Beyond sex and devotions to Intimacy

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Intimacy has been a large part of our conversations lately.  We are planning to attend a Love After Marriage conference soon and have also been preparing for a long separation due to his job.  In the midst of work, travel, study, chores and parenting we have also been feeling the need for a new and closer relationship with God.  Intimacy.

We have been reminded that intimacy with God is so much more than devoting time. Sometimes it’s easy to go through the motions.  We are taught that marriage is a model of our relationship with God.  Often routines can become habits without heart, good morning greetings and kisses goodbye.

Sadly, as many have discovered sex can just be sex and not intimacy.  Likewise, you can read the Word, raise your hands in worship, make known your prayer requests, or seek His wisdom for the current crisis.   It can just be going through the motions. You can do all that and never have Intimacy.

My amazing husband shared a revelation with me last night.  He was reading in Matthew and a familiar verse jumped out at him.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’  Matthew 7:22-23

Intimacy has nothing to do with how much we DO for God.  We can even operate out His power, prophesy and do miracles.  We can DO and DO and DO.  We can even seek to know all we can about Him and have a dedicated devotional life.  But did you see what He said?

“I never knew YOU!”

photo credit
He wants to know us.  He wants to have intimacy.  He wants us to open up and SHARE ourselves with Him.  Of course, God knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our head at any given moment.  But His desire is to go beyond his omniscience and engage with what we want to share with Him.  He wants to know us.  He wants intimacy.  Like our own desire in relationship is that our lover would bare his soul with vulnerability, trust and honesty as we do the same.  No coercion, no agenda, no pressure.  Just Love.

I agree with Donald Miller’s reflection from Searching for God knows what  “I have sometimes wondered if the greatest desire of man is to be known and loved anyway.”  I believe in this bed of intimacy is the greatest fulfillment we’ll ever experience.

Are you willing to bare your heart, soul and spirit to the greatest Lover you will ever know?  He is too.

Copyright ©2012


Too Tired to Find Rest?

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

It’s been a long day.  After a full nights sleep, you rose early, labored at the office for 8 hours or more.  Maybe you got a chance to squeeze in a workout.  You come home to dinner, time with the family and their night time routine.  You have at least an hour of required reading you need to get done, not to mention spend some quality time with your spouse.  Did I mention you’re exhausted?  All you really want to do is put your feet up and find a good movie to veg out to.  You don’t have time for a movie so you settle for 15 minutes of a a show on your DVR before forcing yourself to your books.  This is a typical day.  You desire a feel-good moment with no responsibility and a break for your mind.  But what you really need is rest.  

Not sleep, but REST!

We all need it.  Our days are full and seem to be getting fuller.  This isn’t the first place you’ve read that the more technology we acquire to make life easier the busier we become.  In the part of the world I live in it’s popular to work and be busy.  It’s not uncommon for someone to work 60, or more, hours a week.  Not everyone has a family life, but if you do, these relationships take time and energy.  (Hopefully, they are fulfilling and life-giving relationships but they still take energy.)

If you are a stay-at home type then you might be more tired because you don’t leave your “job.”   Cleaning, cooking, planning, shopping, managing, loving, educating, did I mention cleaning.  You get the idea.  There is much to do.  We have friends, volunteer work, ministries and homes to maintain.  We’re busy, we’re full, we’re tired.

Are you not busy?  Maybe bored?  That’s another kind of exhaustion that also manages to drain us of energy.

Yet it seems like so much effort to “come to Him”.  We feel too tired to receive the rest He promises.  It may seem like one more thing to add to the to-do list.  And the additional “work” drives us away to the remote control, the refrigerator or the bed.

We are bid to come to a promised place of rest.  A place free of burden and worry.  A refreshing place of peace.  This place is full of everything we need: strength, healing, wisdom, joy, comfort, vision, creativity, LOVE.  It’s where dreams are imagined and hope is born.

You don’t have to climb a mountain to find it

Lazy Mountain - Palmer Alaska

or look miles away in some meadow of flowers.

Paradise Valley - Washington

 You don’t have to travel to an island’s distant shore

The shore of Shemiya - The most Western island of North America

 or paddle across an abandoned lake.

