Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Scent of the Soul”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.






Sunday, we kicked off a new series at Kfirst. Every June we look to pour into marriages and this year our series is called, “Senseless.” It was four years ago I read Genesis 2:15-17 and saw the 5 senses at work. 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (VISION; TOUCH). And the Lord God commanded the man, saying (HEAR), “You may surely eat(TASTE; SMELL) of every tree of the garden.

The senses were there to not just experience what God provided but to explore what God gifted humanity with. It gave a fascinating view of bringing health to the complexity of relationships, especially marriage.

This week, we look at the sense of “scent.” And when I think about scent, I think about atmosphere. As a friend of my tweeted this week, I agree that the “The Kingdom of God is a culture of leadership.” And in that culture, we don’t allow the atmosphere to dictate who we are. We are determined to know who we are in order to impact the atmosphere around us. So we don’t worry about seeing an scent/atmosphere change as much as we start with a heart change. Because the atmosphere you wan to experience comes from the heart you’re willing to possess.

Check out yesterday’s message:

Other thoughts from Sunday:

  • The atmosphere you want to experience comes from the heart you’re willing to possess.
  • Be what you expect to experience.
  • Whatever you fill yourself with today will come out of you tomorrow.
  • The atmosphere of expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.
  • Want to see something in your marriage tomorrow, time to start seeding in it today.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: Here’s the new song we used yesterday.

Reducing your “…but”: 4 Thoughts on Encouraging Your Spouse

I’ve begun a few workout regiment. Physical fitness, in whatever form, has been a tremendous outlet for my own stress while being a great input for healthy living. I know there are people who tell me “there’s no time for working out.” I’m not saying you need to do the 2-hour gym-rat thing, but you can enhance your personal life and marriage just by eating better and getting some physical activities. In the words of my grandmother, “you make time for the things that are important to you.” (that should be its own blog). But back to my story…

A few weeks back,  I was in a gym hearing constant criticisms about my “work out” from a trainer (I think the bro was trying to motivate me). From form to effort, everything was called into question (mind you, I keep track of how well I progress as I’m pretty competitive with myself). And right before I left that evening, in the span of about 30 seconds, he gave me a barrage of encouragement. Those 30 seconds breathed more life into me than 2 hours of negativity and criticism. I felt like a stood taller. I was ready to restart the workout again.

Then it got ruined with one word: BUT

“You did great today…I can see improvement…BUT…”

The word “but” is a conjunction. A conjunction is the glue that holds words and phrases together. So when you use it in a sentence, it’s connecting what you said to what is going to be stated. AND this simple conjunction is ruining one of the greatest, and essential, tools we have in our marriages:


Encouragement is, perhaps the most simplistic, powerful thing we can convey to our spouse. I can come up with simpler actions; I believe I can come up with some things more “powerful.” And now I sit here in my local coffeehouse, sipping my coffee and wracking my brain trying to think of something that carries both a high level of simplicity and power like encouragement does.

And what concerns me, is how this three-lettered word (“…but”), used too often, can render the encouragement in your home useless. Why? It will condition your spouse to see that your encouraging words are not there to build you up but to build themselves a platform for correction. Whether you know it or not, your pattern of encouragement reveals the position of your heart. And if the pattern of how you encourage is always laced with this 3-letter conjunction, then it’s time to reduce your “…but” (I almost went in to a “Baby Got Back” reference but that didn’t seem too holy).

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” – Unknown

Atmosphere is everything 
I leave my gym bag in the car so I don’t forget it. But the problem is my hand-wraps have been soaking up my sweat and, well, it’s become an unpleasant smell. What I find interesting (and Anne finds disgusting) is I’ve gotten so used to the smell that I don’t notice it. But the other day, she got in the car and started making a gagging sound. Now my gym bag sits in the garage to air out. Kind of a silly observation, but ONE simple change and the air in the car is completely different (and more enjoyable…seriously, I didn’t realize how bad it was till I removed it).

The point is simple: You can get so used to the way YOU do things that, first, you don’t see anything wrong with it and second, you don’t see what it’s doing to others. Perhaps it’s how your family did things and if that’s what you grew up in, then it has to be correct because it “worked for your parents.”

And ONE simple change can, literally, change the atmosphere of your marriage. Perhaps we need to step back and realize that we may be doing something (bringing something) to the “air” of our home that may not be conducive for healthy encouragement. And simple dealing with the word “…but” can make all the difference. Why? It leaves encouragement as, well, encouragement.

