Tag Archives: Jesus

Christmas Relationships

What IS it about Christmas and gift giving that causes SO MUCH STRESS on the one giving and the one receiving?!?!

Here is what I mean…

The one giving the gift has the pressure of “getting it right” – making sure they give a gift that the other person either needs or really wants. BUT – is it the right color? The right kind? The right size?

And if it is not the right size, if I get it too big will they think I think they are fat? If I get it too small, will they think I am trying to tell them something?

If I spend too much, what will others think about their gift from me because I didn’t spend the same amount?

Or are you like so many others who say, “I’m just going to get them a gift card, because they are SO HARD to shop for!”

OR, “I really don’t have enough money, but I can make them something…I wonder if they will think I am cheap for not buying them something.”

The one receiving has the pressure of “responding the right way” to the gift given. Do I act surprised even though I know what they are giving? What do I do if I don’t like the gift, or the color?

What if it is the wrong size, how do I let them know? What if I give the wrong facial expression, they might think I don’t appreciate their gift?

What if I didn’t get them the same cost value gift as they are giving me? They may think I don’t think of them the same way!

Christmas can be the most deceptive time of the year when it comes to our relationships.

Should we put on an act? Or should we just be thankful someone thought of us at all?

Is it necessary to get a gift for someone I consider part of my life?

Lots of questions haunt this time of year because of our tradition of giving and receiving gifts. The sad part is, we have a tendency to place more emphasis on the gift and what it means about our relationships that we forget showing love and appreciation for someone should happen all through the year, not just on Christmas day.

We do not need to give physical gifts to show someone how much we are grateful they are in our lives.

Sometimes, just a warm hug and letting them know verbally how much and why we are thankful for their relationship with us can mean more than any physical item that is bought, given and received on ANY day of the year.

I am not a proponent of NOT giving gifts. Not one iota. I love seeing the expression on someone’s face when they truly to receive something they need or desire. Just look at this video of people receiving puppies for Christmas…

We truly put more pressure on ourselves than is necessary. We should never compare our friendships, family and any other meaningful relationship to the size or cost of a gift given and received.

What makes the relationship meaningful is the fact that even if NO gifts were ever given, you know you can rely on that person for support, love, caring, a listening ear, acceptance, respect, forgiveness, encouragement, appreciation, affirmation, and time well-spent.

Maybe this imbalance in gift giving and receiving is the reason why SO MANY people cannot accept that Jesus was a free gift to the world…

He was the gift that God know we needed. He wasn’t a gift that came wrapped in the best, shiniest wrapping paper with a perfect bow. He was the gift that came wrapped in strips of cloth lying over hay.

He wasn’t a gift that was accepted by many because he wasn’t what they were expecting or hoping for.

Still today, Jesus is a gift – His birth, life, sacrifice and coming back to life IS the most free gift anyone could ever receive. However, many of us don’t give the gift to others of how He has changed our lives and transformed our thinking.

This Christmas – go ahead and give your gifts, receive your gifts, and provide as many warm hugs as you can. Just remember, it is not the value of the physical gift you give someone that makes the relationship. It is the value you find in the relationship that makes the difference.

Show someone that you value them – even those you do not know – and recognize they are there, that they are valuable – not because of the gift you are giving them, but because they are one of God’s creative masterpieces.

Merry Christmas to you and may God fill the rest of this year with joy!

I am very curious to hear your thoughts on this topic. Thank you so much for continuing to read. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.


Ferguson, Race, and the Lost Art of Relationship

I sit here this Tuesday morning on November 25, 2014… perplexed. I have lines on my forehead that describe the nature of my thoughts.

Watching the stories and hearing the sound bytes about Ferguson and the racial divide that very much still exists in this country – my thoughts take me to why we repeat history – especially the worst parts of history.

One news commentator mentioned that these events continue to happen so the root cause of these problems has not been dealt with.

I couldn’t agree more.

There is an endless search for who is to blame. Trying to reconcile tragic events sends us down an emotional path where listening becomes almost impossible.

During commercial breaks, I read an article calling out “white Christians” and asking them to “wake up” to the racial issues that still plague our nation.

Let me first say I agree there is still very much of a racial divide in the United States. Let me follow this up by saying that Christians of all backgrounds are still divided over trivial issues that have no bearing on salvation, including such things as how we should worship God on Sunday mornings.

One issue that does have a bearing on eternity is our response to the two greatest commands that Jesus gave to us. Love God and Love Your Neighbor as yourself. If all of us took THIS litmus test, I wonder how many of us would pass.

Pause.

I just got lost in my thoughts. Here is why.

The root cause of why we find ourselves in this racial predicament is a sin issue. It is an issue that goes all the way to the beginning, where pride, envy and selfish ambition brought a downfall that would affect the rest of humanity.

This post is not directed toward white people, black people, brown people or any other “color”. This post is directed to ALL of us.

If we who call ourselves Christians – “Christ-Like ones” – truly understood the lost art of relationship, I believe we would find ourselves in a much different state.

The last post was on forgiveness. Still others were on vulnerability, gratitude, loving even in disagreement, what keeps us from entering into relationships – insecurity, communication – and what I have on my list will keep this blog going for months to come.

There is a lost art to relationship and the events in Ferguson, the posts I read on Facebook, the response or lack thereof from pastors and churches, and the fear of even speaking about this subject – all prove there is still a heart problem that needs to be addressed.

It is a difficult path. It is a narrow path… the one we must walk.

I realize there may be many who would read this and express their thoughts on what should be done and how we should respond.

By all means, share your thoughts.

However, before you hit that final “REPLY” button, ask yourself – Have I been an example of what it means to love my neighbor as myself? Have I truly loved God with all I am? Have I spoken words of division in private conversations, but words of unity in public? How can I be a part of the solution?