Nancy Lakes - Alaska
Nancy Lake - Alaska

It’s only as far away as our next deep breath.

Media, food nor pillows (nor any other go-to subsistence) will ever give you the rest and comfort you are really needing.  It may get you through.  It may help you cope one more hour or one more day but it will never get you there.  So, how do you get there?  How do we come to Him?

 How do we enter His Rest?

Desire REST over coping.

Take the drive and strength that we use to get things done and lay it aside.  We have to take off our self-reliance and self-sufficiency like a coat.  This is one of the hardest steps for me.  Sometimes I feel like if I take off this “coat” I’ll fall apart – as if this coat is what’s holding me together.  Jeremiah 9:23-24

Get quiet.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Have confidence that with your desire for Rest, the removing of self-sufficiency and becoming quiet that He will meet you.  The place of rest is not a location it’s a communion.  “In quietness and trust (confidence) is Your strength” Isaiah 30:15 (italics taken from KJV)

Lean on Him.  Allow God to be the one to hold you together.  Depend on Him for your strength, wisdom, and joy. Proverbs 3:5

Love on Him and receive Love.   Share with Him, worship, listen, be filled.  Psalm 36:7-10

This can be done in a few minutes or over long periods of time.  Rest can be found in moments.  He wants to give you rest.  He wants to remove your worry and stress.  He wants you to be whole, have vision and be filled with His strength.  He wants to refresh you.

I am including a song below.  The video is not much to look at – which is fine because you might do better to have your eyes closed.  May it help you find that place of rest and remind you of His great love and promises that abound in His presence.

Copyright ©2012

Hunting Pink Elephants

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I hate pink elephants.  You know that tangible, cut the air with a knife, tension you feel when there are unresolved issues in the room?  The Pink Elephant is the issue causing that tension.  And because the tension is more comfortable than discussing it, the elephant stays stinking up the environment.  There doesn’t have to be a group for a pink elephant to be present.  She can be there between just two people crowding the room because they won’t talk effectively about her.

I don’t hate pink elephants because they are uncomfortable to be around.  I hate pink elephants because they’re proof that strife is dividing people.  There are several reasons to avoid conflict.  Few, if any, are good ones.  If an issue is large enough to create a pink elephant then it’s time to face it head on.  Unresolved conflict in personal relationships creates distance.  It’s like that big, fat elephant is standing between you.  The longer you wait to deal with it the fatter she gets, the more distant the relationship becomes.

We were asked by a friend who is a professor at a large university, to speak to her Marriage and Family Therapy class about how we handle conflict in our marriage.  Jonathan and I had a great time sharing stories and the invaluable tools we’ve learned to enhance our relationship.  Preparing for this encounter while playing with my daughter and a pink elephant rattle of hers, reminded me of how destructive unresolved conflicts are to relationships.

When Jonathan and I first got married and began to live together I expected him to gather up the trash and put the trash can out on the curb the night before the garbage truck came by.  This was something my dad always did.  I never told Jonathan this; I figured it was understood.  So when the can was full or trash day came and I was out lugging it to the curb myself I began to grumble.  I would start to think he was a slacker, expecting me to “do everything” and work full time too!  I continued with this small under current of resentment for a while and finally brought it up to him.  He was baffled at why I was upset and once I got over myself long enough to have a discussion I realized I had an uncommunicated expectation that wasn’t being met.  I expressed my desire and he was happy to oblige me.

This is a simple and fairly unimportant conflict but it shows that even in the smallest things the opportunity to judge someone’s character and take things personally is easy.  If judgments and resentment continue, especially with larger issues, you can imagine how easy it is to become adversaries with a person you want to be close to.  When we take things personally and think the other person is “bad” we tend to start closing off parts of our heart to “protect” ourselves.  Intimacy is handicapped and the relationship hobbles along or crumbles in failure.

Now I want to emphasize that it is not the ISSUE that brings the handicap.  The injury doesn’t come because that pink elephant went galloping around the room squashing people.  All the elephant does is reveal what’s going on in the relationship.  In the trash example above it wasn’t the full trash can that caused a rift in my relationship it was the thinking that my husband was a slacker, that he was using me to do his work.  The thinking and believing that our spouse, friend, or sister is less than they should be causes us to become disconnected.  If I had been fully connected with Jonathan I wouldn’t have jumped so quickly into negative thinking about him.   I didn’t take time to understand him.  I leaped straight into judgment.

