Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

MAKING TIME FOR LOVE

Posted: October 12, 2010 in Love, Marriage, Parenting
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Last night I watched a program I had recorded with my DVR.  The program is called NO ORDINARY FAMILY.  The truth is, this family was all too ordinary until one day they discovered they had contracted extraordinary powers following a pond crash of the airplane on which they were passengers.  The mom in the story is very career centered but deeply regrets sacrificing her family.  She finds the solution in the “super powers” she receives.  Her super power is speed.  She can move super fast, pretty much faster than a speeding bullet.  She now has the ability to bring home the bacon and fry it too!  I think that NO ORDINARY FAMILY may find an audience because there are so many people today who might be able to pull life off if they just had super powers. 

So many people are asking the question, “How do I make more time for the people I love in my life?”  I think the problem is that we really can’t make time.  Each of us has the same amount of time each day.  So it’s not about making more time it is about prioritizing the time we have.    How do you find more time for the people who love you and that you need to love? 

Let me give you one suggestion: turn off the TV and the computer.  Recent studies show that the average American sits in front of the television or video screen – the TV screen or the computer screen – working or playing, six hours a day.  Average.  Six hours a day at five days a week, let’s say you didn’t do it on Saturday and Sunday but of course you do that too.  That’s thirty hours a week.  Thirty hours a week for a year is one thousand five hundred and sixty hours in front of a screen.  Let me put that into perspective.  That is ninety-seven straight days of sixteen hours a day in front of a screen. 

We wonder why we don’t have time for relationships.  It always amazed me that people will go watch reruns of Friends instead of making friends. We spend more time watching Big Brother than being one.  We will watch a reality show about somebody else’s family instead of working on the reality of our own family.  We will spend hours watching the show Survivor while our families aren’t.

The Bible says in 1 Cor. 13:3 (MSG) “No matter what I say or what I do or what I believe I’m bankrupt without love.”  The Bible says that God wants you to use your 168 hours a week in building and strengthening your relationships.  The truth is most people today are in time-starved relationships.  You are in time-starved relationships!  Why is it that we spend the least amount of time with those we love the most?  Tell me the logic of that one. 

THOUGHT QUESTION:  How can you rearrange your schedule this week so that you can spend more time loving God and loving your family?

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I think we can all agree that conflict happens in even the best relationships. When it does happen, there are certain deadly weapons that should be considered out of bounds.  These tend to provoke anger and resentment.  If we avoid these seven landmines, we will find that conflict can be healthy and can actually move our relationships forward.

1.  Never Compare.  Don’t say “Why can’t you be like…” or “You’re just like … ”  It’s unfair to compare.  God made every person unique.

2.  Never Condemn.  Don’t use phrase like, “You always…” or “You never… You ought to… You should… You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  Don’t become someone else’s conscience. Only God has the right to judge so don’t start statements with “You…” because that’s a judgmental statement usually — “You do this… You do that…”  Start them with “I”.  “I need this from you…  I feel this…”  If somebody says “I feel it”, try to accept it as legitimate — whether you understand it or not don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way!”  If they feel it, just accept it.  It doesn’t mean you agree with it or it’s legitimate just accept as the way they way they feel.  “I need… I feel… It seems to me…” is much less threatening, must less condemning than to make “You” statements:  “You ought to, you should… you never… you always…”

3.  Never Command.  Don’t try to end an argument by force. “I demand that you do what I say!  I command you to do this…” This is especially true if the conflict is with a spouse. Don’t try to be a parent to your spouse.  Don’t make demands because it has a way of raising the temperature in the room. 

4.  Never Challenge.  We do this with threats.  “Just try that and see what happens!”  I remember when I was a kid and someone would say, “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”  You probably can guess what my next sound would be. (Peep!) That is the rebellious nature of humanity.  If somebody says “I dare you” you’re going to take the dare.  Don’t threaten, challenge, and lay down the gauntlet.  That is a mark of immaturity.  Let’s grow up and not use that.

5.   Never Condescend.  Never treat another person as an inferior.  Don’t belittle your spouse. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  Don’t put them down.  Don’t ridicule them for their feelings or their logic or whatever. Above all, don’t play psychologist.  “I know why you said that… You said that because…”  Most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out our own motives much less figure out another person’s.  Don’t prejudge motives.  That’s definitely playing God. 

