the year when fruits such as Peaches are plentiful in North America. So, here is a recipe to take advantage of the plentiful seasonal fruits. Adapt it for the available fruit if you are in India. This is a healthy and tasty recipe for a fruit soup that'll have everyone at the dining table chortling with glee.
CINNAMON PEACH SOUP
2 lb ripe peaches
Drop the peaches in a pot of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds. Rinse them under cold water and slip off the skins. Pit the peaches and coarsely chop them.
Tie the cloves, allspice, and cardamom in cheesecloth.
Combine the peaches, spice bundle, orange juice, lime juice, honey, cinnamon, and ginger in a heavy saucepan. (The amount of honey needed will depend on the sweetness of the peaches.)
Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft. Remove the spice bundle and let the soup cool to room temperature.
Puree the soup in a blender and chill. Just before serving, whisk in the yogurt and candied ginger. Correct the seasoning, adding honey and lime juice to taste. Serve in glass bowls or wine goblets, garnishing each with a sprig of mint.
Yield: Serves 4-6.
by Dr. Ben Kim, DrBenKim.com
All relationships face their own unique challenges. And I've been around long enough to believe that sometimes, it may be best for two grossly mismatched personalities to end a long term relationship and begin anew the quest for a mostly peace-filled life.
But for those who aren't quite ready to separate, let's discuss strategies that have worked for us. Things that we have found to be helpful in healing wounds, preventing wounds, fostering genuine fondness, earning respect, and just plain old surviving life with your significant other.
Now some folks I know say that they hardly ever fight. I even know a couple who insist that they have absolutely nothing to fight about. If you and your partner belong in this category, perhaps this post isn't for you.
My marriage has given me more heartache and stress than any other life experience. Pretty much everything that I've written over the years on maintaining healthy relationships, finding meaning in suffering, and just trying to treat others the right way has flowed out of this vat of personal grief that I suspect will always be a part of me.
But I'm still together with my life partner, Margaret, mother of our two boys, and though I suspect we'll continue to walk through more moments of despair and gnashing of teeth, I believe we will stay together forever. I didn't feel this way in the first few years of our marriage. I feel this way now because we've walked through the valley of the shadow of death more than a few times. And in surviving, I think we've developed some strategies that have been immensely helpful in allowing us to work at everything I mentioned above: healing wounds, preventing wounds, fostering genuine fondness, earning respect, and just plain old surviving life by each other's side.
You Have to Show Up
I think one of the reasons why we've had a number of horrible fights is that both of us like showing up in our relationship.
We're both pretty clear on things that are important to us as individuals, and when we feel that the other isn't being respectful, we show up.
For example, one thing I am highly sensitive to is someone other than me even mildly criticizing anyone on my side of the family. Yes sir, when I'm annoyed by one of my blood family members, right or wrong, I'm allowed to bellyache about it, but nobody else better say anything about my mom, dad, sisters, aunt, or grandmother. Because I'm liable to go medieval on them. Or at least read them the riot act.
Something that Margaret doesn't tolerate for a second is condescension. No matter how well it's dressed up, if I'm annoyed or grumpy about something and give her even a whiff of that fragrance of believing that I'm fundamentally a better human being, she gets deeply hurt, and understandably so.
The reasons for us having these and other sensitive buttons are not as important as knowing that they exist. Though, for the record, we've had countless conversations on all of the ways in which each of us refuses to be disrespected.
And I would argue that this is an essential ingredient in all healthy relationships. Not showing up on big life issues is a precursor to resentment, which is ultimately what destroys a genuine desire to respect, trust, support, encourage, serve, and love.
What's Important is How You Show Up
I think author Gary Chapman says it best:
"Love makes requests, not demands. When I demand things from my spouse, I become a parent and she the child."
In a marriage or life partnership, no one wants to feel like a child who constantly needs to be corrected, reprimanded, and controlled.
Margaret's big on keeping violent images out of our boys' lives. She concedes that eventually, they need to be aware of war lords, arms dealers, and other realities of our world, but at 6 and 4 years of age, she argues that they don't need to know about how some humans have a tendency to fight and kill one another. And I would agree with her.
But I do want our boys to one day enjoy the magic of "The Karate Kid" and a few other classics in my limited collection of movies. And I have to admit, I would enjoy seeing them experience the joy of playing with Nerf and water guns.
