Tag Archives: relationships

Stop Chasing Perfection

Stop Chasing Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not this side of Heaven. Most of us know that, but our expectations often belie that truth.

We know nobody and nothing is perfect, yet we are quick to complain about all the imperfections in the person we’re dating, the church we attend, or the job that pays our bills.Stop Chasing Perfection

High expectations are a good thing. Having a vision for the type of marriage you want, the church you serve in, and the career you navigate is important and admirable. And I believe the vision you imagine can become a reality as long as it’s grounded in reality. There must be some compromise and tweaking to the vision along the way.

Most people understand this. Where we go astray is when our focus shifts. Instead of remembering everything in life is a process, we get impatient with the immediate. So we focus on our partner’s imperfections, our church’s problems, and our employer’s negative practices. We magnify the few things that tick us off, letting those idiosyncrasies overshadow what we enjoy about our current state of life.

Consequently, we become complainers part of the unfortunate majority miserable in our relationships and jobs, and tuned out in church. Sometimes discontent means it’s time to move on. But most of the time the discontent comes from within, not without.

Changing jobs, churches, or dating someone else won’t change things when the problem is within you. The problem is often perspective. And perspective is tainted when problems arise: when there’s tension in your relationship, when there’s disagreement in church, and when there’s frustration at work. These aren’t signs to bail out; these are signs to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The life you want takes work. The vision you have won’t manifest without pressure.

So when things in life particularly pertaining to your relationships, church, and job become frustrating, shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Intentionally dwell on the good things about your situation. This fosters peace, patience, and problem-solving ability. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then maybe it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ll realize that though life isn’t perfect, it is good, and with patience you can build something close to perfect.

 

 

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photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight

5 Lessons From My 80-year-old Self

On the heels of writing some tips to my 18-year-old self, I was thinking of what advice I could use now. If my older self,

photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight
photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight

say the 80-year-old Kevin, could give me some guidance on navigating life from here on out, I wonder what he would say? I wonder what lessons, tips, and words of wisdom he’d share.

He’d probably start by saying I know less than I think I know right now. Then he’d say my future is bright and I become filthy rich (OK, wishful thinking there).  Most of all, he’d probably focus on regrets he has and how I can change my life to avoid them. So here are five things my 80-year-old self would tell me to live a fuller life:

SPEAK YOUR MIND

You tend to be cautious, young Kevin (yes, you’re still very young). You speak up when needed, but you’re guarded with your words. You’re diplomatic by nature, which has been helpful in gaining friends, bridging gaps, and defusing conflicts. Yet, your opinion needs to be heard more — unfiltered and direct. It will catch people off-guard, and it may hurt some feelings, but as long as it’s done in truth and love, it’s worth it.

BE SILLY

There’s nothing more beautiful in life than being able to laugh at yourself. It’s more natural for the youngest and oldest among us, but it’s something you need to rediscover and embrace. Laughing is one thing, but being able to make a complete fool of yourself — and awaken the silliness in others — is a moment you’ll never forget, trust me.

TAKE RISKS

You’ll never regret taking a risk. Do they all pay off? No. Is there embarrassment or discomfort in the moment? Yes. But looking back, taking a risk was always the right decision. Risks always result in either the outcome you desire or a lesson learned. The only thing that holds you back is fear. And you’ll find out what you fear most about risks never happens. The greatest risk of all is the risk not taken.

SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE YOU LOVE

You’ve been telling yourself to do this for years, and you’ve gotten better at it, but remember this: You can never spend too much time with the people you love. No one ever reached 80 years old and said, “You know what, I think I spent too much time with loved ones.” Take every second and every minute that they give you. Too many people let work, school, church, chores, sports, Scandal, and social media get in the way of real relationships. By the way, Facebook, Instagram, and Olivia Pope won’t last that much longer anyway. If your loved ones are really loved, prioritize time with them.

