Doing Life Together

valentines-day-1947567_1920Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. You still have one more day to plan a romantic and exciting day or night. But you need to give it some thought now. Be my valentine needs to be exciting, not boring!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the standard dinner out, flowers and candy. While all of that is nice, how about infusing a little more excitement into what might be considered a tired relationship.

When you ask that special someone to be your valentine, do it with excitement. The key to bringing in the romance is novelty! Yes, a break from the ordinary does wonders to wake up a sleepy couple. New experiences stimulate dopamine in the brain and bring feelings of romance. I am guessing that a number of us could use a little stimulating when it comes to our couple relationships.

Here are 7 ideas to rev up the romance and stimulate the brain. Go from boring to exciting!

  • Do a couple’s spa night. Schedule the two of you for relaxation and pampering. Check on-line coupon sites for deals. I’ve done a couple’s spa night and I highly recommend it. It’s relaxing, romantic and fun. And may husband had never pampered himself with massage and other treatments. He loved it!
  • Show love to a stranger or person in need. This is a really novel idea. Instead of focusing only on your love for each other, go to a homeless shelter, children’s hospital or someplace where showing love can bring joy to others. Then, when you come home, talk about the experience and appreciate each other. Point out positive qualities you noticed about your partner while engaging with others.
  • Picnic somewhere scenic. Take a blanket, a basket of food and drink and find a beautiful spot to picnic. For those of you in more northern climates, it may have to be an indoor place with a view, so be creative. You might even drive to a scenic view and picnic in your car. Or, if you have a fireplace, spread the picnic out on the floor! The point is forget the standard restaurant and dinner table. Create a new space to celebrate your love.
  • If you can afford it, go to a nice hotel and truly get away. Spa or not, head for a change in scenery for one night. Leave your devices locked away for emergencies only and enjoy the time together. If you can afford it, order room services. Even one night of a get-away refreshes the soul.
  • Do something you never do: Sign up for a cooking class, go on a hike, go bowling or play laser tag. Think of a fun activity that gets you active together and create a memory. For instance, one couple who never bowls, goes bowling on Valentine’s Day just to stimulate the brain with a novel experience. And that is the idea. Make it novel. Create a surprise. Not knowing where you are going or what you are doing with only a few clues along the way adds to the fun and novelty.
  • For those of you with a more creative side, write a poem, compose a song, or find quotes that express your love. And if writing a poem or composing a song seems too ambitious, place love notes all over the house with clues on how to find them. You can google quotes if you have trouble thinking of what to say.
  • Recreate your first date. You may not be able to go back to the exact location, but you could use pictures, maps and reminders of the place. Then create the date and relive the memory. Pull out old photos and reminisce about the most romantic times. Put on soft music, candles and set the atmosphere for more to come! If you had a special song, get it ready to play. If you remember what you ate on that first date, prepare it. Remembering your feelings of first love can rekindle the present.

This Valentine’s Day, create a memory that strengthens the couple bond by doing something new to bring passion to your relationship. Romantic love doesn’t have to fade over time. Don’t settle for routine. Romantic love needs a few shots of novelty once in awhile!




self-love-65693_1920You can walk in a room, have a conversation and know if someone is a narcissist. How is that possible? Is it really that easy.?

Researchers at Ohio State University say, “Yes.” They have discovered the quickest way to tell if someone is a narcissist. Are you ready?

Simply ask them.

According to Brad Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University who coauthored a study on narcissism, narcissists feel entitled and believe they deserve special treatment. So, they don’t try to hide the fact that they are a narcissist.

In their research, people were asked to decide to what extent they agreed with the statement: I am a narcissist (egotistical, self-focused and vain). Surprisingly, people who were narcissistic answered,  yes, that is me. That single question proved to be as accurate as a commonly used diagnostic test for narcissism.

T.S. Eliot reminds us that “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm [that they cause] does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” 

According to Bushman, this endless struggle to think well of yourself is partially explained by parenting.  Parents can contribute to the budding of a narcissist. Specifically he says that parents who think their child is better than others, more special and deserving of better treatment, cross the line from healthy loving to overvaluing their child. That overvaluing leads to feelings of truly being special and elevating yourself above others.

