Saturday, December 20, 2014
Christmas is the season of ultimate joy and love. I experience so much joy this time of year, joy that comes in many different forms. I'm a very visual person so I love walking around our neighborhood enjoying the beautiful snowy landscapes and people's Christmas decorations. Thank you neighbors for giving me joy through your decorations! :)
I also love that Christmas is a season of generosity. I get so much joy from picking out gifts for friends and family, seeing their reactions when they open their gifts and joking with them about how I'm totally okay if they want to regift what I got for them.
Apparently new research has shown that people who spend their money on others rather than on themselves end up happier. It's exciting to me every time I see new research pointing to the same facts that has been known by wise people for generations. A generous life makes both us and others happier. If we choose to be selfless rather than self-centered its a win-win for everybody in the world, and what better time is there to start this new lifestyle than at Christmas time? :)
Thursday, December 18, 2014
In today’s world so many of us are struggling in our relationships. Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is a whole different thing. Sometimes we might end up wondering if it’s even possible. Is it possible for two people to fall in love and stay in love for the rest of their lives? I’m not talking about just staying together, most of us can agree that there is a big difference between staying together and staying in love, I’m talking about a life-long love.
The other day I watched and awesome video-based bible-study by Andy Stanley. The four-session study is called “Staying in love-falling in love is easy, staying in love requires a plan.” I love how this video-based study is described:
“We all know what's required to fall in love… a pulse. Falling in love is easy. But staying there—that's something else entirely.”
One problem in today’s world is that few people have grown up in a family where their parents had a loving relationship. It’s hard to build a healthy loving relationship of our own if we have never seen one. The lack of healthy loving relationships in our family leads us to learn a model for relationships that is so wrong, yet we adopt this model, because we don’t know anything else. As young adults we take on relationships according to this broken model and it becomes almost impossible for us to stay in love.
The second problem that affect our relationships as adults is how we felt growing up. Research has shown that every child has needs that have to be filled for the child to become emotionally equipped to engage in healthy relationships as an adult. Every child needs a home that offers constant respect, encouragement, comfort, security, support, acceptance, approval, appreciation, attention and affection.
If we grow up with many of these needs unmet it makes it a lot harder for us to succeed in relationships. Chances are high our future partner also has many of these needs unmet from his or her childhood which makes staying in love even more difficult. It’s a fact that many of us today are not equipped to stay in love.
Problem number three is that we live in a culture that doesn’t like pain very much. It doesn’t take much discomfort before our culture says: ”That’s enough, it’s time to get out!” A message we often hear in our culture is this: “If you aren’t happy in your relationship, maybe you are with the wrong person.” You need to choose someone else, you need to start over.
If you ask any happy couple you know who have been married for 20+ years they will tell you there were times when they thought they might have chosen the wrong person. They will also tell you that they then decided that their spouse was going to be the right person for them. Instead of getting out they decided to stay and work through their difficulties, and they’ll tell you that they are so glad that they did that! They chose to persevere.
It’s definitely important that we choose the right person to marry, but it’s equally important that we learn to become the right person. Our modern culture doesn’t do much to help us learn to become the right person for our partner.
Jesus gives us the foundation for enduring relationships. What Jesus says is so simple but yet so important. This is what Jesus says:
“Love one another.”
Today we often hear couples say: “we no longer love each other”. Jesus’s advice to these couples would probably be: “go home and love each other.” The couples might respond “Jesus, you are not listening, we said we are no longer in love with each other.” Jesus’s response would probably be “Well, you are married so you ought to love each other, now go home and love each other.”
If we pay attention to what Jesus said in John 13:34 we will notice that Jesus uses the word love as a verb. “Love one another” is a command! The lesson we get here is that we won’t stay in love if we treat love as only a noun, we need to make love a verb. Love is something you do.
Couples might argue: “what’s the point of “doing” love if we don’t feel it?” That’s the point right there, if you do love you will start to feel in love, not the other way around. You stop feeling in love when you have first stopped loving each other. If you want to stay in love you must make love a verb! I like how Andy Stanley describes it:
“The feeling of love is the caboose of the train, it ain’t the engine.”
If you want a tip from me on what to get your spouse or friend for Christmas I would say get Andy Stanley’s video-based bible-study called “Staying in love”. You can buy this four-session study on DVD by Andy Stanley on www.chapters.indigo.ca
If you, like me, aren’t willing to take a chance on your marriage and just see what happens then I recommend learning some tools for building a lasting relationship. The statistics are clear, about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. If we don’t want to end up divorced I think we better face facts and admit that we need to learn how to do marriage. We don’t take on our careers without getting educated first, so why do we still think we will be able to handle marriage without learning a few things first?
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Last week we drove down to New York to support my sister-in-law who has been sick for a long time. It was surprisingly warm in NYC, people were ice skating in their t-shirts.
I spent Black Friday in New York but didn't shop a single thing, I'm on a shopping stop after all. It wasn't really that hard to stay away from shopping after all. I don't really like sales, I rather shop when it's less crowded.
We had time for some sight-seeing in between hospital visits, it was wonderful to be able to walk around without a coat on.
Once we headed back to Toronto we got to enjoy some real holiday weather, the beautiful snowy mountains of upstate New York.
On Saturday we celebrated the Finnish holiday "Little Christmas". I got a Little Christmas present from Mom that I really needed, a new pair of warm socks for winter season.
Back in Toronto we decided to get some of our Christmas shopping done. Yorkdale mall was beautifully decorated for the holiday season.
This year the Eaton centre downtown Toronto is inhabited by some really big reindeer. I love this time of year, I love decorating the house for the holidays and planning what to cook for Christmas dinner.