So when she tells me in a flat, no-nonsense voice that she doesn't want our boys to see Daniel-San's journey just yet, and that she won't allow any toy guns whatsoever in the house, I feel like she's parenting me.
The thing is, I'm fine with waiting on these life experiences. A little disappointed maybe. But I can respect these wishes. I just don't like the way they feel like demands. Like this is how it's going to be because she says so.
And it's not that I need her to ask for my permission so that I feel like I'm the leader of our household. I just want to feel like we're parenting our children together. So in this particular instance, I asked her how she felt about sharing such views in the form of a question, kind of like this:
"Hey Ben, how do you feel about waiting until the boys are about 12 and 10 before we watch 'The Karate Kid'? Because I really feel like they're still too young to see Daniel get whaled on by those bullies wearing the skeleton costumes."
For Margaret and me, approaching any life issue in this manner makes a huge, positive difference in the quality of our relationship.
Requesting rather than demanding. Expressing thoughts in terms of feelings. Asking for the other person's feelings on the matter. All excellent guidelines to keep in mind whenever we show up in our most important relationships.
And something else that really helps us: Before we bring up our mindfully composed requests, we try to say something like:
"I wanted to share something with you, but just wanted to tell you first that I don't mean in any way to make you feel bad, so please tell me if you do."
Sounds like a lot of work, right? And maybe this is unnecessary for some couples. But for us, a little preface like this sets the stage for a healthy discussion where there is little tendency to get defensive. Worth trying, I think.
Know Your Partner's Primary Language and Act on this Knowledge
Of the following five choices, which one makes you feel most loved and cared about?
Kind words - when your partner speaks kindly to you, encourages you, gives you an unexpected and genuine compliment, or tells you that he or she cares about you.
Quality time - when you and your partner spend quality time together.
Gifts - when your partner surprises you with a gift. The cost of the gift is irrelevant. You feel cared about because he or she spent time thinking about you and what you might like.
Acts of service - when your significant other does things that make your life less stressful or more enjoyable. Like the feeling you get when you're tired and hungry after a long day, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that the dishes are already washed, the recycling has been taken out, or there is a nice meal waiting for you.
Physical affection - when you and your partner hold hands, hug, and share physical contact that reflects how much you care about each other.
In his brilliant book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman discusses how each of us are geared towards having a primary love language. Whichever answer you choose to the question above is your primary love language - the way in which you most feel loved and cared about.
For most of us, I think it's natural to show love to our partner through the primary language that we most feel loved.
For example, Margaret's primary love language is quality time, while mine is acts of service.
So while she appreciates various acts of service I might perform with her in mind, they don't end up meaning as much to her as, say, spending an evening together just talking about this and that after the boys have gone to sleep.
I don't know how many times I've forgotten this and spent one too many hours at the office, thinking that she would appreciate how hard I was working for our family, only to become devastated and angry in discovering that she was angry with me for neglecting her. The perfect example of two people looking at the same event with completely different perspectives and all the heartache that can be caused by not knowing and acting on your partner's primary love language.
Know what your partner's primary love language is. Act on it. Repeat as often as possible.
Know How to Apologize
I suppose the first step is to recognize when an apology is in order. Here's my general rule of thumb: If Margaret is upset with me over something, I probably have something to apologize about.
I don't say this tongue in cheek. When she is upset about something, if I dig deep enough within my memory bank of things I said and did and didn't do over the past little while, I can almost always identify something that I can take responsibility for. And I think the same holds true in reverse. It really does take two to tango, and provided that both parties are mentally stable, both people usually have something that they can take ownership of in times of conflict.
So how to apologize. First, you have to really feel it. This means putting your feelings aside for a moment, and doing your best to feel your partner's pain. Not so easy to do, but become good at doing this, and I guarantee that it will lead to more happiness and less misery.
If you keep your focus on your partner's pain, it shouldn't be too difficult to say you're sorry.
"I'm really sorry."
"I'm sorry that I've caused you hurt."
All of these are acceptable. And if you can't say one of these with a genuine expression of sorrow and humility on your face, spend more time thinking about your partner's pain until such an expression is a natural printout of what you're really feeling.
