Doing Life Together

woman-1612644_1920Once a year, we celebrate love on Valentine’s Day. Most of us will make dinner reservations, buy cards and gifts to express our love and appreciation for that special someone. But after the celebration, how does romance fare the rest of the year? Are you keeping love alive post February 14th?

Honestly, it is easy to become comfortable in a long-term relationship and not focus on romance.  We get complacent unless we make efforts to show love and affection. So here are a few ideas to give a try.

  1. Write, “I love you,” with lipstick on the bathroom mirror. It will be the first thing your loved one sees in the morning and will put a smile on his or her face! Do this on a random day.
  2. Put sticky notes in your partner’s purse, brief case, lunch box, coat pocket or anywhere that will create a surprise.
  3. Pick flowers on the side of the road or buy a single rose on the way home.
  4. Cook together. Creating a meal together can be more romantic than you might think.
  5. Flirt at a public event. While you are talking to someone else, give her that ”I am interested” look, brush past him in a sexy way, or smile across the room.
  6. Attend to your appearance. Sometimes romance doesn’t get a spark because we get lazy and sloppy. We are visual people, so dress nice, fix your hair, brush your teeth and stay clean. It will build your confidence as well attract your partner.
  7. Touch that doesn’t necessarily lead to sex can be very romantic. Hold hands, give a massage, put your arm around your partner, etc.
  8. Have private jokes, sayings and cues that only the two of you understand.
  9. Do something spontaneous or novel. This gets those love hormones activated and creates a feeling of bonding.
  10. Get off of devices and look each other in the eyes. It will make your partner feel important and increase attraction.

Most of all, allow God to open your heart and show you how to love in new ways. For inspiration, read the book of Solomon in the Bible together. Romance and intimacy were created by God. Let the Song of Solomon inspire you!

Ok, you have some ideas. Now on February 15th…what is your next move?



angry-man-274175_1920“You are nothing but a narcissist and I can’t take it anymore. The constant focus on self, the lack of empathy for my feelings, your need to be admired, thinking you are special…this relationship is making me feel like I am crazy. You belittle me, manipulate to get your way, and you are always right!”

The person above is dealing with a narcissist. Narcissists are not easy people to live with, especially if they refuse treatment. Narcissists are those people who exhibit grandiosity and lack of empathy, along with several of the characteristics mentioned above.

First, keep in mind that we all tend to be self-centered and prideful. And most of us are not fond of criticism either. Narcissism is best thought of on a continuum or spectrum. Some people have more traits than others, and some have crossed over to a clinical definition of narcissism.

Second, the brains of narcissists look different when scanned compared to people without the disorder. Narcissists tend to have less gray volume in a part of the brain called the left anterior insula. This structure regulates empathy, emotions and cognitive functioning. The less volume, the more problems with empathy and compassion. Furthermore, the white matter shows less connectivity in parts of the brain that deal with how we think about ourselves. Less connectivity means lower self-esteem. Theses differences are not an excuse for behavior, but they do help us understand that this is a type of brain disorder.

Treatment is possible, but change is slow. It is like moving a glacier! But slow and steady change can happen once a person recognizes that his or her behavior is causing relationship problems.

In order to respond to someone with narcissism, keep these pointers in mind:

  1. As hard as this is, you can’t take criticism from a narcissist personally. This means you have to have a good sense of self to know who you are. Be confident in your own identity.
  2. Set boundaries. Don’t allow the person to push you around. And don’t absorb everything they say about you as truth.
  3. Do not try to please the person. This is like trying to fill a bottomless pit.
  4. Don’t use direct confrontation as it only makes the person escalate. Instead, take a time out or try to calm the situation. Focus on the problem, not the person.
  5. Adjust your expectations based on what you learn about the disorder. If you expect empathy, you will be disappointed unless the person is working on learning to be more empathetic.
  6. Find supportive people in your life who will listen to you and show empathy.
  7. Practice grace as you will not win most battles. Thus, you have to pick your battles.
  8. Stop exhausting yourself to be good enough. This is less about you and more about the perfectionism of the other person.
  9. Discuss biblical principles and what they mean such as the first shall be last, or having the fruit of the Spirit.
  10. Understand that the person has a vulnerability aversion. Allowing you to see the real them is frightening.

