Weekly Marriage Checklist – 8 Things EVERY Marriage Should Be Doing On a Weekly Basis

Today I wanted to get into an incredibly practical marriage blog.

My wife and I are list makers.  Even though we do our lists differently, it gives us both a sense of accomplishment to check them off. I use my phone (Asana).  She’s old school with pencil and paper.  But nevertheless, we want to look over our days and week and feel we got done what needs to get done. 

So today,  wanted to give you a simple checklist to help with some items, I believe, should be on your weekly radar. 

Every week, I believe EVERY couple should have…

  1.  A Weekly overview.
    • Anne and I have a standing appointment every Sunday night where we talk through our week.  It’s a simple touch to keep our communication and expectations on an appropriate level.  We talk through our personal schedules. We talk though family schedules. It’s here were we decide when dates, family connection, and downtime is needed.  It’s amazing how this little AND SIMPLE action can clear up what to expect and keep our communication healthy.
  2. A Worship Point.
    • Being a part of a church community TOGETHER is a huge foundational piece of marriage. Being together to worship, serve, and engage in your church will help build relationships necessary for your personal growth as well as marital growth. On top of that, your involvement in your church community can be a tremendous blessing to others. See yourself as a part of a greater body.  You are necessary to others and others are necessary to you. 
  3. A Date.
    • I think every couple can carve out of your week an hour or two. Do a meal, get some ice-cream, or go for a walk at a park. A date doesn’t have to have much (if any) cost.  Get out of your head that you need to do something extravagant (not that I’m against that) as a “date.” I’m speaking to time for the two of you to have that relational connection you need.  
  4. Alone Time. 
    • From hobbies to leisure time, having time to yourself is necessary.  Don’t get me wrong, I love time with Anne and she loves time with me. But it is healthy to have a few moments where there’s a bit of separation. Anne and I don’t watch all the same shows/movies.  We don’t enjoy all the same hobbies.  That doesn’t take away from our marriage.  It adds to it. 
  5. A Place(s) of Generosity. 
    • There is a true joy in being generous as a couple.  When you give out of your time, talents, and treasure, you foster the heart of God (of which you were made in the image of). For almost two decades, Anne and I are faithful givers to our local church. We give to missions and benevolence. But we also look for opportunities to bless those in our community.  Generosity will foster a depth of joy that so many people take for granted. 
  6. An Intimate Moment(s).
    • Sex and intimacy are not the same thing nor is Sex the source of intimacy. It should be seen as an expression of intimacy. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that healthy marriages have a consistent sex-life.  What the frequency looks like isn’t up to you the individual. It’s what has been agreed upon by both you and your spouse (prevents one libido from lording over the other). But remember: Intimacy doesn’t always include sex.  It is far deeper. It’s that intimate connection where you selflessly serving your spouse’s love language. Intimacy doesn’t have to fade in your marriage, it just looks different over time.  Find what your spouse’s love language is and look to serve it without strings attached (expectations of reciprocation). When you connect the heart of your spouse, that is intimacy. 
  7. Laughter/Fun. 
    • (This is a bit more than a scheduled event. It’s more of an element that’s needed.) Couples that schedule fun moments are far healthier on EVER level (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual).  Anne and I will watch clips on Youtube in the evenings. Sometimes we’ll send them to each other over Facebook messager.  Maybe you two like games and/or activities.  It could be movies or books.  Find what the other enjoys that fills your marriage with smiles.
  8. Heavy Encouragement.  
    • This should be a daily point instead of a weekly one. My rule I give couples all the time: Don’t let anyone out-encourage you when it comes to your spouse. For too often, people only speak up when they see something wrong.  Why do we build that culture in our marriages? Catch your spouse doing something right. From accomplishments to even just the simple effort to attempt something, find ways to fill your spouse full of encouragement. 

Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. There’s probably some other things you can add to it specifically for your marriage. But, in my opinion, these are essentials that I don’t think couples can do without. 

Love Jesus passionately. 
Love your spouse passionately. 
Make both a heavy priority in your life. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

The Sticky Soul: Reason Why Pastors Need Celebration and Encouragement

Coming of a tiresome Christmas season and into our annual vision series (#MYCHURCH), I cannot say I was completely prepared for what I would encounter.  Within the previous month, the Lord put a few “Pauls” (older, wiser, experienced pastors) in my pathway that transformed January’s series into something special.  It created an excitement in me for that first Sunday.

And that’s when two things began to happen.

One of them was internally.  I’ve had a determination to celebrate. It has become a drive within my spirit. And the more I celebrate what God is doing in me, my staff, and the church I pastor, the more I see hope rising. The celebration doesn’t change the circumstances, but it changes my perception of what is going on.

