Building People. Spreading Hope.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coping with Stress in Relationships

It is God’s will for us to enjoy and have meaningful relationships in our lives.  He made men and women to complement each other (not better than each other).  His purpose for us is to live in harmony and celebrate our differences.  Regardless of our marital status, deep in our hearts we all long to be in a loving, accepting relationship.  We’re created to receive and give love.  However, many of us struggle to build quality relationships.  We lack understanding and practical tools.  We frustrate ourselves and each other because we don’t know how to understand our mate and be understood.

Men prefer time alone to cope with stress and problems.  They process life in “boxes.”  Have you ever noticed how men go into their “boxes” when they want to relieve themselves from stress?  Newspaper, football and basketball court, TV and computer screen, a bed are all shaped like boxes!  Men tend to handle life best by compartmentalizing their lives tackling one problem at a time.

What she can do:  Show him that you care by giving him a hug or a kiss.  But most importantly, give him the space to be alone to relieve his tension.  Don’t tell him what to do unless he asks.  Trust him that he will be able to solve his problems alone and come out victorious.  Express your admiration for his ability to handle stress on his own but don’t bombard him with questions.  That makes him feel inadequate and your lack of confidence in him.

Women work thru problems in a more intricate way.  When they feel under stress, they need to talk and share their feelings about everything (good, bad and the ugly).  They need to connect with someone who will listen without being judgmental of how they feel.  During these times, her immediate goal is not finding solutions to the problems but someone to understand and accept how she feels.  She does not want to be told that what she is feeling is wrong.  At this time, she’s looking for a shoulder not a mouth (lecture).

What he can do:  When women talk about problems, men automatically think that he is being blamed and she’s is making him responsible for her unhappiness.  So very soon men start to get out of the conversation or put up a defensive wall.  Understand that women need to process their feelings by verbalizing them.  She’s not blaming you or looking for a solution when she expresses her feelings of frustration.  Your feeling of being “attacked” is temporary.  The sooner she feels understood, validated and accepted the faster her hopelessness will disappear. 

Give her the “gift” of your attentive listening ears, keeping eye contact, and asking caring questions.  Touch or hold her gently in your arms and tell her how important and valuable she is to you.  You can score really big if you can listen without getting critical of how she feels and providing solutions to her problems.

Also before you retrieve to deal with your own stress, let her know that you’re not upset with her.  When she feels secure in her relationship with you, she’ll not come after you trying to mend things.  Without this she feels she has done something wrong and tries to reach out bombarding you with questions and unsolicited solutions.

Trust your man to solve his problems alone unless he asks for your input.  Allow your wife to express her feelings without criticizing, interrupting or offering solution.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

There's Plenty For You

Several years ago, Cassandra, my daughter, asked me, "Can  you get me some yarn, Daddy?"  My immediate response was, "Sure honey." 
A couple of hours later she said, "Thank you Daddy."  I said, "What for?" 
Cassandra said, "For getting me the yarn."  I said, "But I've not gotten it for you yet!"  She said, "I know  you will."
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:8, "God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you, that you, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may have an ABUNDANCE for every good work."  Do you notice the ALLs?  Knowing our natural tendency to doubt and worry, God wanted to make sure we understand that we're fully covered.  Like my daughter Cassandra, He wants us to have peaceful confidence that our Father in heaven will take good care of us.  He wants to supply for us in ABUNDANCE!  Why?
Verse 10 says, "He who supplies SEED to the SOWER (that's you); and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness."  Friend, God's primary purpose is to bless you so that YOU CAN BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS.  I'm here to remind you that YOUR GOD has not forgotten you.  He recalls every time you stretched yourself to help someone else.  He remembers and keeps record of your giving to help others and expand God's Kingdom.  He remembers the encouragement you gave to people when you were down yourself.  He sees your consistency to be a blessing.
With the ongoing economic crisis around the world and the rising cost of living, it is easy to feel overwhelmed about how we're going to make ends meet.  I know too many people right now who are worried about making their house payments, car payments or their children's education.
Friends, I have good news for you. You need to realize that your job is not your source.  Our business or the strength of our economy is not our source. God who made the streets of heaven with gold is our Source.  He decorated the universe with sparkling stars.  He clothes the fields with beautiful flowers.  He feeds the birds.  Do you think He will run out of resources to meet your need?  No.  He has plenty for you, and lots left over so you can share with others.
You say, "Sandy, you're just getting my hopes up.  Clearly there's a recession.”  You're right.  I am getting your hopes up.  The Bible says, "Without faith (hope) it is impossible to please God."  So what can you do to tap into God's abundance for you?
1.  Keep your heart clean.  Get rid of any toxin in your life.  Don’t allow any resident sin big or small, to control  you.  If you’re in doubt, ask the Holy Spirit.  He loves to guide us into all truth.
2.  Change your thinking.  Your thinking has everything to do with the quality of life you'll live.  If you have a mediocre, barely-get-by mind set, you'll live a mediocre life.
3.  Turn up your expectation.  God will meet us at the level of our expectation.   Expect something specific and something good.  God loves to see you putting your confidence in Him!
4.   Sow in famine.  In Genesis 26 you'll read how Isaac sowed in famine AND reaped a hundredfold.   Friend, God is not "after your wallet."  When He says “give”, He's saying, “Tap into My abundant supply.”
5.  Focus on increase not conservation.  In a time of not enough, it is easy to get caught up in holding onto things, especially our finances.  But if we do that, we become like the Dead Sea where no living creatures can live. If you become a conduit God will make you very prosperous.
Friend, God has 1001 ways to meet your needs.  There's plenty for you.  Will you put your quiet confidence in God and thank Him for taking care of you today?  I am praying for you!
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Location, Location, Location

