Choose Life’s Travel Companions Wisely

My friend and colleague Maria and I traveled to Italy in September.

The last few months have redefined epic adventure in my dictionary. From travel hacking Italy with a colleague to a surprise engagement trip in the mountains of North Carolina, I’ve been overwhelmed with God’s blessings and the people He’s placed in my life.

However, there’s a difference between amazing people and iron-sharpening people. I’m grateful mine qualify as both, but as we’re choosing friends to do life with, we should consider some important questions.

Do they point you to Christ?

I went on a North Carolina hiking trip in October with my fiance James and friends Devon and Conrad.

There are plenty of people in this world who model ingenuity, bravery, kindness, and adventure. From the world’s standpoint, they personify the ideal. These charismatic people attract a crowd, and although they can be generous and inspirational, they’re missing the main thing.

Without a personal relationship with God, a person with everything the world has to offer has nothing of lasting worth.

Do the people in your tribe encourage you to have a closer walk with God? Do they keep you accountable and ask you to do the same for them?  Beyond that, do they pray for you and with you (James 5:16)?

We need to surround ourselves with Spirit-filled friends who strengthen our faith and won’t let us settle for status quo.

To read the complete post, visit DailyPS.com.

Who’s in your tribe? Do they build you up and make you better? Most importantly, do they point you to Jesus Christ?

~ Kristen

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The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

Springtime in Florida means greenery is in full bloom everywhere except my front yard. My poor yard. I’ve never had a green thumb, and when I bought my home, the previous owner clearly hadn’t possessed one either.

But I do water. Or God does. But I suppose that to have green grass, one should have something other than weeds in the first place.

I digress. This post isn’t about my lost-cause lawn. It’s actually about relationships and commitments in general-and sticking with them.

What are you watering?

I heard a pastor use this phrase when giving a talk on marriage. He said that there are three phases to marriage: 1) infatuation, 2) disillusionment, and 3) commitment. I’m not married yet, but from what I’ve read and witnessed, that sounds about right.

The pastor said that most marriages fall apart in phase two when people wake up and realize their partner isn’t perfect (hello!) and think that the grass looks greener elsewhere. And that’s when he made this statement: The grass is greener where you water it.¹

In other words, relationships require work, but what we nurture grows.

While this principle applies to relationships, I think it also applies to any area of our lives where we’ve made a commitment.

Is your water bucket getting low?

Maybe your commitment is to a job or ministry. Signing the contract or getting the training was exciting, but now, you’re just worn out.

For me, my commitment is to a three-book writing contract I signed in November of 2016 with Write Integrity Press. It was such an exciting answer to prayer, and today, I still thank God for this opportunity.

But that’s not to say the last year and a half have been a joy ride. Sometimes, I feel exhausted and borderline burned out.  At the moment, I’m working through some tough-love edits to my third book. Maybe I’d rather go sit at the pool after work, but that choice won’t help my messy manuscript make its deadline.

How to keep our commitments green

So how do we keep our commitments “green” when we’d rather retreat to other pastures?

#1. Remember our covenants and contracts.

When people say I do, their vow includes all the for betters (which they can imagine) and all the for worses (which they have no idea are coming). The husband and wife pledge themselves to each other before God and witnesses.

When I signed my book contract, I made a commitment to my editor that I would deliver a three-book trilogy within a certain time frame. Ironically, this last year has been one of the busiest of my life. Sometimes, I share a laugh with God and say, “Really? We’re going to do this now, too?” I’ve struggled to write in the in-between moments and sometimes had to say no to very good things I wanted to do in order to sit on my couch and peck at my keyboard.

But that’s the thing. Commitments often require choices that aren’t glamorous but yield more lasting satisfaction.

#2: Remember, this is a season.

Some seasons last longer than others. When you’re dealing with fatigue, disappointment, or worse, remember what Solomon said:

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV)

Thinking back to previous blessings or answered prayers can  help to draw ourselves out from tunnel-vision mode and realize that both highs and lows end at some point.

Take a deep breath and tell yourself: This is a season. It won’t last forever. (Repeat until you feel the floor becoming level again.) Give your situation some perspective, and remember that ultimately, God orders our seasons for a purpose designed to benefit us (Romans 8:28).

#3: Remember who walks beside us.

Ultimately, the best consolation is that we never have to face any part of our journeys alone. Tired? Weary? Disillusioned? Heartbroken? Jesus knows how all that feels.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NKJV)

We can take our cares to this all-knowing and understanding High Priest and find “grace to help” just where we need it (Hebrews 4:16).

The “grass” or commitments of our lives may seem brown at times, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep watering them. On the contrary, we should water them more, because God has entrusted them to us. With His enabling power, we can be faithful and trust the growth and results to Him.