Therapy can help in many areas. It can help the person understand brain differences, and work on the renewing of the mind. A person can learn to tolerate criticism and failures, understand and regulate feelings and develop behavior that brings success in relationships.

Most of all, the narcissist can learn that underneath the sense of superiority is really someone who is anxious and hyper-vigilant to not allow vulnerability to show. Weakness is not about allowing others to have power over you. And a person doesn’t have to overcompensate by acting stronger. The key to success in the therapy room is the same as in any relationship–letting down your guard, becoming vulnerable, and recognizing our weaknesses. The hope is that no matter how difficult, we can do all things through Christ.

desert-444833_1920Have you ever wanted something intensely and pursued it whole heatedly? If so, would you say you were ambitious?

For the person of faith, the different between ambition and humble service can be a fine line. Take the example of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14. They healed a man at the temple who had been crippled from birth. The crowd reacted to the healing by going crazy. They began to worship Paul and Barnabas as if they were Greek gods. Even after Paul and Barnabas pointed the people to the true healer, God, the people could hardly restrain their worship of the two men. After intense adulation, they could have made a name for themselves as healers. They resisted because it would have glorified them, not God.

Ambition is what drives most people. It’s not wrong to be ambitious, but you have to look at the heart motive. Is it directed to self, to be number one, or to be the one with the most toys? What is your goal?

1 Thessalonians 4: 11 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands.” Philippians 2:3 adds, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Ambition is directed at helping others, not self. Be honest about your heart motive. The wrong motive can leave you empty and always wanting more.

That said, even Jesus was tempted by ambition when in the wilderness. Satan took him to a high mountain and had Jesus look at the kingdoms of the world. If Jesus was willing to worship Satan, he would give him all that he could see. Satan, whose misplaced ambition resulted in an expulsion from heaven, continues to tempt us towards the same.

Human ambition can co-exist with godly character. But again, it is about motive and who you serve. When Paul was Saul, he was highly ambitious. He believed he was doing good by persecuting Christians. But God brought him to his senses.  He was not leading a religious crusade, rather a fight against God himself. After Paul’s conversion, his ambition for spreading the Gospel remained strong. But his motive was different. He served God, not himself. He was mindful of community and God’s purposes. His ultimate ambition was to know Christ.

Can we say the same?

Ambition is not a dirty word. God has given us abilities and desires for His service and pleasure. John Piper reminds us that “holy ambition” comes from God. It is about serving him to the best of your abilities. So, reflect on your motives. What are you pursuing and why? Is it to be famous, make a name for yourself or be successful? Or is your ambition directed to knowing God and using everything he has given you for His purposes!



man-290186_1920The big game is over. Whether you liked the outcome or not, Tom Brady is one quarterback who stays calm under pressure. He has shown this over and over in his long football career. It may be 40 seconds to go in a game. Brady has the ball down in his own part of the field. His team is losing. Most of us think, “He just might pull it off. With only 40 seconds to do, he could march his team down the field. He’s Tom Brady!” And so many times, he pulled off amazing come backs!

So what makes Tom Brady so calm under enormous pressure? Is there a take away for the rest of us?

Choking under pressure has to do with fear. When fear kicks in, parts of the brain go to work. And those parts of the brain affect motor function. Brady seems to have mastered a way to regulate his emotions in order to not allow fear to take over. Usually, when the stakes are high, pressure leads to poorer performance.

A group of researchers decided to look at the factors involved in choking under high stakes situations. They conducted a study in which participants were asked to perform a demanding motor task and were given a monetary gain as a reward if they did well. They found that when people in their study were provided with a money reward for doing the motor task, it influenced their neural and physiological activity. If the incentive was gaining money, they did worse than if the incentive was avoiding a monetary loss.

When the incentive was to avoid losing money, they performed better and prevented choking under pressure. So one might think, Tom Brady knows that if he doesn’t stay calm under fire, he would lose his wealthy lifestyle. Perhaps the incentive of losing what he has, has helped him stay calm over the years and perform at a high level.

The study indicates that if you customize the incentive structure for a person, you could avoid choking or poor performance. This involves changing your thinking. Don’t focus on what you might gain, rather what you might lose.