Unresolved or un-discussed issues, drive a wedge between loved ones.  Pretending they are not there or hoping they will go away on their own is a fantasy.  The whole point of close relationships is to be – – close not wedged apart.  Most of what keeps us from dealing with relationship issues is fear:

  • fear of rejection or abandonment,
  • fear of disappointment,
  • fear of failure (you don’t get what you want or the relationship ends), or
  • fear of punishment.

Another deterrent to resolving issues is dishonesty.  I venture to say that if someone says, “Our relationship is so great! – We never disagree,”  that someone in that relationship isn’t being honest.  Dishonesty isn’t always deception.  Sometimes it’s as simple as at least one party not knowing themselves well enough to express their own opinion so they only mirror the opinions of those around them.

The only reason to have a confrontation is because the person and relationship matter to you.  Confrontation isn’t a fight and shouldn’t be seen as a negative but rather a positive sign of a relationship.  No two people are the same, if you are around someone long enough you are bound to disagree and have conflict.  This is normal; it’s how we handle conflict that shows how much we value the relationship and determines our level of intimacy.

Overcoming fears, being willing to risk and be vulnerable, and sharing your desires is a huge undertaking.  Why bother?

  1. The satisfaction of knowing you are living free and honest from your heart and
  2. The potential of deeper love and intimacy.

We all have a huge need to be known and loved. So combating conflict or hunting pink elephants directly impacts how much love we have.  The rewards of a truly intimate relationship far outweighs the risk.  Yes, there could be pain and disappointment or even loss.  But how authentic of a relationship do you have if you hold back your truth?

Here are some tips that Jonathan and I try to use when dealing with conflict:

  • Confront yourself first.  Sometimes this is the only necessary confrontation. We need to examine our thoughts and feelings and know ourselves.  We need to come to a place of truth.  One time I was all ready to confront Jonathan on an issue I was having with him.  But after I took this first step of examining how and why I came to think and feel what I was, I realized it was MY thinking that needed to be straightened out.  Then my feelings lined up too.  I still shared my experience with Jonathan but there was no blame and he was able to share in what I was going through and encourage me.
    • “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts” Psalm 51:6
    • “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;”  Psalm 26:2
  • Know yourself.  Make sure your identity hasn’t gotten misplaced in the issue.  You are who you are.  No one and no thing has power to define you except God.
  • Check for a disconnect.  Outside this issue how is the relationship?  Your connection is more important than the issue.  Knowing this helps keep you focused on the goal.
  • Know your goal.  Our goal is always a more intimate, authentic connection.  If your goal is to “win” the confrontation you might want to go back to “Check for a disconnect.”
  • Timing is important.  The sooner issues are dealt with the better.  But conversations are not always appropriate “right now.”  If it can’t be discussed immediately then schedule it.  I typically want to discuss things right away, but Jonathan needs preparation to turn  his attention fully to the issue.  It is very empowering to agree, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow at 7.”  The Bible says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  This is not a power point to force a conversation for an earlier time.  You are responsible for your anger and are fully capable of letting it go before “sundown.”
  • Know  your judgmental thoughts.  Seek understanding not justification for your judgments.
  • Know your limits.  On your best day the only thing in life you have control over is YOURSELF.
  • Own your mess and clean it up.  Apologize, change your thinking that led to the mess and don’t do it again.
  • Speak honorably.  We treat others with honor because we are honorable not because they are acting honorably.  Romans 12:10

The purpose of this post is not to outline the step by step process of confrontation and conflict resolution but rather to help bring to light the value of hunting pink elephants and provide some personal tips that may not be in those outlines. There are plenty of tools available.  Conflict management theory is used by businesses and organizations as well.  If you want more details on the process of confrontation I will include some links below as well as other resources.

Happy Hunting!

No elephants, pink or otherwise, were harmed in the production of this post.


Copyright ©2012