6.  Never Cut Off.  Never interrupt in the middle of a sentence.  When we get into arguments the tendency is to only see our side.  We tend to jump in before the other person has finished.  We’re not thinking about what the other person is saying.  We’re not listening.  We’re just thinking about what we’re going to say. The average person can talk 150 words a minute but the average person can listen to about 650 words a minute.  That leaves a 500 word per minute boredom factor.  That means while they’re talking to you, you’re already thinking about what else you’re going to say.  You cut people off.  Wait your turn to talk when you’re in a conflict.  Let them say their whole piece and then you can say your piece and back and forth.  Don’t cut each other off.  Treat each other with consideration.  I have a button that I made with the picture of an ear on it.  When I have a couple in my counseling office that has problem with this I will let one person hold the “listening” button to remind them that it is their turn to listen.

7.  Never Confuse.  This is when you bring up unrelated issues in the middle of the argument.  Often you do this intentionally to side track people.  Some of us are very good at this.  When we are in an argument that we know we’re losing we bring up something unrelated and start arguing about that.  You keep switching the argument because you realize you’re losing.  Stick with the issue.  Don’t confuse issues.

Let me summarize these seven things in one sentence:  Attack the issue not each other.  Proverbs 11:29 says, “The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left.”  It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment.  It’s dumb but we do it all the time when we’re angry.  After a while we learn how to push the emotion hot buttons of people.  You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.  You know if you push that button it’s going to make them mad.  The Bible says it’s dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Photo:  Jacob Rickard’s photostream (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Humor is therapy.  If you are ever in one of those down days, you can continue on that path or you can refocus on something positive and uplifting.  I thank God for Christian comedy.  I use it often to lighten my day and help me not take myself too seriously.  I would like to share this gift with you today through Comedian Jeff Allen.  Enjoy!

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I have already been made aware that the title of yesterday’s post was becoming a model man and just to the left of that title was a picture of me.  In the interest of full disclosure, I know that I have not achieved the status of model man or any other model for that matter.  The picture is in reference to the fishing trip with my son that I mention later in the post.  So save your stamp and emails (you know who you are).  Now on with today’s edition of the model man series:

Another character trait of a model man is COMMITMENT.  That’s the value that makes you great.  Men who do what my football coach used to exhort my high school team to do, “man up.”   What I think he was saying is that losers give up but if you want to win in life you have to be willing to man up!

Guys, to say that we have a problem with this “C” word is an understatement.  I Googled “Men of Commitment” and got things like: Why Men Are Commitment Phobic, Men Afraid of Commitment, 5 Reasons Why Men Fear Commitment, and Why Men Don’t Commit.  That is not a very good sign.  We don’t have a very good track record here.

What do we do to turn this trend around?  STOP BEING WIMPY WILLIES!  The number one complaint I get from wives in marriage counseling deals with passive husbands.  She says, “My husband is a go-getter from the word, Go, when it comes to his business.  He is highly motivated, energetic.  He takes on the world with a vengeance.  He even takes on his sports with a vengeance.  He’s incredibly active in taking the initiative.  But when he comes home, when it comes to helping me, parenting the kids, and spiritual matters, he abdicates all leadership and becomes passive.  Then the catch 22 is that he resents me for taking the lead.  He resents it and he’s jealous of it and he even puts me down for it.”  That is sad!  Really sad!

Where are all the Joshua men from Joshua 24 in the Bible?  Men who will say “I don’t know about Media Max’s family but as for me and my house we are going to do it God’s way.”  Where are all of the men who hang on to their promises with the tenacity of a bulldog?  Another saying that my coach would preach to us is, “Winners never, never, never quit and quitters never win.”  The problem is, when we men quit, the losers are our families which has a ripple effect to our churches and communities.  Let’s “man up” men.

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One of the missing elements in our society, in my humble opinion, is the presence of strong male role models.  I feel I can speak freely here because I am a male.  I am afraid that we men have for the most part just surrendered our role as leaders in the home to “Media Man.”  Media Man has several personas:

He sometimes presents himself as Macho Max.  He has been played by a number actors such as Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Deny all your feelings, ignore the law, never complain, never apologize.  Just sweat a lot.  Accomplish the impossible every eight minutes, take anything you want, use foul language, and bully people.  The Macho Max model.

Another way Media Man is played is Ranting Ray.  This is the  type of person who builds up his self-worth by constantly putting someone else down, especially his wife and his family.  He rules over his family while everyone actually makes fun of him behind his back.  He’s frightened by the world so he keeps everyone at arm’s length with his dry humor and cutting remarks.