I have so many blessings in my life, all wonderful gifts from God. When I look through the photos on my camera I'm reminded of how many amazing gifts I have received from God just this past year. I got to travel to sunny California with my husband, I got to enjoy reading great books and fun movie nights. I spent many weekends downtown strolling along the lake shore and enjoying dinners at my favorite restaurants. This fall I got so much joy from looking at all the beautifully colored trees on a sunny day.
If we look for them we can find beautiful blessings sprinkled all over our lives. These are all beautiful gifts from God that we are meant to enjoy and be thankful for. Except for enjoying the blessings we have been given we also have the chance to be a blessing to others, as we live out our Christian faith.
We can offer help to someone in need, we can be there to listen and give support when someone in going through a difficult time. When we make the extra effort and take the time to be there for someone we will be a blessing in their life. Who do you know that you could be a blessing to this week? When we love and serve each other the world gets less cold and lonely.
I'm a thinker, or at least that's what people keep telling me. I spend a lot of my free time thinking about life and love and about everything that goes on in our world. Ten years ago I was a university student so it was natural for me to be thinking about the future and how I wanted to live my life. I suddenly realized that I didn't even know what the point with life is. I felt a need to figure out what the point with life is before I could decide in what direction my life should be heading.
Most people don't think like this, most people just do what others do. I read somewhere that the majority of humans start to think about the point of life in their sixties or seventies. I have a highly sensitive personality and the need to find meaning in life early rather than later is apparently common for this type of personality. I ended up spending most of my twenties trying to figure out what we are all here for and what life really is about. The commonly accepted idea in modern society is that there is no particular reason at all why we are here, we can all spend our lives how we want.
We are free to choose how we spend our lives as long as we don't break too many laws. This world view sounds good at first thought, but the more I started looking at our world the less it made sense to me. I realized that what happens when we all live our lives how we want is that there seem to be few people caring for the poor and helping those who are hurting. I guess most of us don't want to care about others, so if we are free to choose we choose not to serve others. We choose to serve ourselves.
We are all aware that we are breaking a lot of "rules" with our modern lifestyles that really should have never been broken. We are fully aware that earth won't be able to sustain our lifestyles of mass consumption but there is little interest in changing the way we live. A world where everyone is free to live how they want sounds so nice, but when you take a closer look at what kind of world this lifestyle creates it becomes less attractive. A life of happiness and free choice is the modern ideal. This century has already been named "The Century of The Self".
A few years into my searching for the point with life I had to give up the idea of a world where everyone lives how they want. I realized that if I chose to live my life in a self-centred way it was going to leave an impact on the world that was far more negative than I was willing to accept. Half way into my twenties I was still no closer to figuring out the point with life than I had been a few years before. At this point I had a clear view of what was wrong with this world, but I didn't have any ideas for how it could be made right again.
One day my employer invited me to church. I didn't believe in God and tried to come up with some excuse not to go. I didn't want to seem impolite and it was important to keep the work relationship positive, so I agreed to go to church. I was expecting the worst since my earlier experiences of church weren't positive. I was very surprised to find that I actually ended up enjoying my first visit to this church. The church was a non denominational Christian church with 11 000 people attending Sunday service each weekend.
The church had its own rock band that played music before and during the service. The pastor of the church seemed surprisingly normal, he wore jeans and a t-shirt while preaching, no big cross around his neck. Although I felt weird every time the pastor mentioned God I couldn't help but agree that there was some real truth to what he was talking about. I have studied psychology and a big part of the message was about things I know to be true based on what I know about psychology. I was still very skeptical about the existence of a "God", but I decided to look into it further. I wanted to figure out what life was about but this was definitely the last area I had expected to find some answers.
Believe it or not, seven years later I have come to the conclusion that God is real. If anyone would have asked me ten years ago I would never had guessed that a Christian church would be the place where I would find my answers. Most of you who don't believe in God's existence are probably thinking something like: "I knew it, she's gotten completely brainwashed by this church and now she actually thinks God is real!" I have to say that I don't blame you for thinking thoughts like that, I would probably have thought the same if I was you.
I don't think God and faith is something you can fully wrap your head around if you haven't explored it yourself. I used to think believing in God was crazy and that those who believe must be less intelligent. The key is that understanding God and faith is not something that comes easily. You have to read a lot, ask a lot of questions and be willing to listen to the answers you get, if you truly want to find out if there is a God or not.
I'm quite convinced at this point that the reason most people don't believe in God is that they don't understand who He is. In the end it comes down to this, if you look for God you will find Him. I think that many of us in our modern world are a little scared of the unknown, maybe scared to go down that road and try to figure out if God is real. These are some really big questions so its understandable that fear will be part of the equation. I can only say that if you do decide to look you will be truly amazed by what you will find. When you understand who God is, why he has created you and how incredibly loved you are by God it will blow your mind!
That is the story about my journey from living a self-centred life to living for God, in other words living The Life of Love. "The Life of Love" is the name of the last stage of spiritual development in The Critical Journey by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich. This last stage in our spiritual development is a stage where we are selfless rather than needy. We offer love to others without the need to be loved in return. We mirror the love God has for us in our actions towards others. We love God, we love others, and we are willing to serve.
Here's a few questions: What would our world look like if everyone on earth lived according the description of The Life of Love? Can you imagine how the world would change if everyone lived a life where the goal is to be selfless rather than needy|? If everyone offered love freely to one another without always expecting something back. What would the world look like if we all strived to live to love and serve one another in everything we do? That is the way we are created to live, but few people choose to live this way. The Life of Love or a self-centered life? The choice is ours.