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
I know that’s using the King James Translation (Proverbs 23:7), but it really conveys an important point: What you fixate your mind upon, that’s what the actions of your life are going to follow. It’s why Paul writes to the church and says,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

Encouragement is a discipline that reminds us to see what’s right in each other and why we fell in love with each other. It causes us to see the best in each other and fix our minds there. If our spouse is doing 8 things wrong and only 3 things right, focus on the three things and you’ll be surprised on what your spouse can do. If you’re constantly looking to change and correct your spouse, not only is “what’s wrong” all you’re ever going to see, but it’s all your spouse will ever hear from you. Fix your thoughts on the right things and the actions will follow.

Use the 3-1 rule.
I am in no way against moments of healthy correction and criticism. Marriage without accountability is a marriage with the absence of love. And love of Christ causes us to know how to adequately convey those moments. I think of Colossians 4:6,

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…”

Yes I understand the context was how to speak to people who were not Christians. But there’s a greater principle: if this is how careful we are to be with others, how much more care should we give to how we speak to our spouse. Don’t be “full of salt and seasoned with grace“; it says, to be “FULL of GRACE, SEASONED with SALT.” And I think a very simple way to do this is the “3-1 Rule”: For every 1 criticism/correction, there should be 3 encouraging words. Why this extreme? Because, I believe, that if you are constantly looking for what is right in your spouse, it will put the criticism in your heart in perspective. This simple rule will fill your heart with what’s “right” and gives you a well of inspiration to draw from. And the more you do it, the more you’ll notice that the “3-1 Rule” is changing YOU more than it’s changing your spouse.

Let love set the tone.
Christ loved us before we could even be in the place to love Him. Think about that. Regardless of our response, He acted out of love whether or not we deserved it or would return it back to him. Jesus didn’t love out of what He would receive back from us. He simply loved regardless of what you and I would do with that love. His love set the tone. And it’s up to us to respond to that.

Christ example, for me, has been such a personal challenge. If Christ can do that for me, how can I withhold that type of love for my spouse?

How do you encourage someone who not a very encouraging person? Simply said, do it out of the same mind that Christ had for you: love. Let love set the tone of your encouragement. Let love be the “pace-setter” for your responses of encouragement as you see deeply into what God is doing in your marriage. If your encouragement is only to get something in return, then it’s nothing more than manipulation. Give encouragement, if nothing else, because it’s the right thing to do and it sets your marriage up for healthy opportunities. Truth trumps feelings and encouragement has been, and will always, be one of the most healthiest actions you can do for your marriage.

I love you all. I’m praying for you. As the Lord for help and make the faith-step forward today and begin to start a new habit of transforming your home in to a grace-filled home of encouragement.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.


Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out this week. Click on the image to order yours!!


Hungry Hope: 4 Ways to Begin a Culture Hope in Your Marriage

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…” Hebrews 6:19

Hope seems like it’s such an elusive element in marriage today. Couples, typically, feel they either have it or they don’t.  But as this blog has been brewing in my spirit over the past couple weeks, I’ve recognize that the internal struggles so many marriages are experiences may stem from an incorrect view or understanding of “hope.”

At risk of sharing too much of my message for Sunday at Kfirst (I’m preaching on hope), wanted to speak to this amazing, yet seemingly illusive element, into your marriage.

Scripture tells us,  

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…” Hebrews 6:19

This writer of Hebrews tells us, better yet, encourages us, that “this hope” is not grounded in our abilities.  Better said: we can’t create hope. It is something offered through the work and power of Jesus.

Having said that, it should change our view of hope. Instead of seeing as something we have to manufacture, perhaps we need to see it an ethos, or atmosphere to be nurtured or strengthened. Hope is always available in Christ.  Hope is always there.  But practically lived out, I find it in one of two states: We are either feeding an ethos of hope or we are starving our marriage of it.

I love my former pastor. Joel Stocker is one of the greatest mentors in my life and, quite simply, I feel like I owe him so much. He has given me a fresh outlook on being a pastor, restored joy into ministry, and has given me a great example to follow.  I have a lot of stories about Joel.

One of my favs was a video I got to see of him.  The back story: Joel would go camping on a yearly basis with a number of his friends.  One of the sources of pride and joy was the “immense” fire he would build for the entire group.  His 2 key elements: a ton of wood and diesel fuel (it burned cleaner is what he told me).

This one instance, a few friends snuck to his site and replaced his diesel with water. That evening (on the video), he built his traditional fire and began to pour the “fuel” on the wood.  With everyone gathered around watching (and in on the joke), he tried to light his kindling. The kindling caught a bit, but not much.  “Pour more gas on it” people yelled.  So he did. Long story short, Joel successfully built a campfire with wood he was personally dousing with water.  When he found out the joke, the look on his face was priceless.