In real estate terms, location is everything. Depending on its location a certain piece of property can be worth a fortune or amount to nothing. Sometimes it is a marginal as which side of the “track” the property is located. In real estate, location is the key to the value of the property. Likewise, there is a spiritual and emotional place where God has reserved for us in abundance, health, peace and prosperity.

In Genesis 19: 22, God told Lot, Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there. I find it interesting that the Ruler of the universe couldn’t do anything to help Lot until he got there. I believe there is place of maturity where the Lord wants to take us before He can release the breakthrough in our lives.

After I graduated from college in India, I was offered a secure job, prominence and an inheritance by two single ladies (we called them aunties) who raised me after my mother died when I was one year old. It made every sense in the natural to take their offer and settle down in life. But deep in my heart, I knew God had something bigger for my life. I politely turned the offer down and moved to the neighboring country of Nepal. I had no roots there – the language, culture, food, everything was foreign to me. Nepal being the land of the Everest, the weather affected me the most. I was freezing every winter wearing Chinese made cloth shoes that the locals called, “Kung Fu Shoes!” Nothing made sense in the natural, but God had a plan for my life that had to begin with my change of location. Like Abraham, He uprooted me from everything I was accustomed to in India and planted me in a totally new environment. That was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Since then in the last twenty five years, by the grace of God, I have ministered in more than 40 countries around the world. I’ve met people, seen places and experienced things in life that most people can only dream about. God has given me such a rich life experience; it started when I changed my address. For you, it may not mean change of a physical place but it can be a spiritual or an emotional state of tranquility.

My friend, are you in a place where you’re feeling stretched and uncomfortable? Is there a stirring going on in your heart? Maybe you are comfortable but deep in your heart, you’re not satisfied. You know there is more to life than the daily grind. Like Zacchaeus in the Bible, does your soul reach out for more than what the natural eyes meet? I have good news for you! There IS more.

Do you know how a pearl is made? A pearl is created by a living organism when a little grain of sand gets into an oyster. Over many months and years of irritation and natural process, that grain of sand develops into a beautiful pearl. If you had asked the oyster, it will tell you the irritation is not comfortable yet one day it pops out a pearl! In the same way, you are a pearl in the making. There may be a few irritations in your life right now that may be holding you back from where you want to be. If you endure and go through the process of change, your little grain of irritation will turn into a priceless pearl.

God is far more interested in changing us than changing our circumstances! Because when we change, our circumstances change automatically; and it’s permanent. God wants us to climb up higher in our character, in our actions and in our maturity. The Scripture says, He has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6. What are you doing under your circumstances? It’s time to step up!