~ Kristen

Notes

¹ For the series on marriage, visit Church of the Highlands.

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6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 2

If you missed last week, you’ll want to look back at the first in this two-part series by Tami Myer. In these posts, she maps out a beautiful and biblical perspective on marriage for Christian singles.

Today, we pick up where we left off last time with the fourth thing singles should know about marriage.

If this post is a blessing to you, please leave a comment below-or share it with your single friends to encourage them in their walk.

***

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team. [i]

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single.

Ravi Zacharias points out that the only lasting cure for loneliness is worship.

That may seem like a strange statement unless we understand that true worship is actually an expression of relationship. Worship is not a monologue of verbal praise or a one-person performance. Instead, it is a two-way relationship: we delight in knowing God, and God delights in knowing us. Genuine worship requires that we know God in our spirit (not just as facts in our brain) and in truth. [ii]

Without worship, we experience only temporary relief from loneliness through various distractions. But true worship can be a continual posture of our soul; it becomes a lifestyle. If we live in worship, then we can live free of deep loneliness.

#6. Marriage is an assignment from God.

Instead of looking for a soulmate, listen for God’s calling. Click to Tweet.

Marriage is a calling to serve another person. It is as much a calling as a missionary’s call to Africa or a pastor’s call to preach. A wife is called to minister to her husband’s needs, and a husband is called to minister to his wife’s needs.

If you marry because someone makes you happy, what will you do on the day that he or she doesn’t make you happy? (And that day will arrive sooner than you expect.)

Most of the reasons that people give for marrying then flip into their reasons for leaving: “he was kind, but now he’s not,” or “she was attentive and appreciative, but now she’s not.” However, if your reason for marrying is to serve, then you will never have a reason to leave because you will always be able to serve.

If God is calling you to serve Him as a single now, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

If God calls you someday to serve as a husband or wife, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. (1 Corinthians 7:17  MSG)

The calling is God’s business. Faithfulness to the calling is our business.

~ Tami Myer, MannaForMarriage.com

Notes

[i] Genesis 2:20-24; Mark 10:6-9

[ii] John 4:24

 

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 1

Tami Myer is my friend and fellow writer who blogs about godly marriage and what that looks like. I asked her if she could share a biblical perspective on marriage for singles that we could apply to our walk now, and she graciously said yes.

Whether you’re a teen, young adult, or adult who’s not yet married, it’s my hope that Tami’s two-part series will bless you as much as it has me.

***

Why should singles care about the topic of marriage?

If marriage is not on your radar or even on your wish list, you may think that the subject is not relevant for you right now. But regardless of your marital status, you will benefit from understanding the divine design for marriage. [i]

Here are six important things to know about marriage.

#1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truths.

When we look at the universe, we know that there is a God. And when we look at marriage, we learn who this God is. The created world reveals the existence of God, but marriage reveals the nature and character of God. We learn that He is a God of relationship and that He is loyal and loving.

In the Scriptures, God makes a stunning claim:

For your Creator will be your husband. (Isaiah 54:5 NLT)

God will be our husband? What does that mean? As we study biblical marriage, we learn that a man is to be the protector and the provider for his wife. The husband is responsible for the well-being of the woman. He lays down his interests in order to love her well. His very life is to be a covering of protection over his bride. He honors, nurtures, and cherishes her.

Amazingly, God is eager to be this kind of “husband” to everyone who enters into a covenant relationship with Him.

I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. (Hosea 2:19 HSCB)

As a type of “wife,” we accept God and welcome Him. We take His name as our name. “I am His” becomes our identity. We become covenant partners with Him, and we allow Him to carry the weight of responsibility. We give up being spiritually single. We end our other spiritual love affairs (pursuing pleasure, prestige, or possessions), and we devote ourselves to Him. Instead of being spiritually independent (“I know what is good for me”), we depend on His guidance and wisdom.

We live to know Him and to make His name great. We trust His care, knowing that His goal is our radiance. [ii] Our thriving is His glory.

We abide in Him, and He abides in us. We delight in Him, marveling that He delights in us.

As a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:5 HCSB)

#2. You can have a great impact on others in the area of marriage.

As you interact with people every day, you can be a powerful influence. You don’t have to be married to know what God teaches about marriage. Understanding the Scriptures will enable you to share helpful truth with others.

It has been said that wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. Whether married or not, we all need wisdom in this area because the marriages around us affect our lives. Marriages shape our society and culture.

#3. You may have heard that sexual purity is a gift to your future spouse, and that is certainly true. But purity is also a valuable gift to yourself.