My take-away lesson from my mentor: Desire and effort far out-weighed the suppressant.

Let’s just be real.  Normal life can drain hope.  Family moments, social media, work situation, conflict at church, political climates, etc. all can suppress and/or completely stifle hope.  You don’t need to look for an excuse for no hope.  The excuses are everywhere.  And it’s easy to think you don’t possess it because of what surrounds you.   And if that is what you are feeding off of, it’s of no wonder why life seems so hopeless.

I never want to belittle someone’s situation. I have never been in your shoes (nor do I want to) and you have never been in mine. Let’s all keep our own footwear on and own up for our own lives.   But, in marriage, this is where you and I need to make TWO conscious decisions:

1 – Will I try to manufacture temporary hope or will we choose to embrace hope in Jesus?

2 – Will I choose to feed the ethos of hope or starve it?

The silly story about my mentor is such a valuable parable of what our response to hope should be:  This broken world of natural “hope” suppressants, we need to rise above it (desire) and take the responsibility (effort) to feed it.  

Like it or not, if you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Take your pick, despair, anger, resentment, synicism, etc. all are bottom feeders that will find sustenance off of hopelessness.  

My simple, and practical approach: Cut off what is stifling the flames.  Push past the feelings of hopelessness and foster an atmosphere of hope.

How do you feed hope? It’s more simple that anyone will give it credit for.  

1 – Put your trust in Christ. All of your efforts will amount to a shallow semblance of hope that has no lasting power.  He is the source of hope.  He is the foundation to build a culture of hope in your marriage. 

2 – Be the first to act.  As much as I want you as a couple to do this together, so much hopelessness and despair is grown because of stubborn attitudes.  Don’t say the words, “I won’t unless he/she does it to.” Be a forerunner.  Set the pace. Initiate the atmosphere of hope.  

3 – It’s a daily decision. Dedicate yourself to it. It doesn’t come from a one-time act.  You can’t turn the Titanic on a dime and your marriage issues. Purpose in your heart that hope is just as valuable to your marriage as breathing is to your body.

4 – Don’t despise small beginnings. An ethos of hope is fed in the seemingly small little moments and decisions. It’s in the simple things like:

Don’t let anyone out-encourage your spouse.
Show acts of kindness toward him/her.
Find a way to serve your spouse’s love language.
Walk in generosity as a couple.  Find a way to give.
Get naked with your spouse.
Find a ministry to serve in together.
Do a service project as a couple/family.
Pray for and/or with your spouse.
None of these are “quick fixes.” But they’re a creative and practical start.  Find ways to feed hope.

As said before, If you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Let that ethos start with you. Instead of praying for God to change your spouse, pray for God to change you. Be the change your marriage needs.  And the beauty of hope is it doesn’t come from you. It’s anchored in Christ.  But you do have the responsibility to foster that culture of hope in your marriage.

Blessings on you.  Feed hope. Let the ethos (culture, atmosphere) of hope transform your marriage.
Thanks for letting me ramble…


Marriage Blog Series: Date Night Part 2 “In the Air Tonight”

We started a new series with our weekly marriage blogs last week. If you missed last week’s post, Date Night Part 1 “Elevator Talk”, click on the link and get caught up.

As stated, “Date nights” were always important to me and Anne before we were married. That was the starting point of our relationship where we learned EVERYTHING we needed to know.

Date Night

But that’s where couples stop dating.  The ring goes on and the pursuit stops (after the honeymoon stage). Every season you go through as a couple presents changes in you.  Honeymoon, babies, young children, adolescence, job changes, family shifts, empty-nest are just a few of the seasons we go through in marriage that demand “dates”. They (the seasons) demand time together that foster communication, intimacy, fun, and rest.

This is the essence of this blog series.

Part 2 – In the Air Tonight


If you’re wondering, yes I got the title from one of my favorite music artists Phil Collins.  I can’t say much for the horrible 80’s video. But it’s the title that came to mind when thinking about the subject of Part 2 of our series: Atmosphere.

Have you ever come home to a house where the atmosphere wasn’t what you thought it was? After a great day at work, I’ve walked in the door noticing something about the atmosphere of our home. As I’m walking up the stairs into our living room, I say to myself, “there’s something in the air tonight.”  The place is quiet.  There’s tension in the room. Nobody is talking or moving.  I come to find out there had been a “disagreement” between my wife and my daughter.  What was a pretty joyful day has now been transformed to guarded tension.  I’m not sure what happened, but the atmosphere sets the tone and mood for any events and/or plans.