I don’t stand in judgment of anyone who has strong opinions. As a matter of fact, I put myself on the stand. What can I do to be part of the solution?

Sacramento and the surrounding regions happen to be some of the most culturally diverse areas. However, being culturally diverse does not mean that the cultures and sub-cultures that live there are in relationship, truly integrating into each other’s lives.

This is one area where I believe those who are Christians should focus their energy. Spend your efforts on finding ways of connecting on a deep meaningful level with those of other cultures – truly finding a way to communicate, understand, and grow together.

Before anyone lambasts me with their words, I am not referring to Christians in relation to those who are non-believers. I am directly speaking to the relationships we are supposed to have with each other. The relationship that becomes the example to those who are non-believers that God loves the world.

Pursue relationships with other Christians who have a different background, experience, culture, or color. Do so with the attitude of innocence – a child who is curious and doesn’t see the differences as a hindrance.

So what is the answer to Ferguson, Race and the Lost Art of Relationship?

I don’t know. I hope you weren’t expecting me to attempt to answer this difficult issue.

What I can tell you is that until those of us who consider themselves Christ-Followers can become the example of Grace and Mercy through relationship, we have no right to stand in criticism.

Thank you so much for continuing to read week after week. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.


Please Forgive Me?

Ever hear that expression, “I forgive you, but I will not forget!”

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There are still others, that say if you don’t forget then you have never really forgiven.

There are problems with both of these statements.

The first statement I would doubt forgiveness was really given. It sounds like a veiled threat. The second statement is impossible. You can never really forget what someone has done to hurt you.

Forgiveness…

The only One that can truly forgive and forget is God Himself.

Let’s unpack the act of forgiveness.

We have ALL been hurt or offended by someone, whether it is something they said or did directly to us, or if it was indirect (gossip, throwing us under the bus, etc). Frankly, it feels horrible.

Not one person I have met likes to be hurt or offended. However, I will say there are those who may are quick to be offended (these are the ones we would likely say have “thin skin”). I know, because I used to be one of them.

There was someone in my life that came alongside me as a mentor who taught me how to have thicker skin – who taught me about forgiveness.

He taught me there are two responses to being hurt and/or offended. We can either allow bitterness to set in because we choose not to forgive them, or we can release the person from the offense or hurt by forgiving them.

When we hold a grudge (bitterness) the only person who is really being negatively affected is ourselves. We continually remind ourselves of what caused the offense and open the wound that was inflicted over and over again never allowing it to heal.

I have seen bitterness literally begin to affect someone physically causing sickness, headaches, and poor health.

Bitterness is a terrible thing. It is like a festering wound that never heals. Bitterness causes someone trouble and begins to stain the relationships with those they are close to.

With bitterness, it blocks us from truly loving others. It is a scab that when picked it begins to remove the healthy skin around the wound.

Distrust is one of the major results of bitterness. Insecurity is another. It can strangle out the healthy aspects of any relationship.

Have I gotten your attention yet?

Living with Unforgiveness in our hearts toward others will slowly dismantle any healthy relationship piece by piece. I have witnessed it destroy marriages, destroy family relationships, destroy friendships, and slowly eat away at the health of two of my family members.

Bitter people – those who have never let go of a past offense or hurt – have built up walls in their hearts toward others. Whether they were hurt by…

A family member

A church

A pastor

A friend

By someone of another ethnicity

By a co-worker or employer

By someone in leadership

When offenses are not dealt with in a healthy manner – walls are built.

Bitterness can stain our relationships. We begin to see others through the lens of the grudge, distrust grows into a stalwart tree and blocks us from experiencing the warmth of other relationships.

Bitterness is the root that grows to become that stalwart tree that cannot be moved. The only way to get rid of bitterness is to UPROOT it. It needs to be completely removed.

How do we do this?

One word – Forgive.

But, you don’t know what they DID to me! You don’t understand the level of the hurt, or the result of the offense!

You are right. I can only tell you in my own life what Forgiving someone has done. It has freed me to love again. It opens up the door to reconciliation on my part. It shows another the strength of your character, the depth of your love, and the power of mercy.

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. In any relationship, you will need to utilize this tool especially if you desire to keep these relationships.

It is difficult to understand the magnitude of the power of forgiveness if you do not realize the need for it and how it can help you develop deep meaningful relationships.

When you forgive – or ask for forgiveness – the weight of the offense and the responsibility is now off your shoulders. It frees you to trust others again, understanding that people are imperfect and so are you.

It is a great feeling when a debt you owe has been canceled. Debt can feel like a weight around your neck.

It is the same way with unforgiveness. It is a weight you carry with you.

There is no better way to describe this than to interject in the conversation a topic that I know many may shy away from. It is that of Jesus Christ.

My faith has been the best example to me of what it means to forgive. In my mind it is easy to harbor bitterness. Then I am reminded of how much I have been forgiven of. I have lied, taken jealousy to places it should not have gone, and I have failed others in relationship.

Worst yet, I have failed to follow the greatest instruction ever given – To Love God and Love others as I love myself. Breaking these commands has placed me in the category of someone in need of forgiveness by God. And Jesus bridged that gap in relationship, forgave me and has shown me that it IS possible to live in relationship with others, to have deep meaningful friendships, and to love others as I love myself.

You too can experience this kind of relationship. If you would like to know more about how, please message me at Daniel_Chrystal@yahoo.com.

The bottom line is that forgiveness can uproot bitterness and open the door to deeper relationships with others.

Forgiveness is a LOST ART, but one that can provide wonderful results when exercised.

Thank you so much for continuing to read week after week. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me or respond to this post by Commenting below.