The Couch Theory

The Couch Theory

Sometimes a very ordinary moment can turn into a revelation or even a life-changing experience.

One of these moments happened while I was in my fourth year of university. While waiting for a friend in one of the local malls, I was strolling around, doing some window shopping.  I remember ending up in a furniture store in front of one of the most beautiful couches I had ever seen.

And a dialogue popped up in my head that went something like this:

A: “This is really a beautiful couch.”

B: “And quite expensive too, just look at the price tag:  the whole set is more expensive than the second-hand car you’re sharing with your twin sister.”

A: “I wonder how long it would take to save up for a couch like this (after first paying off all of my student debt of course).”

B: “It is never only about the couch.  How silly would this couch look in the small apartment you’re renting with all the odd pieces of furniture borrowed from family members?”

A: “Yes, I guess if you owned a couch like this you would need a nice house to go with it, not to mention a new car and at least one wide-screen TV.”

B: “It never ends with the couch.  Seeing a beautiful couch only makes you dream of more:  a nice house and everything that goes with it.”

A: (Sitting on the couch): “It’s really comfortable too.”

B: “What is the point of a couch?”

A: “To sit on, I guess.”

B: “What will be the point of having a beautiful, comfortable couch to sit on if you have no one to share it with?”

A: “I see where this is going. Of course, you’d want your friends to come over and sit on the couch with you.”

B: “Okay, so imagine you have the beautiful couch, the house, and the car, and everything that goes with it. Do you want your friends to come over to look at the furniture and watch TV or do you want them to come over because they actually want to see you?”

A: “To see me of course. To be honest, if I had a couch like this, I wouldn’t really want anyone to sit on it.  What if they spilled their coffee on it or something?  I’d probably have to put up a sign saying ‘No dogs or children allowed’. It is white, after all.”

B: “So, although it is nice to dream, do you really want riches and more stuff, a nice house and the kind of friends that will come over to look at your furniture and new car?  Or, would you choose the life you already have with friends who do not even care that you’re flat broke, never even owned a TV, or that the couch they’re sitting on, sipping cheap coffee, is coming apart at the seams?”

Do you really want to build your life around the idea of a couch that reflects a life of comfort and style?  And, if that dream becomes a reality, would you ever want to move?

In the words of Reinhard Bonnke: “JESUS WILL LIFT you out of the deepest pit, but He will not lift you out of your easy chair.”

Years later, I’m sitting here, typing this post on a Thai style “couch” (see picture above), an uncomfortable piece of wooden furniture without padding.  And I’m thinking about the life I walked away from years ago when I walked out of that shop where I had that “encounter” with the comfortable couch.

The decision to walk away from the couch was also a decision to pursue a life filled with meaningful relationships, messy moments, and faith rather than a pursuit of a lifestyle of comfort and material possessions represented by the couch.

And I came to the conclusion that couches (along with all other material things) will always decrease in value, while true friendships – friendships with God at the center – will become exponentially more valuable over the years.

I know this because many of those friendships that were knit together on the very same couch that was coming apart have become the safe places where my soul can “sit down” and rest for a moment.

Over the years, I’ve had to discover new ways to keep on “sitting” with those “comfy friends”, while I’m living halfway across the world from them. Sometimes, it’s through an e-mail, voice-note, message, Skype, or a simple prayer.

However, regardless of where you end up physically sitting, the true comfort is more in the knowing that they are there, the “soul-couches” who make life more beautiful than any earthly treasure ever could.

When I count my blessings now, I tend to start with the names of people God has added to my life over the years, and I feel rich beyond measure.

I hope my friends know how much I treasure them and that there will always be a standing invitation to come and sit with me.. to share a cup of coffee or tea….and simply be together.

We all need a place where we can let go of all the aims for exterior perfection, where we can sit and be completely honest without feeling judged or scared to spill our coffee or our guts… and still walk away inspired to live fuller lives.

Dear friends, we need God and each other so much more than we need stuff. And if we ever want to be rich, we need to learn how to lay up treasures in heaven instead.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

Our treasures are not always what we have.  A good indication of where we are headed is also what we dream of having…

Where are your dreams headed? Or do you realize what you really want in life is already right in front of you…

Worth the fight

Worth the Fight

For twenty-six years of my life, I thought I was a peacemaker.  I was almost never in a fight except when I ended up in the middle of a fight I was trying to stop.

The first sign of conflict in a relationship was usually the beginning of the end – and basically none my relationships even made it past the “honeymoon phase”.