Atmosphere is sorely underestimated.  One of the many things I learned yesterday at a conference was setting the tone/atmosphere of a room before communicating.  It not only gives you a platform to communicate the necessary information but aids and/or guides what is being said as to be as effective as possible.  As much as this works in sermons, presentations, conflict, and child-rearing, it is essential in marriage…specifically today in our conversation on dating our spouse.

For you scientific peeps, atmosphere (thank you wikipedia) is a layer of gases surrounding a material body of sufficient mass that is held in place by the gravity of the body. Earth’s atmosphere, which contains oxygen, also protects living organisms from genetic damage by solar ultraviolet radiation. For the non-scientific peeps, atmosphere is simply a covering of gases to protect life and help life to survive.

(Just stick with my “nerdy-ness” for a second…it will all make sense.)

Atmosphere has three characteristics: 

1 – It protects. The atmosphere guards us from harmful things form the outside as well as keeps a healthy climate for growth.
2 – Sustains life. Atmosphere provides air for plants and animals to breath.  Without it, there is no life.
3 – Multi-layered. Earth’s atmosphere is broken up into five layers.  Each layer carries its own purpose and function.

Carrying and caring about the atmosphere of our post-marriage dating is no different from those three characteristics.  Especially if you are the one planning the date, it is vital you establish “atmosphere.” Don’t underestimate it.  Don’t overlook it’s importance.  It will set you up for dating success or failure.

Can we get EXTREMELY practical with this?

Think about it…providing a proper atmosphere for dates with your spouse...

1. Protects your time with him/her. If your marriage needs a quiet night out where you two need to talk and reconnect, and you chose to go to Buffalo Wild Wings during a Monday Night Football game, the atmosphere will destroy what you set out to do (it would work for me).  Yet, if you two need to go out for a fun evening of activity and laughter, a quiet candlelight dinner may not conducive to protect what is needed for your marriage.  The atmosphere sets the tone for the evening and protects what is needing to happen on your date. This is easy as doing some simple steps:
– Plan ahead.  Spontaneity is okay.  But some spouses stress over some details.  Take stress out by planning.
– Plan what to wear and communicate it.  If you’re heading to a comedy club and she’s dressed for a fancy dinner, it’ll ruin the night.
– Talk about what to expect.  Build some anticipation with your spouse.  Get excited about the date.
– Be other centered. Plan the evening so that you are not the beneficiary of the entirety of the date. Avoid the location/activity that you most want to do.

2. Sustains the life of your marriage. Dates should be places to catch your breath. But more than that; they are places to get fresh breath into you. Some people don’t take this seriously.  “We don’t have time to date..we have kids/jobs/responsibilities.”  I will say in response: you make time for the things that are important.  Just as much as the physical atmosphere provides air for plants and animals to breath.  Your atmosphere of post-wedding dating will do the same.  During the date, it will breath into your marriage…
– The priority of your spouse.
– Selflessness.
– Dedication to a healthy marital relationship.
– A resurgence of intimacy.
– A healthy view to your children. They will see and reproduce it in their future marriage.

3. Dating atmosphere is multi-layered.  What I mean by that has nothing to do with the exosphere or the troposphere.  It has everything to do with knowing that one type of atmosphere doesn’t fit EVERY date.  Anne and I do a variety of stuff. Why? We have a variety of needs.  Sometimes we go to a movie. Early in our marriage, we’d get Taco Bell and walk through a furniture store (yep…you read that right…we like looking at furniture).  The more you communicate, the more you’ll see that a careful care of your dating atmosphere will maximize your dating experience. For the guys reading this, I’m not saying it’ll promise more sex (even thought that’s never a bad thing), but it promise a profitable dating experience.

You need to keep the atmosphere multi-layered.  Don’t do the same thing all the time.  Shake it up.
– Go out and laugh.
– Absorb a moment together.
– Take a walk through a trail.
– Do something you used to do before you got married.
– Find a place to make-out. (just checking to see if you were paying attention…but hey, you’re married! Who’s gonna argue?)

As I conclude, I look to some encouragement from scripture.  I’ve always been very passionate about the Psalms.  In Psalms 63, the writer pens his feelings about the atmosphere that God provides.  “You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You’ve always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you.” I know that I cannot provide the proper atmosphere for my wife without knowing and experiencing the atmosphere the Lord provides.  Why do I know what to provide for my wife?  I learned it from Jesus. His presence is a place for me to “breath” and “a place to get away from it all.” I just take what He has shown me and I pour it into my marriage.  Sometimes I miss the mark.  Sometimes I screw up.  But effort and passion help provide a great base of building a great dating atmosphere.

Provide an “atmosphere” for your dates. Provide that place that will protect and sustain your husband/wife.  Let them be blown away what is “in the air tonight.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…