Your Marriage Can Be Better Than This

unhappy-couple-computer-325I once read the story of a man who spent his childhood living through the Great Depression.  He told that one of his chores as a young boy was to ride his bike to the local fire station where he would receive government-issue milk in the bucket he carried with him.  He spoke of the humiliation of riding home carrying the bucket of milk because all the other kids from school could see that his family was poor and had to receive government assistance.

He decided that he would one day have money and that no one would ever look down on him again.

He spent much of his adult life protecting his image and surrounding himself with symbols of success to ensure that others would see him as successful.

Yet, is this really living?

Sometimes, married people become lazy.

They focus more on how they appear than what they are.  They become more concerned about their image than their character.

Sometimes, married people become obsessed.

She is determined that he is going to be a spiritual leader in their home.  He is determined that she is going to become more outgoing and sociable with people from his work.

Sometimes, married people settle.

She sits in her recliner.  He sits in his recliner.  Night after night the television blares.  These people have settled for a passive existence instead of a life.

Sometimes, married people disconnect.

He goes his way.  She goes her way.  Perhaps their lives are centered on their children or grandchildren.  Sex, intimacy, and tenderness are all but gone.  There is little or no conflict.  They are actually at a point at which they don’t care enough about one another to have conflict.

Is this really living?

Is this really marriage?

Maybe the first step is to decide that you want something very different and that you are willing to do what it takes to stop this dead-end street.


Why do some married people seem to get into destructive ruts?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_greenSin and Evil

See this outstanding post by Rachel Held Evans which appeared on

Paying Attention

Don’t miss this outstanding review of the book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.  The review is by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. (You might also enjoy this excellent interview with Maria Popova regarding how she writes.)

Global Leadership Summit

Michele Cushatt has some very good notes from the most recent summit.


You might enjoy the post I wrote last week entitled “Sometimes Life is Overwhelming.”  You might be encouraged by this post.  If so, consider sending it to a friend who might be also be encouraged by this.




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Listening-Ear1Do you listen well?

One of the most important tasks for any church leader is listening.  Listening can be incredibly difficult.  In fact, most of us have had far more training in speaking than in listening.

A few suggestions:

Listen intently.

This means eye contact.  This means paying attention to body language.  This means asking clarifying questions such as, “How did you feel when the change was made?” or “What were you thinking when he said that?”

Listen to understand.

Don’t assume you understand.  A church leader should not say, “Oh yeah I know exactly how you feel.”  At that point church leaders sometimes take over the conversation and begin talking about their own experience.  Far better to say something like: “I really want to understand what you are saying.  Could I express to you what I think I heard?”  After all, I want that person to leave this conversation feeling as if she has really been heard.

Listen without trying to fix the person’s problem.

A person may come to you and talk to you about several issues in his/her life.  Far too often, church leaders will follow by saying, “I know what you need or ought to do.”  Yet, often that person hasn’t asked for advice.  Rather, the person just wants you to listen.

Of course, don’t check your texts or e-mail while someone is talking with you.  Talking with someone who keeps looking at his screen can be very irritating.

Seek to become an excellent listener.  You will bless the person you are talking with.


What are some characteristics of some of the good listeners whom you know?


Monday Start: Resources for the Week


Charlotte and I both have read Josh Ross’s book Scarred Faith.  This is an outstanding book!  Also, don’t miss his interview with Jonathan MerrittFollowing God when it doesn’t make sense: An interview with Josh Ross.”  By the way, this video (which includes pictures of Memphis) is powerful.


Check out Michael Hyatt’s tools!  (Anytime he posts something like this, I generally discover a gem.)


You might find this helpful: “6 Simple Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day.”

Tim Keller

See Tim Keller’s first Twitter Q&A.


When Your Marriage is Hard

MarriageSometimes, marriage is very hard.

Yet, it can become especially difficult when we take on responsibilities that are not ours.

For example:

You are not responsible for your spouse’s moods.

Some men and women are very immature. Some are moody and emotionally manipulative. They demand that their spouse do what they want them to do or else. They may say to their husbands/wives: “I was in a great mood until you spoiled it.” Yet, you are responsible for your own mood and your own attitude, not that of your spouse.

You are not responsible for keeping your spouse from getting upset.

Some people punish their spouses when they are upset. For example, a husband and wife are selling their car. She makes a comment to a prospective buyer that they have had some trouble with the air-conditioning. She does so as a matter of integrity and a desire to be honest. Her husband is angry at her now and expresses this through passive aggressive behaviors for the rest of the day. Later she says, “I have to be so careful about what I say to my husband. He will get angry, and I will be in trouble.” Furthermore, some people may shortchange their children by tiptoeing around a spouse’s feelings and immaturity.

You are not responsible for making sure that your spouse has a good day.

In some marriages, one spouse attempts to manipulate the emotions of the other by communicating that in some way the spouse is responsible for making sure that he[/she] has a good day. Consequently, when something displeasing happens, the response may be: “I was having a good day until you ruined it.”

You are not responsible for making your spouse look good.

This happens far too frequently. A husband or wife expects their spouse to cover for them. Instead of behaving well, they focus on looking good in front of particular people. Perhaps a wife expects her husband to make her look good in front of her mother. Or, perhaps a husband expects his wife to make him look good in front of his parents. (He doesn’t want them to know about his language, his online gambling, or the way he behaves toward his teenage son when no one else is around.)

You are not responsible for trying to manage what other people think about your spouse or for trying to create false impressions before significant people.

You are responsible for managing yourself. You are responsible for managing how you function, how you react, and how you choose to relate to your spouse.


From your experience, what happens to a family when creating the right impression becomes more important than dealing with reality?


Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Quick-StartReading list

Bill Gates has shared his summer reading list.  Gates is a lifelong learner and reads widely.  You may find this interesting.  Also note his website


Don’t miss this wonderful story about former President George H. W. Bush who, along with his security detail, shaved his head in honor of a little boy with cancer.  In this videoJenna Bush Hager, his granddaughter, interviews him regarding this gesture.  Bush experienced the death of a daughter at age three to leukemia many years ago.


Be sure to check out the online version of Flipboard, the wonderful resource that has been available via iPhone and iPad.  This is one of my favorite tools.


You might enjoy “A Harvard Economist’s Surprisingly Simple Productivity Secret.”


Thom Rainer did a survey that revealed some interesting expectations, with implications for anyone serving in a ministry role in a congregation.  See “How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work?”


Don’t miss these pictures: “62 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.”

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start 1Have you seen this resource?

I recently came across issuu.  Are you familiar with this tool?  One place for many publications.

Excellent address

See this presentation by  David Brooks from the 2013 Aspen Ideas Institute, “The Inverse Logic of Life.”  Brooks is not only an excellent writer but a good speaker as well.  This presentation caused me to think.

Bob Buford writes.

Bob Buford is the founder of Leadership Network  I pay attention to his blog. Buford has a good understanding of culture and is attuned to very good resources.]

A simple explanation of systems theory (thanks to Lynn Anderson).

See this excellent video!


Ministry Inside.126

habits(During July, I am reposting a series regarding healthy habits for believers and church leaders in particular.)

Habit #6. Adjust your expectations.

When I first began preaching, my expectations of people were way too high! I was constantly disappointed in others. My assumptions on the front end were skewed. For example, I thought that everyone who was connected in some way with our church was trying to live right. It wasn’t everyone’s personal weakness that was the surprise but that we were not even united in our intentions.

Meanwhile, my expectations of God were far too small. I didn’t really believe that he might do amazing things through prayer. I didn’t expect God to do anything in my life. Consequently, I lived with a strange set of expectations for both the church and for God.

I began to grapple with this and lowered my expectations of people so that anything that a person did that was good was an act of grace. Meanwhile, I began to raise my expectations of God, thanking him for the grace that I experienced in him whether I witnessed his power or not.

Habit #7. Pay attention to people.

This particular habit is so important. It is a gift we can give to one another that can add energy. Basically, you follow two practices:

  • You attempt to catch people doing what is right.
  • You ask about what is very important to another person.

Habit #8. Empty your mind regularly.

In David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, I have learned the importance of emptying one’s mind (or doing a “mind sweep”). Basically, one takes everything that is going on in the mind and lists it on paper.

In his workshop, one of the exercises involved writing everything we were thinking about. I thought, “This won’t take long, I am only thinking about a couple of things right now.” We took about ten minutes for this exercise. I began my list and could not believe all that I wrote down. I wrote everything from “Get the tire fixed” to “Got to call Steve on the way home.” Each time I wrote something down, I then seemed to recall one more thing that I had stored in my mind.

Allen believes if we do not regularly empty our minds, then stress is the result. You must have a system in place by which you can empty your mind and know that you will come back to the things you have written down and deal with them. 

What habits would you add to this list?

Ministry Inside.125


(During July, I am reposting a series regarding healthy habits for believers and church leaders in particular.)

Habit #3. Choose to contribute to healthy communication.

James Bryan Smith, in a seminar on The Good and Beautiful Life, said that our technology is way ahead of our ethics and etiquette. Remember that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Yes, email, text messaging, and other forms of communication are all helpful. Yet, they do not take the place of actual conversation with people who are right in front of us. I once heard of a family who spent an evening together — sort of. Throughout the evening, though they were in the same house, they emailed one another.

Choose to be the bearer of good news. Look for what God is doing in your church. Make a list of what you’ve witnessed. Catch people doing what is good, right, and godly. Far too much time and energy is wasted talking about what people did wrong. 

Habit #4. Speak about others in their absence in a way that would not surprise them if they were present.

Stay away from anything that even remotely resembles manipulation. Love and manipulation are two very different ways of treating people.

I remember the first time I heard the expression, “It is better to ask forgiveness than seek permission.” A minister was telling some others that he typically did what he wanted in the congregation and then later asked forgiveness if that seemed necessary. I heard an elder justify his practice of not communicating with his fellow elders with this practice.

Really? Is this what we want to teach our own children? What if everyone practices this? Is this really the way of Jesus with one another?

Habit #5. Celebrate first base.

Not every Sunday is going to be a home run day in your congregation. Yes, there are those “home run Sundays.” There are those days when everything seems to click and it is so obvious that God has been at work in a powerful way. Most Sundays (at least in my experience) are not like this. You hit a single or a double. You get to first or second base.

I’m saying that it is important to be thankful to God for whatever good is done on a given Sunday. Look for the small moments of encouragement. Be grateful for some progress.

There are many Sundays when you wonder if you have done any good at all. I have learned that I need to trust God and believe that he will see that the faithful preaching of his Word bears fruit in some way. Know that God is faithful even when you can’t see any progress.


Which one of these three habits has been particularly important to you?


Monday Start: Resources for the Week

A powerful post

Don’t miss this post by Ann Voskamp regarding her recent trip to Uganda and her visit with Katie Davis.  Davis, is the 24 year old mother of 13 Ugandan children.

Same outfit?

On a different note, check out this story about the school teacher who wore the same outfit for school pictures for 40 years.  (Be sure to see the Dallas News video.  Amazing!


See this interesting study “The Gray Divorce Revolution:  Rising Divorce among Middle-aged and Older Adults, 1990-2009.”


Interesting piece posted on the Qideas website “Stop Apologizing for Caring What You Do” by Katherine Leary Alsdorpf.