For almost 30 years now, Steve Arterburn has been helping others build new lives in Christ. Through recovery programs, Women of Faith, and his syndicated radio show, New Life Live!, Steve’s life has been dedicated to living out 2 Corinthians 1:4, comforting those in trouble with the comfort he received himself. In the Mediterranean Love Plan, Steve explores the seven elements that make-up passion and shares practical ideas to increase your romance with life and your partner. Some of the elements might surprise you, but all are based on Scripture, research and then backed up with examples from the most romantic countries in the world. It’s a grace to welcome Steve to the farm’s front porch today…
I was raised in the middle of nowhere, out in West Texas. You could go your whole life out there, thinking you weren’t experiencing beauty out there.
Birds sit on telephone poles because they’re prettier than the trees.
Bees die trying to pollenate plastic flowers stuck in pseudo-gardens around houses.
It is so arid, there are more tumbleweeds than flowers, more dust storms than raindrops.
There are some locals who will argue with me, I’m sure; people who think mesquite trees are pretty, who wax eloquent about the sunsets over cow pastures that reach into forever, who think red dirt is artistic. I’m happy for them. It’s just not my thing.
What felt like a void of beauty, did give me an even deeper appreciation for beauty wherever I did see it.
Misty and I have talked about how important beauty is to us, so we fill our home with music, paintings and flowers.
We also camp, sit by a lake, jog, walk, ski, and do our best to live our lives surrounded by natural beauty whenever possible.
I am convinced it’s one of the reasons why our marriage is rich with passion, even as we are busy in the nitty-gritty of raising a houseful of children.
We find that when we refill our depleted tanks with beauty, it inspires us to better love life and appreciate each other.
The things we typically describe as beautiful-art, music, the human form, home décor, natural scenery, and even pleasing aromas-have one thing in common: they enter through our five senses and evoke feelings, memories, and moods that seem to bypass conscious, logical processing.
Beauty goes straight to the emotional center of our brain, enhancing our moods and creating conditions for loving encounters without our having a single conscious thought about it.
When we see or hear something beautiful, the experience opens our hearts and transports us to serene and happier states of mind, leaving us refreshed in spirit and inclined to be more generous to others. Natural and cultural beauty can have the same effect the sun has on flowers, opening people up like petals to receive warmth and light.
Then, with open hearts, we’re ready to give love.
By surrounding yourself with beauty, in all its forms, you can profoundly ignite feelings of passion and romance. Aristotle said, “Beauty is the gift of God.” Indeed. It is especially a gift to couples longing to experience the spark of romantic passion.
It’s a big plus on the passion front if you can live in a beautiful natural setting or get to one regularly on foot or by bicycle. The transformative power of nature’s beauty goes beyond romantic novels set in Mediterranean locales.
Research on the power of nature shows that our brains are “wired to fire” in relaxed pleasure when exposed to beautiful scenes of nature-the perfect state for falling in love with life and each other.
Maybe — Going for a walk everyday is the way for our every day marriages to walk into more passion?
Here are some amazing things that natural beauty does to enhance our lives:
Nature is healing.
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally; it contributes to our physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Nature is calming.
God created us to be engrossed by trees, plants, water and other natural elements; we are absorbed with scenes in nature and distracted from pain and discomfort. (Have you ever been mesmerized watching a fish swimming in a pond or tank, the glow of a fire, a sunrise or sunset?)
Natural beauty can have a hypnotic, pain-lessening effect on the brain. Healthy distractions allow our brains and bodies a chance to rest from looping negative thoughts.
Nature is restorative.
Nature positively affects our well-being. In one study in Mind, 95 per cent of people interviewed said that after they spent time outside, their mood improved, and instead of feeling depressed, stressed and anxious, they began to feel more calm and balanced.
Other studies show that spending time in nature or viewing scenes in nature is associated with positive mood and psychological well-being, a sense of meaningfulness, and vitality.
Nature helps us to focus.
Time spent in nature or simply viewing scenes from nature increases our ability to pay attention.
Nature provides a much-needed break for overactive minds (like mine!) refreshing us for new tasks. Studies show that being outside improves memory and attention span by 20 per cent.
Nature ignites feeling of connection.
According to a series of field studies at the Human-Environment Research Lab, time spent in nature connects us to each other and to the larger world.
Another study found that urbanites who had trees and green space around their buildings reported “knowing more people, having stronger feelings of unity with neighbors, being more concerned with helping and supporting each other, and having stronger feelings of belonging than tenants in buildings without trees.”
Nature fosters optimism.
Because of the greater number of hours spent in front of some kind of technological screen, we are suffering from what some researchers are calling “nature deprivation.” Less time in nature and more time in front of TVs and computers yields higher rates of depression.
In fact, new studies are showing that too much screen time can make us cynical: too much screen time is associated with a loss of empathy and a lack of altruism.
Nature energizes us.
Research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that being outside in nature “makes people feel more alive,” and this feeling of passionate vitality happens above and beyond the effects of physical activity and social interaction.
In fact, just twenty minutes in nature was enough to significantly boost vitality levels.
A wise couple who want to remain passionately in love for a lifetime will proactively and frequently appreciate the beauty around them.
Whether that beauty is found in nature, or in music, art, a good book, a daily walk, or in each other’s faces.
Once we become attentive to how to be a more passionate person — then we can find ways to overlap our passions in our marriage.
There’s an inner Romeo/Juliet in all of us that simply needs a little encouragement to connect with romance, passion and all the beautiful senses that God gave us to savor and enjoy.
Maybe going for a daily walk together in nature — is how our hearts naturally begin to step closer to each other?
When we let love bloom and expand our hearts, we become more beautiful, more passionate.
One feeds the other in an endless circle of passion.
Steve Arterburn and his wife Misty have written a book together to help couples grow closer and have the real intimacy in marriage that God wants us all to have.
In Mediterranean Love Plan Steve and Misty share “secrets” that help couples connect…except they’re not so much secrets as Scriptural truth we either might have forgotten or didn’t think we could apply them to our marriages.
They share how these fun-to-apply secrets have taken their own marriage from confused to confident, from discouraged to delighted– and how you can do it too. The teachings in Mediterranean Love Plan offer unique, ground-breaking answers to many age-old questions — to awaken the inner Romeo/Juliet in all of us.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]