Posts tagged ‘relationships’

Connections: The Missing Link

Downton Abbey is a hit TV series on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology. There is an episode in Hands1season 2 that illustrates the missing link in relationships that is far too common. According to Wikipedia, “The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era — with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy.”

Robert Crawley is the Earl of Grantham in this series whose relationship with his wife, Cora, Countess of Grantham has become distant. They have allowed Downton Abbey to be used as a hospital during World War I. Cora has become overseer of the newly established hospital that is taking all of her time. Their lives are completely disrupted. They are committed to each other and have a very good marriage by every account. But in an innocent exchange with a housemaid, Robert shares his feelings about his life during this difficult time. He has made an unintended emotional connection that catches him by surprise. He now finds the housemaid almost irresistible and yet he is still completely committed to his wife. In the end, he honors his commitment to his wife, but seems puzzled as to what happened and why.

What Robert didn’t understand is that we all have a need for emotional intimacy. It is a powerful inner motivation. We can do and buy things for each other, but if we don’t share our feelings with each other, there is a missing link. And then when someone comes along who provides a release for our feelings, we become connected with them. The key is to share myself with those I love if I want to have a lasting, vibrant, and real relationship with them. It’s called communication. It is the avenue husbands and wives have to reigniting their passion and shoring up their commitment to each other. The best communication is when I share my hopes, dreams, anxieties and joys and listen to yours.This is the missing link in many relationships.

Our relationship with God has the very same dynamic. If we want to be close to God we need to share our hopes, dreams, anxieties, and joys with Him. But that’s not enough. We must also listen to His hopes, dreams, anxieties and the joys He has for us. This is called prayer. It’s the missing link for many of us in our relationship with God. Without it, we will seek emotional intimacy elsewhere. The Bible calls this “idol worship.” We begin to chase after wealth or get trapped in all manner of addictions to satisfy our need for emotional intimacy with God. And then when we pray we make it about getting answers and things from God rather than a relationship with Him. We then make our relationship with God about doing things for Him. I have become convinced that all God really wants from us is us! He wants my heart. He wants to spend time with me. He wants to talk with me and listen to me. That’s what prayer is all about. It just might be the missing link. What does prayer mean to you?

Connections: Aren’t They Really about Family?

I was a third year OB/GYN resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital when I was required to live and work at the MarineHands1 Corps base, Camp LeJeune located in North Carolina for three months as part of my obstetrical training. In the big scheme of things three months isn’t much, but it seemed like an eternity as I left Pam and our three children in the Washington, D.C. suburbs for the solitude of the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) in North Carolina. I was sent there to gain more experience in obstetrics (delivering babies). What I learned was the importance of my family. 

We talk about the need to connect with others, care about others, and reach out to others, which is important. However, at Camp LeJeune I discovered the most basic and formative connections we make are those with our own family. I’m astonished at how easy it is to take for granted our relationships with our spouses, children, brothers, and sisters. And yet the family unit, the home, is the God-appointed place for us to learn how to relate to one another. The home is a “testing ground” of sorts. It is the place God designed for us to learn relational skills. 

During those three months at Camp LeJeune, I thought carefully about how much I treasured my family. I thought about my attitude toward them and how often I interacted with them out of selfish motives. It was the beginning of a long journey for me to understand how precious my family truly is to me. Though I missed them dearly when I was absent from them, I knew that I often treated my car with more love and respect than I treated them when I was present with them. It was then that I determined to make a shift in my life. I realized that my priorities were amiss. I had seen things as more precious than people. Too often, my car, my job, my reputation, my status was more important than my family.

It’s been a challenging and yet rewarding journey toward treating my family as the precious gifts they are. Once I learned to value my family as precious, I slowly realized that I was beginning to see others as precious as well. I am thankful God is patient with me and has never given up on me. No matter what our family relationships have been like in the past, God can transform us into people who can connect with others beginning with our family today. It’s up to us. It is in this context that Paul writes in Colossians 3:

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Connections Depend on Roots

Pam and I bought our first home in Redlands, California while I was in medical school. We were excited to be the first owners of this newly constructed home. That is until we discovered the amount of work it took to landscape around the house located on a corner lot. Let’s put aside the obvious issues of money, time, and creativity for the purposes of this blog and focus on the project itself for an important life lesson I learned that summer of 1979.

We began by installing the irrigation system. Pam helped me dig the trenches, lay the PVC pipe and connect the valves. It was much easier than I anticipated which gave me an inflated view of my landscaping expertise. I then installed the edging to define the areas of the future planting beds which again went without a hitch. Now I’m really certain of my landscaping skills and knowledge. Now it was time to purchase the shrubs, trees, perennials, and groundcover. Once home with these precious living things, I checked the instructions supplied by the nursery for planting each item. This is when I realized the process was slightly more involved than taking the shrub out of its pot and putting it in a hole in the dirt. I needed to buy additional supplies to place around the roots, carefully maintaining the integrity of each plant’s root system.