And please don't ever say "I'm sorry if you were hurt by what I said (or did)."
This sends the message that you're not fully convinced that your partner is justified in feeling hurt. To some, this is as good as saying "I wish you weren't so emotionally weak, but I see that you're all hysterical again, so I'm sorry for whatever it is that's ailing you. Whatever."
It's simple. Focus on your partner's pain until you can say sorry from your heart. Then say it without qualifying it.
Know How to Accept an Apology
If you're lucky enough to have a partner who knows how to take ownership of his or her behavior and deliver a genuine apology, don't mess everything up by using this opportunity to get high and mighty.
For your partner to deliver a proper apology, he or she has to swallow some combination of hurt, pride and ego. Remember this, and it will be natural to be gracious and forgiving. This is the magic of one person stepping up and delivering a real and true apology; it tends to melt away the hurt on both sides, and dramatically improves the other person's capacity to feel compassion.
I repeat: please remember the work that is involved in apologizing from the heart. Even if you still feel hurt, try not to make your partner feel any worse than he or she already does.
A while back, Margaret, in a moment of sincere concern and panic, told what she felt was a harmless lie to a family friend. Her intentions were good, but almost immediately, she realized that she shouldn't have lied. So she mustered up the courage to call the family friend and take complete ownership of her behavior.
Regrettably, the friend, while accepting of the apology, delivered a bit of a sermon about how she never, ever lied, would never allow her husband to lie, held Margaret to a much higher standard, and expected that Margaret would learn something from this experience.
Remember what I mentioned about Margaret and the way she's wired to respond to condescension? The friend's rebuke was like dynamite; it destroyed a family friendship that we had cherished. A powerful and painful reminder to be gracious and never rebukeful when someone delivers a sincere apology.
To put it another way, when your partner apologizes to you, don't go on a power trip.
Remember What You're Grateful For
I believe that you can use the power of your thoughts to lift yourself, your partner, and your relationship into rarefied air. It's difficult to stay up there all the time, but for spurts, you can indeed get there.
You can do this by regularly giving silent thanks for all that you're grateful for in your partner.
If it's helpful, keep a picture of your partner as a baby nearby and meditate on all of the good qualities that the baby in the picture came to possess as an adult despite many decades of getting hurt and disappointed by life.
Since I've shared some gritty details from my marriage, I guess I deserve to list a few of the qualities that I'm grateful for in Margaret, qualities that remind me that I found the best possible partner for me in this world.
She lives for our boys. She really knows how to be with them. She doesn't lie nearby with her nose buried in a book or cell phone while they go brain dead in front of a television. She talks with them, reads with them, plays games with them. It's exhausting work, to really be emotionally present with little ones, and she does this beautifully.
You know that person who gets up at his wedding and raises a glass to toast a table full of relatives whose names he isn't quite sure of, and yet, without a hint of shame, declares to the crowd of guests that he loves said relatives and lives for them? My wife is the opposite of this type of person. She is absolutely genuine. No matter her emotion, you know what it is. She is the opposite of phony. I adore this about her.
She values health over looks and function over style. She doesn't need to visit the Eiffel tower to be happy; she'd much prefer a good memoir and a cup of tea. She will never get the difference between our Hyundai and the neighbor's BMW. She's almost right out of the pages of Little House on the Prairie, except she does TaeKwonDo and she doesn't know how to milk a cow.
I could go on, but that should just about help me round out my point. When I focus on these and other qualities about my life partner that I'm deeply grateful for, I find that I want to try harder to be a good husband to her. Though I like to think that I'm getting better at it with age, as a fellow human being with a good backpack full of my own personal issues, I need to regularly choose these thoughts to keep my game sharp. When I don't consciously feed myself these reminders, I start taking her for granted, and inevitably, it becomes easier to have a fight over nothing.
As Mahatma Gandhi shared with us:
Your thoughts become your words,
So those are the healthy relationship strategies that I've learned thus far through my marriage.
by Julia Darling
Approach us assertively, try not to
Do not touch us unless invited,
Don't bend down, or lower your voice.
Don't say, I heard that you were very ill.
Try not to say how well we look.
Also (and this is hard I know)
Remember that this day might be your last
Source: Spiritual Help by Rev. Fr. John Bryan, Madison, WI
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