The third model that M.M. personifies Wimpy Willie.  This  is the man who is so inept he’s constantly outwitted by his children, his wife and even his dog.  Nobody takes him serious.  He’s a bumbling idiot.  His motto is “Blessed are the passive for they shall avoid conflict at all costs.”  You might find this man in most of the prime time cartoons (Homer Simpson) and in my day it was the Dagwood Bumstead comic strips.

I would like to suggest a blueprint for us men to follow that is based on the best book in the world, the Bible.  I believe the world is in dire need of men with these qualities:

1.  We need men who are COMPASSIONATE– men who put relationships above results;  people above profits. 

This is not natural for most men.  It is my nature to focus on results, not relationships.  We are very result oriented.  Often women tend to be more relationship oriented than men.  Guys, we’ve got work to do here.   The Bible says if I have not love, I’m nothing.  I’ve heard it said that the greatest things in life aren’t things.  Jesus said “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet  loses his soul.”  We’ve got to look at relationships to God and to each other.  People last, profits margins don’t.  People are going to last for eternity your profession won’t.

“They are all wrapped up in their own affairs” is what the Phillips translation says.  The man who’s all wrapped up in himself is not a Daddy.  He’s a mummy.  The average father spends less that two minutes a day with his children in serious conversation.  How do you develop relationships like that?  You can’t.  “I’d love to play ball but I don’t have time … I’d love to help out but I don’t have time … I’d love to do this but I don’t have time …  I’ve got to go make a sale, close a deal, run a race, whatever.” 

I just finished a great day with my youngest son surf fishing in the Atlantic.  How many fish did we catch, you ask?  None, zero, nadda.  But for me it was a great day because I did something that I know I have not done enough of, give my son the gift of TIME.  Last week I played golf with my oldest son.  I got a few more strokes than I did fish.  That’s ok.

Come on, you know it’s true.  We need more men (and women) with compassion, who put relationship before results.  We’ve got to balance these things.  

2. We need men who are CONSISTENT.  Men who put character before conformity.  They’re not afraid to be swim against the current.  They’re not afraid to stand alone for what’s right.  A man who will stand up and say, “I don’t care what everybody else thinks.  I don’t care what they’re doing.  I’m going to do the right thing.”

There are a lot of guys out there like that.  We have some men like that in the wonderful world of Wahoo Church.  There is a guy name Timothy like that in the Bible.  His friend Paul said this about him, “Timothy has proved himself  he has served with me in the work of the gospel.”  The word “proved” literally means “tested character”.  He didn’t  bend to pressure.  He was a man of conviction.  An opinion is something you’ll argue about but a conviction is something you’ll die for.  The young generation of today needs to see more men of conviction.  There’s the old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  What do people in your life know you stand for?  Football?  Whatever team you like?  Is that all the people in your life know about your life?  The kind of people who make an impact with their lives are people of conviction.  The people who changed the world, for either good or for bad, were those with the deepest convictions.  They believed it from the depths of their hearts.  And they lived it out.  

Proverbs 10:9 “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  The bottom line is integrity.  The world is interested in image but image doesn’t last.  But character lasts a lifetime.  It’s not image that counts.  It’s character.  It’s integrity.  That’s the bottom line.   We must constantly be checking:  Is my private life consistent with my public image?  If it’s not I’d better change it.  I’d better not be living Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I need to be constantly evaluating, Am I being consistent in my lifestyle publicly and privately.  Inconsistent fathers produce insecure children.  Unreliable husbands produce unstable marriages.

I will have to pick up here tomorrow.  That surf just about beat me to death and this red tan is needing some aloe attention.

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 If I were to give you a test and ask you to fill in the blank: “What one word would best summarize the whole marriage relationship? ______________.”  What word would you write?

Key #5:  Commitment

For most of us that word would be the word “love.”  I think a better word would be “commitment.”  Any two people given the right circumstances, the right environment could develop romantic, loving feelings toward each other.  But that’s not really at the heart of marriage.  In fact, the difference between marriage and just living together is commitment.  God expects us to keep that commitment.  In Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, we find these very strong words, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, ‘So make sure you don’t break your promise to be faithful to your mate.’”  

Divorce is a reality in our world and there are many, many people in our inside and outside of the church who have been through the painful experience of divorce.  Thank God for His grace and His forgiveness.  But let’s be honest.  It’s not God’s ideal.  You will never build strong, intimate marriage relationship when divorce is an option.  There are many people who secretly carry around this little escape hatch.  In their minds they think, “If it gets really hard or things don’t go like I thought or if I get really unhappy I’ve got this little key to the escape hatch that will always allow me a way out.”  I actually had a person who was a leader in his church tell me that God told him to divorce his first wife and marry another.  He said that he was unhappy in his marriage and God wanted him to be happy and enjoy life. 