Due to my tight schedule and need to get the plants in the ground as quickly as possible, I decided to skip the instructions and get the plants in the dirt. Once completed, the yard looked beautiful. The trees and shrubs were green, the perennials were colorful, and the groundcover was lush. The beauty lasted for about 2 weeks. This is when I began noticing the groundcover was thinning out and the leaves on the trees were wilting despite plenty of irrigation. And then the perennials lost their color and the shrubs began to die. Not every plant was dying, but a significant number were in deep trouble. I consulted a local horticulturist who told me the problem was the roots. I had not taken the proper care to make sure the roots were transplanted without damage. And then I had not given the roots the necessary nourishment to overcome the trauma of the transfer from pot to hole in the ground. I purchased replacement plants and carefully followed the instructions with much better success.

Our connections with one another are as fragile as the roots of plants. And our connections depend on the roots we develop throughout life. This is where the Bible becomes a treasure not to be ignored if we want to have meaningful and abundant growth in our personal lives resulting in healthy relationships with others. I have found the Bible to be a reliable source of guiding principles of relationships. These principles form the roots in our lives which will blossom into loving connections with one another. No wonder Paul gives this advice in Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” I have learned the hard way to follow instructions when  dealing with roots. I encourage you to care for your roots and nourish them in the One who gave His life so we could have life abundant.

The Happiness Connection

Benjamin Franklin said, “The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” When I was 6 years old nothing made me happier than playing in the sandbox. I would go to the sandbox at the back of our yard and play for hours losing all track of time. The only thing that made it better was when my best friend, Timmy, came to play in the sandbox with me. There’s something about sharing an experience with another person that makes the experience better. 

Today, I find happiness to be a state of being that is closely connected with the relationships I have with my family and friends. I love to bike, snow ski, work in the yard, go for long walks, and read good books. I love these activities enough to do them by myself, but they are always better when I do them with someone else. I can’t explain it, but I even like reading a book better when Pam is with me. There’s something about being connected with others that makes me happy.

In recent years, researchers from around the world have studied happiness. The findings are most interesting. The researchers have found that happiness is an “inside job.” In other words, we can be happy even when we have no control over the circumstances around us. However, of those variables in our life we can control, none is more powerful in predicting happiness than the relationships we choose to have with other people. 

“One of the strongest variables in happiness that we can control is our personal relationships. An increased quantity and quality of personal connections can have a significant impact on our happiness. This is one reason that people who attend church are happier on average than non-church goers. Spending more time with your close family or friends rather than working extra hours can also lead to a happier life. Additionally, your income can provide a more positive impact on happiness if you choose to spend it on experiences that you share with family and friends such as a dinner at a restaurant or a vacation instead of buying luxury items like expensive cars or accessories.” (“10 Surprising Findings on Happiness” by Charles Sipe)

Once again, the Bible narrative rings true. The Genesis account of creation tells us that we were made to be in community, to love one another. This connection is so powerful that Adam chose to directly disobey God than to lose Eve. This didn’t turn out so good for him or us as relationships with God, ourselves, people, and things have been messed up ever since. In fact, you could define sin as one or more of these relationships being broken. No wonder researchers are finding that relationships are the most important ingredient in obtaining true happiness. 

So, what are your relationships like? Are you connected with God, with others? This is why in our church in 2013 we are focusing on “Connecting with God, one person at a time.” 

Day 56 in Roanoke, VA – Blessings

What a blessing to worship with the congregation at the Roanoke Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have been warmly welcomed into the homes of two different families, one on Friday and another on Saturday. This has been such a blessing to get to know both of these families. In fact, our time in Virginia has been a blessing due to the people we have met. I have learned and received more from them than I could ever give back. 

This experience reminds me that we are social beings motivated by relationships with one another. We need each other. The reporter, Mike Shaw, who interviewed me in Radford, VA earlier this week asked what I have learned about myself on this ride. I told him that I learned I really do need a coach. I also need the support I receive from the team traveling with me and that of my supporters who send emails, respond to my blogs, and pray for me each day. And those I am meeting each day along the way are the extra boost I need to finish this ride.

I think back to the South Korean doctor I met the second week of this ride in Montana who said the people of America are the most beautiful thing about this country. The scenery is nice, but the people are outstanding. Now that I have nearly ridden across this country, I have to agree. I thank God for the blessings. And the blessings I am most thankful for are the people God has brought into my life. Now I’m ready for the final four days.

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