Bruce and his wife had been in the insurance business for years. It was his life and livelihood. In the last several years due to economic downturn and change of laws, their business had been struggling. They talked things over and realized that the pressure was affecting everything in their lives. They decided to quit insurance and start another business. Shortly after that Bruce wrote to me, Miss the income, not the headache. Of course they missed the income, but they understood that the stress was not worth losing their peace, health and each other. Bruce and his wife made a smart choice, instead of remaining in a draining business, they changed their business outfit. It's enabling them to live happier, healthier and longer.

Sometimes, you have to let go of the old, before God can put anything new in your hands. Don’t be afraid to enter a new place in your life.

Amanda goes to my church. She struggled with drugs and alcohol for 13 years! Her father was a drug abuser and an alcoholic, so there was no role model for her. To dull her emotional pain, Amanda turned to alcohol as a teenager. Through various experiences, Amanda was brought to the lowest point of her life, yet she had a sincere heart. Deep inside, she always knew this wasn’t God’s best for her. Like the prodigal son, Amanda came to herself. She surrendered to God and He delivered her from the addiction of drugs and alcohol. Amanda has been sober for nine months, married and is expecting a baby boy! Friend, God wants to free you from drugs, addictions, spending out of control and anger. But you must come to the place called there and that is at the foot of Calvary where His blood was shed to bring you freedom. With God, you can overcome anything no matter how long it has been!

Friend, I believe God is preparing a higher ground for you. His plan is to prosper you and propel you to a level you’ve never imagined before. Like He did with me, Bruce and Amada, He wants to bring you to a place of significance, peace and deliverance. Accept God’s provision. Where you are right now is far more important than where you have been in the past. But He wants to take you places you’ve never dreamed of. Hurry up! God cannot do anything until you get there!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

You Have Comeback Power

One day a farmer's donkey fell into a dry well. The helpless animal cried pitifully for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the donkey was old, and the well needed to be covered up, it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the old donkey or saving the well.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They each grabbed a shovel and began to throw dirt into the well. At first, the donkey didn’t realize what was happening and it cried even more. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well, and was astonished at what he saw. As every shovel of dirt hit his back, the donkey did something amazing. With every shovel of dirt falling on its back the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, everyone was amazed; the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and began to kick the snot out of the farmer and his neighbors! Ok, so it may not be exactly how the story ended, but in life people will throw dirt at you and try to keep you “down in the well.” The secret is to learn how to shake it off and turn it into a stepping stone to your advantage. Never stop and give up in what is a seemingly hopeless situation. Often the dirt that was meant to bury you, God will use to promote you. Jesus said it this way, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:24
You see, just because certain things looks dead or dormant in your life doesn’t mean there isn’t any activity going on underneath. The scripture says, the Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Psalm 138:8. That means right now, God is working on our behalf to resurrect the dead things in our lives. He is equipping you with comeback power.
I know people who are down, depressed and decommissioned from life because they have been mistreated by a loved one, a co-worker, a church member or by a family member. Friend, I have good news for you. Just because you’ve had some setback in life doesn’t mean God has written you off. The best days of your life are just in front of you. Put on a new attitude and a new perspective. The scripture says, He will give you beauty for ashes and turn your mourning into joy. Isaiah 61:4. You will rise again from the dust of your ashes. You have come back power within you.