You are far more than physical instincts and chemicals. You are more than an animal, which lacks moral strength or character. You have inherent honor, for you are a man or a woman created in the image of God Himself. Women have the God-given glory of being women. Men have the God-given glory of being men.

Your sexuality is deeply linked to your spirit. If you are abused sexually, there is a deep wounding in your spirit. If you give your body away sexually, your spirit is dishonored and demeaned. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT)

Perhaps you don’t know how much you are worth. Perhaps you don’t know that you are a person of high value. God says that you are a treasure. You are priceless!

Your body and spirit are worth far more than cheap words and empty promises. You are worth nothing less than someone’s solemn vow before God and witnesses to honor you “til death do you part.” Guard yourself against anyone who says you are worth less than a lifetime commitment.

Sexual purity isn’t just physical. It is also mental. Stay away from porn. It will destroy you. We live in a pornographic society, so it takes strength to fight back, but it is well worth the effort. Porn promises pleasure, but then it sabotages even the ability to enjoy pleasure. It is highly addictive, encourages abusive behavior, creates dissatisfaction, destroys empathy, and causes users to view people as objects.

Pursue sexual purity in your behavior and in your thinking. You will reap great rewards from this, both now and later, whether single or married. Purity will free you to be healthy physically, spiritually, and in your relationships with other people.

Whatever may be in your past, you can embrace purity now because God loves to give fresh starts and clean slates.

~ Tami Myer

To be continued… Be sure to come back next week for the second part of: 6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage.

Notes

[i] One of the best books on marriage was originally written for singles. The Meaning of Marriage is based on a series of sermons which pastor Timothy Keller preached at his church in New York City, where his congregation is predominantly single.

[ii] Ephesians 5:27, NIV

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Love, Truth, Love

You are in for a treat! My friend and writer Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com is my guest here today. She and her husband Robby demonstrate how differences can complement each other. Are you more like Ashley or Robby? Read on to learn how each personality type has its own strength and weakness … and how these blended styles help us make the most of our relationships.

Guest blog by BigSisterKnows.com

My husband Robby and I have been happily married for over six years now. One of the reasons we work so well together is that neither of us likes drama. We prefer the simple life. But, sometimes, stuff happens and you just have to deal with it. And that’s when our complementary personalities really shine. You see, Robby is a natural-born peacemaker, and I’m…well…scrappy. As you can imagine, we didn’t always see this difference as positive thing.

Early into our relationship, Robby’s “can’t we all just along?” temperament grated on my “why can’t everyone just do it right?!” attitude. It wasn’t long before we realized some very important things about ourselves.

Truth, Truth, Truth

I am a “truth, truth, truth” kind of person. Not only do I want to know the truth, but I want to relay the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times. If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry—but not really, ‘cause I can’t help that it’s the truth.

Love, Love, Love

Robby, on the other hand, is the quintessential peacemaker. He is a “love, love, love” kind of person. Yes, he wants to be truthful in all things, but if he has to pick, he’ll choose a loving silence over a truthful discourse any day.

Truth or Love?

At one point, we talked about what was more godly: truth or love? Fortunately, I was taking Bible classes at that time, and we looked into the following verse:

 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NAS)

The teacher suggested that “in spirit” means “in love,” since we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:16 NAS).

Although the context of John 4 is worship, all of our activities can be considered worship if we do them as unto the Lord. (See Colossians 3:23.)

Pulling these concepts together, I realized that my words and actions should be as loving as they are truthful.

Love, Truth, Love

That’s when Robby and I made a pact. He would be more upfront with the truth, trusting that I wouldn’t overreact or blame him for passing along difficult news. And I would be more loving, sweetening each word of truth with love. Now, we’re both striving to be “love, truth, love” kind of people—sandwiching the necessary truth in love.

I have to admit that this has made me a better person, wife, and friend. It’s also enabled me to minister to others in a meaningful way.

Learn to Love

If you’re a truth-focused person like I am, take heart! You can learn to be more loving in your interactions with others. Here are a few tips.

  • God first – Remember, the great commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor. (See Matthew 22:37-39.) We can’t fulfill the second commandment until we fulfill the first. It might help to think of the image of the “love cup.” Focus on your love for God first, letting that fill your love cup. Then let God’s love overflow and pour through you into your relationships with others.
  • Fake it – In the meantime, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I don’t mean that you should be a fake person, but if you make an effort to be nice and caring, you’ll find your emotions follow suite.
  • Pray – You can’t dislike someone you’re praying for—at least not for long—so pray daily for their welfare.

Learn to be Truthful

If you have a hard time telling difficult things to people you love, you can learn to be more truthful.