Then, I found my love and got married four years ago. I had known my husband for four short months before “tying the knot”, so after the very first conflict, I instinctively wanted to slam the door and run away.  However, the realization hit me hard:  this time I had to find a way back. Running was not an option.

 There is a very fine line between being a peacemaker and someone who simply avoids conflict.

Four years and many inevitable conflicts later (add moving seven times to three different countries and figure in a one-year-old baby as well), I’m still learning much about myself and relationships.

Living in a country where “saving face” is everything, l am virtually surrounded by people practicing “conflict avoidance”. Therefore, I have plenty of opportunities to observe that simply trying to avoid a problem or trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away.

From experience, I’ve learned that fighting is not the way to resolve these conflicts because fighting stems from a desire to prove we’re right, rooted in our own selfishness, fears, intolerance, or unrealistic expectations.

I’m not proud of the way I react when I feel insulted, angry, or hurt. Emotional turmoil of any kind is the breeding ground for regrets. And, the simple reason I’m sharing this is certainly nor because I think I’ve figured it out, but because I believe I’m not the only one struggling.

I know it’s easier to blame the other person or even the circumstances during conflict.  I know all about making excuses and defending myself. I know it’s so hard to be the first to say “I’m sorry” and actually mean it. I know the temptation to find a way out by quitting a relationship; and I also know that a Godly marriage doesn’t leave us with that option.

So, by His grace, we stay together, and we pray and learn that the capacity for forgiveness depends on love.

And so, I’m becoming more and more convinced that Jesus is not only the only way to the Father – He is also our only hope of finding our way back to each other.

In an attempt to remember the lessons I’ve learned, I’ve decided to write them down… and to share them with you. (Please feel free to add what you have learned in the comment section of this post)

– You can win a fight and lose at your relationship.

Even if you are “right”, everything you say to prove it might come out “wrong”

– If you’re wrong, nothing you can say will make it right.  In other words, defending yourself is pointless.

– The only real power we have when it comes to fighting is the freedom to choose to forgive… Every. Single Time.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12

– Fights often have a pattern, and if the underlying issue isn’t resolved, it is very likely to repeat itself.

– Sometimes husbands simply have to love their wives and wives have to submit to their husbands…not because we feel like they deserve to be respected or loved, but simply because it is what God expects of us.

At some point, we have to decide to stop fighting with each other and to start fighting for each other, because, in the end, that is the only fight in marriage that is worth anything.

– Remember:  your spouse is never the enemy, although the true enemy would like us to believe that, unless you are unequally yoked – which is a battle of a different kind – remember that you are actually fighting on the same side.

– In the end, there is really only one position to effectively fight and win. That is, fighting on our knees.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – “Ephesians 6:12

Let’s stop fighting with each other and take up our places alongside each other in the real battle. Fighting the good fight.

’Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.’ – 1 Timothy 6:12

Seen. Known. Loved

Seen, Known, Loved – a Letter of Hope

Dear Friend,

As I look back on 2015 and mark the 30th year of my life, I can’t help reflecting on my own life and the observations of others. As I do, I realize how much has changed…especially over the last 10 years.

In spite of all the changes, one thing that has always remained constant in my life has been the desire to be seen, to be known, and to be loved…not only to be accepted, but also to be appreciated.

I look down at my one-year-old and I can also see it in his little eyes, shining brightest when he has succeeded in getting both mommy’s and daddy’s full attention at the same time.

The desire for acceptance in life may be transferred from our parents, to friends, to lovers, to spouses and later even to our children and grandchildren, but the desire for acceptance persists through life for all of us.

And at some time or another, we have all experienced the opposite of that desire: the sting of rejection, the disappointment of failed relationships, the feeling of simply not being good enough, and the fear of ending up alone.

There are endless ways we try to be noticed, using physical appearance, education, rebellion, material possessions, social media, gifts, money, sex, etc. as attention-getters, and the list goes on and on.

However, while trying so hard to be seen, we sometimes forget that people can only see what we show, what we say, and how we look on the outside, but our Heavenly Father knows us by who we are inside.  We forget that we were fearfully and wonderfully made before the world was even aware of our existence, and He created us for His pleasure and glory.

Psalm 139:15-16

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

Others may know us by our latest hairstyle or hair color, but God knows us in detail:  “…the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”. People aren’t attentive to little changes, but God can even track the number of hairs lost in a day (a thought that always amazes me)!

