5 Ways to Avoid Killing Your Marriage

1.  Put some energy and intentionality into this marriage!  Some people put more energy into creating their college basketball tournament  bracket each year than they do their marriage.  Being passive, while sitting in your emotional recliner, will bring a slow death to a marriage that could have been so much more.  Think of what you might have missed!

2.  Stop giving all of your attention to your children while you totally neglect your spouse.  This is a dead-end street.  Are you married?  One of the most precious gifts that you can give your children is a front row seat to witness their mom and dad cherishing one another.  As a Christian married man, there may be nothing I can do for my children that is more important than for them to see me love their mother.

3.  Quit talking to one another with contempt.  When you call her vile and degrading names, you are sending a strong message.  When you rip him apart with degrading language, you are sending a strong message.  Conversation with contempt intends to punish and hurt.  Do you really think this brings God pleasure when he hears you talk to your bride or groom this way?  Or, do you think it breaks his heart?

4.  Pray that you will begin to cherish her/him.  Then, put this into action.  Do something that in some way communicates that you cherish your spouse.  After all, God cherishes each one of us in spite of our sin.  God cherishes you in spite of your failures.  God certainly cherishes the one you married.  At the end of the day, I know that God wants me to treat her right.  In fact, God wants me to cherish the precious gift that he has given me.

5.  Focus on yourself, not her or him.  You can only manage yourself, not him or her.  Far too many married people are waiting on their spouse to get it together.  It is far more productive to focus on you being the kind of person that you would like to be married to.  You can not fix him/her.  You can’t make him/her better.  However, you can become the husband or wife you need to be.  The bottom line is, “Am I bringing God pleasure and satisfaction in the way I am behaving as a married person?”    

What I Learned About Anxiety that Has Helped Me Greatly

(Especially for parents, married people, leaders)

Years ago, I was preaching on a Sunday evening.  I was upset about something and it came through in the message.  (I think I had just read a book and was battling some concern as I prepared this message.) That evening, my in-laws were present.  After church was over, my father-in-law who had preached for many years asked me if he could make a comment about the message.  He said, “You know, I agree with most everything you said. However, you seemed very anxious and worried as you were preaching.  As people listening to you, when you seem anxious and worried, we begin to become anxious and worried.  We take our cues from you.”

A few years later, our family was preparing to move to a new location to begin a new ministry.  I was worried about our young children.  Would they be ok?  They would be leaving their friends and starting a new school.  Again, my in-laws said, “They will take their cues from you.  If you will smile and talk to them about the adventure you all are about to undertake, they will listen.  If you will relax and be excited about all of the new experiences you will have, it will impact them.  They watch you.”

Some years later, I would spend three years studying under Dr. Edwin Friedman, author of Generation to Generation and A Failure of Nerve.  This meant three trips a year to be with him and a small group near his home in Bethesda, Maryland.  Each trip was so valuable.  I learned so much during these years.  Maybe the most crucial practical lesson was learning how to manage myself as a husband, a father, and a leader.

Consider how we are regularly drawn to become anxious and reactive.  Part of the challenge is learning to manage oneself in such an environment.

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

Part 3

20.  An encourager may encourage another in important ways and yet be completely unaware of the significance of his/her actions.   In other words, our capacity to encourage may be much larger than our awareness of what is actually happening in the relationship.

21.  An encourager has learned that paying attention to another’s successes and failures is critical.  These are special moments for people.  Both can offer significant opportunities for others to encourage.

22.  An encourager communicates value that may be long remembered by the hearer.   In some cases, these words are the only positive, encouraging communication that person may have received in a long time.

23.  An encourager understands that many people grow up hearing disparaging, insulting, vile remarks directed toward them.  Meanwhile, an encourager’s words may feel like a drink from a fresh, cool mountain stream.

24.  An encourager pays attention to the details of another’s life.  The encourager notices what another person is doing that might be noble, good, or worthy of imitation. She takes nothing for granted.  Rather she might express her appreciation to a person who has worked hard to do a task right.  For instance, someone may have gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare a meal or to purchase a gift.  An encourager will express gratitude to that person for what they have done.

25.  An encourager understands that one size does not fit all.  What encourages one may not encourage another.

26.  An encourager is sensitive to other people and does not wish to discourage or demoralize another.

27.  An encourager is very careful with humor.  Many people have been embarrassed by someone who said something that was insensitive and even humiliating.   When a person cringes upon hearing such a thoughtless remark, the person who uttered the remark becomes defensive and says, “I was only joking.”  (Often this means, “Don’t hold me responsible for what just came out of my mouth.”)  Meanwhile, an encourager uses humor that is self-deprecating or is in some way safe.

28. An encourager steps in when someone is discouraged.  Perhaps a high school student has run for student government president and wasn’t elected.  Perhaps another person interviewed for a new job and wasn’t chosen.  These can be very discouraging moments.  An encourager is sensitive to these moments and seeks to encourage.

29.  An encourager remembers the forgotten people.  Is someone in the hospital?  Is someone in a nursing home?  Is there someone who rarely gets included at social gatherings?  An encourager encourages the forgotten.