Thus parenting is a contributing factor, but so are genetics. We know from other studies that there is a genetic role in the developing of narcissism as well. There are a number of researchers who have scanned the brain of narcissists and see differences in brain structures related to connectivity. This especially affects empathy. Some feel that narcissism should be considered a brain disorder that needs to be better understood. Perhaps this would lead to people feeling more compassionate towards narcissists.

Even though narcissism is an ingrained personality trait, it can be changed over time with intervention and help. The work may be hard and long but change is possible. So if you spot a narcissist, as difficult as it might be, try to be understanding of the ways the environment and genetics have shaped the person.


apple-tree-429213_1920Rick was tempted. He was going through a marital crisis. According to him, his wife was cold and distant. When a colleague at the office provided a listening ear, Rick found himself attracted. The more time he spent with this woman, the closer the two became. He even prayed with this woman for God to heal his marriage.

When he came to see me, he was mad at God for placing such an attractive woman in his work place. When I asked about his actions, he said, “I’ve crossed the line a few times with this woman, but it is not my fault. I have been praying for my marriage to heal and my wife isn’t responding. God knows I am lonely. I wouldn’t have been tempted if this woman didn’t work with me and my marriage was solid.”

Wrong answer, Rick. God or circumstances didn’t tempt you. In James 1:13, this is confirmed, ” Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”

There may be times when our faith is tested, but that is not the same as being tempted. Temptation is our responsibility. We give in to temptation. It’s our choice to give birth to our desires.

James 1:14 tells us that the source of our temptation is our own evil desires. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.“We are pulled away by temptation because of our sinful heart. And when we give in to temptation, we need to own it.

We can blame God, the devil, circumstances, or anyone else in our lives when we find ourselves tempted. But the root of temptation is our own desires. James uses the language of childbirth to describe the course of temptation. Desire is conceived, then it gives birth to sin and continues to grow. Once sin is grown, it leads to destruction or death. So sin gives birth to death. This is the course temptation takes when we yield to it. Unlike a real birth, no life is given once sin is conceived. The end result of all sin is destruction and death.

Once we acknowledge that we are sinners and the source of our temptation is our evil desires, we can submit to Christ who helps us overcome. Jesus triumphed over temptation and their is no sin in Him. Because of Him, we too can be victorious over temptation.

If you are tempted, take responsibility and remember, Christ lives in you and gives you the power to resist. When we are weak, He is strong. Lean on Him to give you the power to overcome.

girl-15599_1920People often ask, “Are you walking in your calling?” The answer depends on an understanding of what it means to be called of God.

In recent years we have witnessed a record number of ministers who have fallen or left ministry. We’ve seen egos out of control, infidelity, divorce, pornography, entitlement in the pulpit, pastors who act more like CEOs than shepherds of flocks. When I’m in a TV green room with a minister who yells at the make-up person and then turns on the care and compassion when the camera is rolling, I’m not only grieved, but see how all of this is creating a crisis of trust for the church. We have to get a grip on what is happening in leadership to be credible and not lose our way.

Given the larger culture in which we operate, I see falling as a crisis of calling. And it happens to all of us, not just pastors.

Living in a culture that reinforces success, numbers, growth, fame, entertainment, entitlement, individualism and even addiction, it is easy to lose sight of why we are here, what we are to do and how we are to live.

The prevention to falling is to fully understand and embrace our calling.

When I taught in the graduate school at Wheaton College, I used a book by Os Guinness as my integrative text entitled, THE CALL. I reread this book often to stay grounded and want to share a few of Os’ helpful thoughts.

Os describes calling as “the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

In the New Testament, Jesus calls his disciples to himself with a simple FOLLOW ME, but also calls them to act and to lead. Calling is holistic and a metaphor for the life of faith itself. Our primary call then is to God. We are called to SOMEONE.

Everything in life is a response to our primary calling. When we keep our primary calling central, it leads to our secondary calling (what we do)—not the other way around.

Thus, the prevention to falling is calling. Our primary calling is to God. Out of that calling comes everything else. When we make God our reward, and understand that everything else flows from that call, falling is less likely to occur. Our eyes are fixed on the person of God, not the tasks of ministry, on making money, competition or our own giftedness, but on THE ONE WHO CALLS US TO HIMSELF.