People notice our features, our faces, our figures, or what we wear – or what we can afford to wear – and judge us accordingly. God sees us for who we really are.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Revealing – or even covering up – more flesh might get us a second look, but just because someone looks at you or like the way you present yourself doesn’t mean they can see who you are.

Perhaps we would stop trying so hard to be noticed by Man if we only comprehended that regardless of the way we look we are SEEN by God.

People can hear what we say or read the words we write, but they often misinterpret what we are trying to say or we might not be saying what is truly in our hearts.  Our words don’t always reveal the cry of the heart or the inner desires of the soul.  Before we speak, He knows what is in the heart and the very intent behind our words.

Psalm 139:1-4

“O Lord , thou hast searched me, and known me.  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but , lo, O Lord , thou knowest it altogether.”

Knowing we are flawed, imperfect, and lacking, we often fear to be known for who we really are because we fear rejection. So, we end up pretending or “covering up” to meet the expectations of those around us, especially those we do not trust or are trying to impress. In our everyday relationships, the best we can hope for is to be loved and accepted, despite our deepest secrets and obvious flaws.

Somehow, we have come to believe that we are unworthy of simply being loved for who we are;  and if we want to be loved, we have to earn it, which only wears us out without getting us anywhere.  And, after a lifetime of trying to earn love and validation from our fathers or mothers, sisters or brothers, friends and lovers, it is no wonder we struggle to understand how God can love us unconditionally.

How could He love us while we were yet sinners?   And how could He die for our sins before we were even born?  How is it possible that nothing we can do will make Him love us less, or more?

We have all lost a little faith in the One who IS love because of people who said they loved us and ended up hurting us, using us, bruising us, or abusing us. And operating from a place of hurt and shame, we often turn around and do exactly the same to others.

Let us not be confused my dear friends.  We are LOVED with an unfailing love.  We are seen, known and loved, undeservingly covered by grace and called “worthy”, “children”, “friends”, “beloved”.

John 15:13 KJV

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

It’s time to stop trying so hard to look good, polished, and painted on the outside if our insides are messy, weary, and broken – only true love can change us from the inside out. That True Love never ends with us being seen, known, and loved because we are also called to Love others and to see as God sees them…to look at their hearts.

And as He opens our eyes we will learn to see that the ones we may consider the least loveable are usually the most wounded.

Simply loving others despite their flaws will not “save” them, but it’s the only way to draw them closer to the One who can.

Someone who seems perfectly loveable on the outside might be dying of loneliness behind a mask. It doesn’t say much about us if we judge others based on the way they look, the color of their skin, or even what other people say about them.

My hope is that in 2016 the world will be able to see what love is by the way we love each other.

1 Peter 1:22

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

Love

Dorette

What is Christmas really about

What is Christmas Really About?

This year we will be spending our third Christmas in Asia where the 25th of December is a very ordinary day….no nativity scenes or even a trace of Jesus.

However, shopping centers are bustling with customers drawn in by Christmas trees, lights, and decorations which help to boost seasonal sales.  Furthermore, Santa Claus and his reindeers are becoming more and more visible each year as commercial tools to bring in more money.

Sadly, if you ask a child to draw a Christmas picture you would certainly get a picture of a tree, a snowman, or Santa Claus.  Jesus is totally “left out of the picture”.

On the other hand, as the focus turns to Jesus on Christmas, we have many opportunities to share the gospel with others who know we are Christians and want to know what Christmas is really all about.

A question really had me thinking this year:  We say Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, but we’re not even sure if Jesus was born on the 25th of December, and, quite honestly, we aren’t eager to find out because it would be inconvenient to move the date we’re used to celebrating Christmas.

It also doesn’t take a lot of research to realize that most of the traditions we embrace – even in the church – have pagan origins. However, simply exposing those pagan origins will not turn hearts to the living God.

We say that we give gifts on Christmas as a reminder of God’s greatest Gift to us, Jesus. However, I find that gifts have a way of becoming major distractions from Jesus as our reason for the season.

Giving gifts during this season is not unique to Christians, either. For instance, during Tet holidays in Vietnam, family members and friends also give each other gifts and children receive ‘lucky’ money in special red envelopes.  Needless to say, red happens to be the primary color (as during Christmas) for the holiday with red Chinese lanterns lining the streets.

We say that the traditions are harmless, innocent and fun, so we embrace them. We pass them onto our children and our children’s children without even considering what we are celebrating and if it pleases God. I cannot help but wonder if our traditions are simply ways of trying to keep our memories alive.