  • Right motives – We should never speak the truth out of a sense of self-righteousness or judgment. However, we should speak truth in love if it will help the other person in some way. This could be as small as telling your friend that she has spinach in her teeth; or it could be as big as confronting her with her addiction to alcohol. Just make sure your motives are righteous before you speak.
  • Faith – If you need to say something, then have faith in your friend and in the strength of your relationship. Even if the truth rocks the boat a bit, your friend should appreciate that you said what you did in love.

What about you? Have you struggled with speaking truth in love? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NAS).

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this guest post! You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Be a “love, truth, love” person—sandwiching the necessary truth in love. @kjhogrefe @BigSisterTweets (Click to Tweet)

Adored Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and shared about last week’s Adored giveaway.

Congratulations to the winner, Elizabeth!

 

 

2 Lies the Enemy Tells Us about Being Single

This week’s post talked about God’s timing, and I think it’s “timely” that my guest post for DailyPS.com on singleness also published the same week. In every season of life, most of us would probably admit we’re “waiting” for something … to get through that advanced math class, to hear back on college applications, or to receive that long-awaited promotion.

Many people are also waiting and wondering when their relationship status might change. Though I don’t often blog about singleness, I think this topic is important, because it’s often misunderstood. If you’re single or know someone who is, I’d encourage you to click over to DailyPS.com to read the full post.

Regardless of your “status” or the item on your “waiting” list, the bottom line is this: Live abundantly where God has you today.

Post excerpt

Often, we single adults don’t stress about our relationship status until someone suggests we should. Not long ago, my church’s youth pastor shared from the pulpit how he met his wife online. The woman in front of me twisted in her seat and raked me over with a look that said, “Sweetheart, what are you waiting for?”

Well-meaning though she was, she doesn’t know my story. Well-meaning though people may be, they don’t know yours. Whether through not-so-subtle suggestions or other prickly tactics, Satan can make us question our confidence in Christ.

To deflect his darts, we should consider Paul’s challenge to the Ephesians, equipping ourselves “to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV). Dictionary.com defines wiles as “a trick, artifice, or stratagem meant to fool, trap, or entice.”

In other words, wiles are lies that parade as truth, and perhaps we’ve entertained a few before. Something’s wrong with you. You’re not good enough. You missed the bus.

When lies rear their heads like ugly dragons, the only way to slay them is with truth. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word “is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (NKJV). It’s the weapon we need to defeat the doubt and live the abundant life God’s planned for us (John 10:10).

Click here to read the full post.

A Cord of Three Strands

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen the rescue kitten that now runs my house (only partially joking there).

Good news is that low-to-no budget toys are often what makes kitty happiest. The other day, Mom gifted my little Ness with a red crochet strand with a jingle bell at the end. Turns out, it once belonged to some Christmas socks my great-aunt made me … a long time ago.

Despite the years, those three strands remain tightly knit together, at least until my kitten gets the best of them.

In the Bible, Solomon uses the visual of a three-strand cord to visualize why we need strong friends in our lives. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says,

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (NIV).

This verse reminds me of Proverbs 27:17 which talks about an “iron-sharpening” friend. A true friend challenges us to be better, lifts us up when we’re low, and stays with us during tough times.

How can we be this type of friend in return?

  • Stay in touch, and spend “face time” (not the app) with them. This point may seem obvious, but as we graduate from school and get older, keeping in touch gets harder. The distractions of life and social media don’t help. To be a good friend, let your friends know you’re there for them.
  • Ask how you can be praying for them, and then faithfully present their needs to the Lord.
  • Talk about God’s Word with your friends. Share what you’re learning or reading. If you can, join a Bible study or Sunday school class together.
  • Look for opportunities and ways to bless them. You could do something as simple as picking up a bouquet of flowers, treating them to coffee, or offering to babysit (or kitty-sit, in my case). Speaking from personal experience, I’m incredibly grateful for my amazing friend who watches my fur baby when I’m out of town!
Say hello to little Ness!

One of the Women of Faith Bible studies I use defines a good friend this way:

A good friend is one who trusts, understands, gives space, and is willing to speak honestly into your life. – Building Your Strengths

Are we that kind of friend?

A fictional example

In my prequel to The Revisionary called A Cord of Three Strands, Portia makes a pact with her brother Darius and best friend Luther to stick together like the three-corded rope they use for a fishing anchor. They understand that they’ll be stronger if they watch out for each other. Little do they know what forces are at work to tear them apart.

I’d like to share this novella in e-book format with you! If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, subscribe using the pop-up to receive your free copy. If you’ve already subscribed and would like to receive the novella, please email me at kristen@kristenhogrefe.com, and I’ll send your electronic copy.

Parting thought: How can we be the type of friend God wants us to be?

~ Kristen

Tweetables

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