SAY ‘I LOVE YOU’ OFTEN

Those three words mean the world to people, Kevin. They don’t part your lips enough. The people you love — which include pretty much everyone — need to hear it. You’ll regret not saying it enough. Your words are sincere. You only say what you mean. If there’s anything people should remember about you, it’s that you loved them.

Enjoy the journey, young Kevin. You’ll be OK. Oh, and get off Facebook!

What do you think you’d regret most at an older age? What are some changes you can make to avoid those regrets?

 

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photo by Odin Photography

The True Test of Your Love for God

By Kevin Howell

photo by Odin Photography
photo by Odin Photography

“The litmus test of our love for God is our love for our neighbor.” – Brennan Manning

The above quote from the late Brennan Manning gave me pause when I read it. It’s not a new, groundbreaking statement. In fact, it’s the underlying message of the book of 1 John. But I haven’t read 1 John in a while, so this was an unexpected character check.

We hear so much about the love of God these days. Undoubtedly, you heard it last month around Easter time. God’s love is so evident in the sacrifice of Jesus. If we truly grasp the love of God, it puts a desire in our hearts to reciprocate that love. Throughout the Word, God tells us the way to love Him is to love our neighbor.

I have no problem with the concept of loving my neighbor… it’s just the practice of it. More so the consistent practice of it. We can spend a lot of time in church, pouring out our hearts in worship, giving plenty into the offering and other projects, and even serving in an area of ministry. But the true evidence of our love for God is how we love others.

I believe this is why a lot of people get burned out serving in ministry. They do it for God, but let’s be honest, we can’t see Him. He’s invisible. And as humans, we need something tangible at some point. We need someone we can see, someone we can touch — our neighbors. If we don’t have the same love for people as we say and think we have for God, then serving can become a burden too heavy to bear.

God put our neighbors — which is everyone who’s around you — in our lives so we could learn to love. We learn more about love from each other than from God. That may sound errant, but it’s true. Obviously God set the standard for love because He is love. It’s easy to love God. It doesn’t take much to love someone who has loved us so unconditionally. But loving each other? Well, that’s another story. That takes effort, patience, peace, tolerance, forgiveness and, primarily, divine intervention.

No matter how good and loving we think we are, we can’t love everyone unconditionally. There are some people in my life who are quite easy to love. Others? Not so much. But I’ve depended on God not just to help me love the hard cases, but everyone I come in contact with. And He’s given me a supernatural love for others. I’m not always consistent with it, but the more I realize His love for others, the easier it is to love them.

Jesus alluded to this in a parable about judgment in Matthew 25 when He said anytime we feed someone hungry, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, clothe the naked or visit the sick or imprisoned, it’s as if we are doing it to Him. When we realize that everyone we come in contact with — those we like or don’t like, those easy to love or hard to get along with, those Christian or atheist — is made in the image of God and is loved by Him the same way we are, it makes it easier for us to love them.

Who am I not to love someone God loves just as much as He loves me?

So if we truly appreciate the grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love we have received, and if we say we love God, we must love our neighbor. We can’t see God. We can’t touch Him. But in His wisdom, He established a way for us to love Him tangibly… by loving each other.

 

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define

What Defines You?

By Kevin Howell define

I love traveling. There’s something about seeing a new place and getting away from your normal surroundings that excites me. It’s sort of like a little adventure — and who doesn’t like an adventure?

In recent years, Southern California has been my destination of choice. I’ve fallen in love with the weather, the palm trees, the beaches, the landscape, and the laid-back lifestyle (the traffic and gas prices are another story). I met up with an old friend on a recent trip to LA. I mentioned how I’d love to live there, and he said it’s a cool place to reside as long as you relocate for the right reasons. He explained that people shouldn’t come to Cali for superficial things, such as the weather and the Hollywood lifestyle.

I began to think of why I would move to LA, besides trying to escape from Northeast’s harsh winters. Part of it may be justified, but part of it is just a desire for change. The grass is greener after all, isn’t it?