Again this is probably true of every culture or religion and after three years of observing countless Buddhist and Chinese celebrations, observances, and rituals, I’m starting to see that we are truly creatures of habit and derive some comfort from hanging on to the way we are used to doing things, just like our fathers and their fathers did.

We also say that Christmas is a time for family, and believe me, if you’d missed out on Christmas with family for three years in a row, you would find it to be true.  Christmas is engraved in our minds as a time for family and food – it’s even more about the food than we make it out to be. If you miss the gathering on Christmas Day, believe me, you won’t be dreaming about the decorations on the table. You will most regret that you are missing out on a feast of family favorites.

Christmas is also a time when we are reminded of the empty seats around that same table.  Knowing how much has changed from one Christmas to another can make some feel lonely and depressed.

And what I find really sad after three years of observing Eastern cultures and religions is that we, as Christians, often fail to reflect our faith in Christ by the way we celebrate Christmas – especially if we embrace mere culture or pagan traditions.

It all looks the same really:  have fun with your family, give each other gifts (or money) and good wishes, decorate, eat too much of your favorite food of the season etc.  Even going to church (or the local temple) has often simply become part of a tradition and doesn’t necessarily reflect much about faith.

I wish Christmas could be all about Jesus again, – even if we know He wasn’t necessarily born on the 25th of December – celebrating the day as a reminder of the birth of our Saviour and why He was born into this world.  At the end of a year that may have been hard and dry for many, it revives hope for a new and better day.  We can keep on singing “Joy to the World”, regardless of the state the world is in.

This year, I pray that we will think twice about what Christmas is really all about and be willing to let go of what it is not.

“Wise men still seek Jesus

May we keep on seeking Him with all of our hearts, minds, and soul…

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” – 1 John 5:1,8

Image credit: Pixabay

 

First Steps and Falling

First Steps and Falling

Dear Friend,

I’m learning so much from observing my little one as he grows and develops.  I am watching him go through the motions and emotions of growing up, especially as he learns how to walk.  I’m thinking that every baby’s first step is nothing but a stumble in the right direction.

In a sense, we all go through a similar process as we attempt to master our spiritual legs to slowly feel our way through this life.  Even if we end up stumbling in the right direction, the initial effort to move forward is quite small in comparison to the preparation it took to get there and the courage it will take to keep on walking.  Still, that first step is a feat worth celebrating and remembering as an event that marks the beginning of a different and better way to move forward.  In the same way, the angels celebrate and rejoice in Heaven over every sinner that makes the decision to walk in the way of righteousness.

The first steps are always the hardest. We have so much grace for our babies when they stumble again on their second step and fall face down on the floor. We think nothing of picking them up and wiping away their tears while still praising them for their efforts…because we know it takes time to master the skill of walking.

If only we had so much grace for our fellow believers, especially those who are still stumbling along, trying to find the truth, trying to understand grace, and having trouble letting go of things they held on to in the past.

Even years after taking our first steps, we sometimes still trip and fall, secretly hoping no one saw us…

During this phase of my child’s development, I’m also learning how to be a mom.  As much as I wish I could cuddle him safely in my arms forever, this baby boy wants to go places.  This week he learned how to climb onto everything including the coffee table; and yesterday, he climbed onto a chair, and from there, he was trying to climb onto the table.

The hardest part is learning how to let go, when to let go, and how far to let him go before picking him up again… while always staying close enough to catch him should he stumble.

And deep down, there is a sad realization that one day I might not be there to catch him when he falls. At those times, he will experience some of life’s greatest lessons, learning to persevere to get up again and again after each fall.

And at those times, I have to learn to let him go.  In the same way, we must be willing to let go of the ones we truly love, trusting them into the Hands of the only One who can keep them standing and the One who is able to pick them up when they fall.

The same is true in our Spiritual walk.  I’ve had to learn to let go and trust that God will complete the
good work He started in those I love, even if it looks from my perspective like they are falling or backsliding.

I can simply pray that God will keep on showing them the Way to where He is standing, with arms stretched out like a loving Father.

Keeping my eyes on Him is the only way to keep my own balance as well.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12-14

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” – 1 Peter 2:1

It doesn’t matter where you are in your walk. Today I would like to encourage you to get up whenever you fall and keep on walking.  I also pray that you remember where to look to get the balance you need, and as you do, that He will guide you in the right direction and give you the strength to keep on walking in faith.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” – 1 Peter 2:21

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” – Jude 1:24-25