The mother of all comeback stories is the death of our Lord. At the time of Jesus’ death, it looked like the enemy had gotten the best of Him. The Savior of the world was now hanging on a cross, helpless and without a future. Bystanders mocked Him; you saved others, now save yourself. It was painful and shameful, but Jesus did not comment on his temporary “defeat.” He quietly understood this principle – He had comeback power. He knew if God was going to allow Him to die, He would also raise Him up from the dead. And that He did! After three days, God raised Jesus up in all His glory and positioned Him at the right Hand.
We read that and think Oh but that was Jesus the Son of God. He wouldn’t do it for me.  Actually, He would! In fact He has promised to do so. The scripture says, the same power that brought Jesus back to life resides within you to give you the comeback power you need to overcome the trials of life. Eph. 1:19-20, Romans 8:11.
Have you ever looked at a seed and wondered about its power within? It may be small and insignificant but it contains God’s unlimited potential. As soon as it is put in the ground, it begins to experience some painful discomfort. If you could dialog with that seed, it will tell you, it is painful to be covered with dirt. It will say it is dark and lonely buried by the weight of the dirt. But the seed knows a secret. That little seed knows by instinct that it has comeback power. It knows that one day it will break free from its outer shell and push through the mighty dirt, bearing beautiful flowers and luscious fruits.
Friend, if you’re facing some dirt, some lonely nights or some temporary defeat, remember, you are a seed planted in God’s vineyard. He is the Vine-dresser and there is no way He will let a seed die without achieving its full potential. The scriptures say, for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again. Proverbs 24:16. You have comeback power to rise again and do great exploits!
If you’re facing a slump in your business, know that God is sending favor in your direction. If you’re facing a sickness – God is sending healing your way. If you’re struggling in a relationship – God is orchestrating restoration. If you are laden with sin and past disappointments, remember our God is full of mercy. He will forgive as soon as you turn your life over to Him. How about a dead pocket book? Crazy as it may seem, speak to your financial situation and say, thank you Lord for providing for my needs according to your riches. I will lend and not borrow. I have plenty for my family and plenty leftover to evangelize the world.
Friend, when you feel buried with dirt, remember to shake it off and step up. When you see dead things in your life, remind yourself that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave resides in you. When you feel small, insignificant and powerless against the mighty “dirt,” – remember the tiny seed. He is positioning you for the ultimate comeback. Confess God’s Word over your life. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on to things God has for you. You have comeback power and no gates of hell shall prevail against you! Amen.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Declare Your Independance

Sooner or later, everything of value will require a fight in order to protect and keep it.  In political terms, it is like having a national army and military forces that protect our borders and national interests. At times, it requires the ultimate sacrifice from those serving in the armed forces.  Freedom may be free, but it is certainly not cheap.
Often, the same kind of discipline, determination, and sacrifices are required in our personal lives if we want to protect and safeguard those things that are valuable to us.  The difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is often our willingness to fight and make the sacrifice needed to protect that which we hold dear.
God’s people today are bound in many areas of their lives.  Jesus paid the ultimate price so we would be set free from the grip of the enemy.  But there is work for us to do if we want to receive the full impact of our freedom in Christ.  Today we will look at three areas in which we can declare our independence.
1. Bad habits.  We all have them.  It could be biting our fingernails or out-of-control spending.  Somebody once said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”  We would love for God to zap away our bad habits and make our lives perfect.  Unfortunately, it does not work that way.  God wants us to take responsibility for our own actions.  He holds us accountable.  He will take three steps toward us to help once we take the first step.
2. Addictions.  Addictions come in all shapes, sizes and forms.  They are hard to break because they are often secretive in nature.  But I have good news for you.  The Scripture says that the anointing (God’s unprecedented favor) will break the yoke (bondage).  That simply means if we acknowledge our weakness, His mercy will flow profusely to deliver us.  Do not limit yourself by holding on to the sedatives. Declare your independence from the tyranny of addiction and enjoy the wholesome and free life God has for you.
3. Debt.  Public enemy number one in our society today is debt.  I do not believe it is a sin to be in debt, but debt can be deadly.  With increasing debt comes an overwhelming feeling, “What is the point? I will never get out of this.”  The number one remedy for wiping out debt is to have discipline and self-control.  Before we spend, we should ask ourselves, “Do I really need this or is it just something I want?”  A wise mentor once told me, “If you cannot pay off your credit card at the end of the month, do not charge it.”  If you are already deep in debt, begin paying it off a little at a time.  Stop carrying the cards with you, and if necessary, cut them up altogether until you are financially stable again.  There is a price to pay if you want to live a life of freedom.
Friend, God is for you!  Before you begin to feel overwhelmed by the weight of your burdens, let me give you three keys to overcoming any obstacle.
1. Decide.  Nothing will change until you decide that something needs to change.  It is in our decision to change that will enable us to eliminate struggles in our lives.
2. Declare.  Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence before the country ever experienced freedom. We, too, must declare our freedom from mediocrity, lack and addictions.
3. Dedicate. Accept the fact that it will take time. Commit to the process of change.  Formulate an action plan. Implement it daily – a little bit at a time. Be accountable to someone you trust.  The secret is to start.  Start today!
Friend, you were born for more.  You have what it takes.  You can live a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life.  Declare your independence today and live the good life God has in store for you!
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