It’s easy to become disillusioned with our current state of life. We seem to be always aching for something better, at least I am. A better job, a better car, a better phone, better friends, a better church, a better mate. It seems like the hardest thing is to be content. To stay where we are and be satisfied with it.

When I graduated college, I so desperately wanted to start my adult life in a new place instead of returning home to New Jersey. I told God I’d go anywhere in the world He wanted me to go. When He said, “I want you to go back home,” I responded: “Except there.”

I’m starting to realize life is a little like those Samsung Galaxy S commercials where they mock Apple fanatics. While people camp out in front of the Apple store waiting for the “next big thing,” Samsung declares “the next big thing is already here.” I find myself looking for change,  wishing I was someplace else — in my career, my location, my relationship status, my tax bracket. But God wants me to stop looking.

“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.” 1 Corinthians 7:17 The Message

Though, in the above passage, the Apostle Paul was speaking of marriage and singleness, the principle applies to all areas of life. I think my search for something better is less about my discontent with where I am and more about letting where I am define me. And if you’re honest, it’s the same case with you.

We tend to identify ourselves with our circumstances, therefore defining our worth by what we do and how we live instead of who we are… instead of who God says we are.

Where you are, right now, is where you are. It doesn’t mean you will be there forever, and it doesn’t mean it has to define you. Just live, love, and trust God in the now, and let that define you.

Like my friend advised, I don’t want to move or change or wish for something else because of superficial reasons. The next big thing or a better life isn’t necessarily on the opposite coast. It’s right here, wherever I am.

 

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love story

A Love Story Cynic

By Kevin Howelllove story

I’ve never been a cynic. Not in any area of life. I’ve always been a positive, glass-is-half-full, things-will-work-out-for-the-best type of guy.

But that attitude has been changing as of late. The cynic in me has started to rise up. I don’t see all things as pure as much. I don’t see things as black and white. I see gray. A lot of gray. Particularly when it comes to God.

TIRED CHRISTIAN CLICHÉS

Now I still believe in absolute truth. I still believe every word in the Bible. I just don’t know if I still believe in some of the clichés, concepts, and statements we hear as Christians. In particular, the ones we say and hear about relationships.

You know, things like:

  • Just have patience, wait on God and He will bring you the right one.
  • If you focus on God and fall in love with Him first, then He’ll bring you the love of your life.
  • Or, learn to be content in your singleness and God will provide you the spouse of your dreams sooner than you think.

Sounds good, even biblical, but lately I’ve felt like it’s a bunch of bull. Personal experience hasn’t jived with these sayings. I’ve gone through several stages of waiting on God, being content, serving in ministry, growing in faith, not pursuing some relationships because God instructed me not to, and ending others because God told me to. Yet after all these seasons, I’m still where I started.

WHEN IS IT GOING TO HAPPEN?

It’s not that I don’t believe God will provide me with a great wife some day — and no, I don’t expect her to be dropped off on my doorstep — I just question why He it hasn’t happened already, and will it truly be worth what I’ve gone through?

I wonder if it hasn’t happened yet because of His timing or my actions. No doubt, I’ve made mistakes in relationships. Action and inaction have their consequences. But either way, how long is this wait?

And, is this wait really worth it? Will He really give me a friend and life partner that will outweigh the frustration over the years? Will she be better than the women I let go?

TRUTH TRUMPS CYNICISM

Conventional Christianity says so, but does the Bible? Can I believe that God is orchestrating my life and my love story into a beautiful symphony that will exceed my expectations? The cynic in me isn’t buying it.

I don’t put much trust in Christian sayings any more, but I have absolute faith in the Word of God. And that Word says whatever I’ve given up for God’s sake I “will be given much more in this lifetime” (Luke 18:29). And it says He is able to do far more than I could ever imagine or guess or request in my wildest dreams! (Eph. 3:20). There’s not much gray in those statements. He’s trustworthy and He wants to blow my mind when it comes to fulfilling my desires — including a spouse. The cynic in me questions the Christian clichés, but I know better than to doubt God’s character. What He says is true. So I choose to believe, even as I wait.

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