So let me encourage you.  If you’re married, if you’re reading this, throw away that key.  Don’t leave yourself that escape hatch.  Don’t leave yourself that option.  When you said, “Till death do us part,” that was a lifelong commitment.  Don’t leave it as an option. 

There are some people who have the attitude, “If I could just get out…  If I could just be with that person…  If I could just get this kind of relationship…” the whole idea of the grass is always greener over there.  The grass is greener where you water it.  And it starts with your commitment.  No matter where you are right now stay committed.   Seek godly counseling.  God’s main goal for you is not your happiness it is your holiness.  He wants you to have joy and to be complete in him. 

Larke and I went to a marriage conference in Atlanta some years ago.  I don’t remember who was leading it but I do remember a very helpful instruction he gave to the men.  He said, “Men, divorce every other woman on earth but your wife.”  Now that is one divorce I think God would approve of!  This is good advice for both spouses.

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Key # 4:  Contact

This key is just what it sounds like: physical touch, physical contact, affection.  You can call it cuddling, caressing, I like to call it “lovey-dovey” but that’s just me.  You have to touch to keep in touch.  God put skin on you for a reason.  You’re not just a spirit.  You have a body and skin is meant to be touched.  And all of us – everybody – married or unmarried – need human contact, physical contact.  Hugs, pats on the back, handshakes. 

Everybody needs physical affection.  Everybody does.  That’s why at Wahoo Church each week we touch each other at least twice.  At the beginning and at the end of every service we say, “Turn around and hug somebody…  Turn around and shake hands with somebody.” 

I remember a quote from Rick Warren on this topic: “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Pastor Rick, the only physical affection I get all week is at church.’  When I’m out on the patio after the services greeting people and hugging people, when people walk away I often wonder how long that hug’s got to last that person.  I’ve thought about going into full time Christian hugging.  I think it would be a legitimate ministry because everybody needs to be touched.”

If they’re not stroked and touched enough infants can die.  And so can marriages.  If you’re too busy to date your mate, you’re too busy.  If there were more courting in marriage there would be fewer marriages in court.  The problem is what you did to win your mate’s love you haven’t continued to keep your mate’s love.  Before you got married you couldn’t keep your hands off each other.  You’re hugging and kissing and walking arm in arm and holding hands.  Now that you’re married you never hold hands any more.  And the touching and the tenderness slowly fades away.  And when that happens the devil has won a victory in your marriage.  He’s setting you up for failure.  

I know the old excuse.  I’ve heard it many, many times:  “I just don’t feel affectionate”  Or “I’m just not a touchy-feely kind of person.”  I don’t know what your excuse is but I will tell you this: It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action.  When you say, “I’m going to wait until I feel like it to act romantic,” it isn’t going to happen.  The devil will make sure you never feel like it.  You have to act romantic even when you don’t feel like it.  And when you do the feelings will come.  In fact, I guarantee it.  Because feelings always follow behavior.  If you act in a loving way, you act in a romantic way, you act in an affectionate way, the feelings will come back.  Don’t wait for the feelings.  Just do the right thing.  And never let a day go by without some kind of physical contact.

Physical affection is as vital to your marriage as communication and consideration and compromise and all these other keys.  They’re all important.

Of course, in marriage that includes sex.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:3 “The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy which is her right as a married woman.  Nor should the wife deprive her husband.”  God doesn’t intend for your marriage to be boring and lifeless and passionless and pleasureless and dull.  But sex has profound implications for your marriage.  In fact, God gave sex to cement marriages together.  The primary purpose of sex is not to have children.  That’s not what the Bible says.  The primary purpose of sex is to cement a husband and wife together in a spiritual union and a bonding that is exclusive to them that involves nobody else in the world.  That’s why God says, Don’t have sex outside of marriage.  It has profound spiritual implications.  It is meant primarily for bonding a husband and a wife together.

If you are having problems with your sexual relationship in your marriage, please, please, please get help.  It is available.  Find a counselor.  You can get help for all the possible causes if you will be honest.

How are you doing in the area of daily physical affection?  Are you too busy?  Do you have at least a weekly date?  A date night.  Do you need to touch more in order to stay in touch?

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