The second thing was something happening externally: Encouragement. I won’t build up a story of how I never get encouragement because that’s not true. But this month has been something like I’ve never seen. The encouragement has been coming from the most likely sources. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s has stuck to my soul with the adhesive of gorilla glue.  The flesh part of me wants to NOT type about this, but forget that crap…the church I serve has rocked my world and I think God has been shining amazingly through them.  There are those that have been quick to the critical, and God has used them in an extraordinary way to annihilate any discouragement.  Cards, notes, Facebook messages, hugs…it’s been in such ridiculous moments that I am literally flabbergasted that I get to pastor these people (seriously…I weep as a type this). 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an imperfect vessel that pastors a sanctuary full of imperfection. None of us at Kfrist have reached completion of character and life. But something is stirring beyond the ordinary. And I think I’ve discovered why?

Encouragement and celebration were meant to be inseparable. One builds off the other.  My determination to celebrate has prepared me to receive encouragement. The encouragement I received has shown me what to celebrate. One feeds the other. They’re mean to be together. You may think these are not that big of a deal, but encouragement and celebration don’t seem essential until you don’t have them.  

I think the lack of encouragement and celebration is an epidemic. And it’s no wonder why so many pastors deal with loneliness and depression. Too many pastors leave ministry down and discouraged.  And I wonder, if he/she knew how to celebrate…if he/she had someone to celebrate with…if someone knew how to encourage their pastor…

…would anything be different? Would he/she still be involved in ministry?

Pastors, I’m going to challenge you with the scripture I’ve brough our church back to for the past 3 weeks.  In Genesis 22:1, God calls to Abraham he simply replies,

Here I am.”

In other words: Start with me.

Let the tone of celebration start with you.  Let the atmosphere of encouragement begin with you.  And here’s just a few things I do:

  • Refuse to start a meeting without celebration points.  I’m adamant that we don’t start a meeting till we find something to celebrate. Start with salvation and work from there.
  • Get your couples (married or premarital) to celebrate items about each other before counseling.  If they can’t, think about either canceling the rest of the meeting or spend the whole meeting learning how to look for the best in each other.
  • I use my Facebook feed to give me names of people to pray over and send an encouraging word to.  I’ll select someone, pray over them, and ask the Holy Spirit to give me a word for them. Let the gifts flow through you.  Yes, even on social media.
  • Go old school. I’m challenging my staff to make 10 points of written encouragement (in the mail) every week during our 40 days of prayer (starts on Ash Wednesday).
  • Express celebration in your services.
  • Challenge your leadership. I challenged our staff that, for every criticism, there should be 3 points of encouragement.  It makes all of us think before speaking.

When you decide to be a celebrator (don’t think that’s a word), it’s amazing how well the encouragement sticks better.  It’s not that negative things haven’t cropped up.  But they don’t seem to adhere like they used to.  Celebration and encouragement have fed off of each other and given me new life in 2016.  And quite honestly, I think there’s new life at Kfirst.

Looking back, I’ve always had a thing for fire (don’t all of us guys?). But regardless of how hot it burns, the absence of oxygen will snuff out the flame. I notice this a few weeks back when I had this brainiac idea that I could set my cup of coffee on my glass candle in my office and keep it nice and warm. Turns out that the cup sealed the top, cut off the oxygen, and extinguished the flame

A week later, I found myself in a conference in northern Michigan. And it was in this hotel room, ministers had just finished worshiping and sat down to hear a refreshing word from, who I consider, an outstanding man of God.  Rod Loy has been the lead pastor at NLR First Assembly for 15 years (as of 2016).  In his second talk about momentum, these words came out and brought be back to my little office moment with my coffee and candle…”You get what you celebrate.” It wasn’t, “you get what your congregation celebrates.” It needs to start with me (you). 

Pastor, in the words of scripture, “lift up your eyes” and find things to celebrate.  Before you preach, celebrate. Before you start your workday, celebrate. Before you have meetings, celebrate.  Set a new tone at the church. And let it start with you saying, “here am I…start with me.” And the more you celebrate, the more you’re soul will get sticky which means the more you’ll catch the things that are encouraging about the ministry God has called you to be in. 

Pastors shouldn’t ask their congregations to do something they are not willing to do themselves (at least that’s always been my rule).  Let them hear you celebrate. Find way to encourage them.  Step out with these two essential elements and watch hope rise. It may not change a circumstance, but your perception of what God is doing and what is speaking will be so much clearer.   It’s stopping the moment to recognize how awesome God is.  Celebration is a choice.

If you have no one to celebrate with, you contact me. We’ll sit over coffee, Google Hangout, or whatever and we’ll celebrate together.  Let it start with you. Let the culture of your church begin to change because the pastor refuses to be a bottom feeder on criticism and negativity. Lift up your eyes. Lift up your voice. Celebrate the goodness of God and facilitate His work in someone by encouraging them. 

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice.Philippians 4:4

You want a sticky soul, rejoice….aways.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Complement-less Marriages: 6 Simple Ways to Complement Your Spouse

Proverbs 11:25 The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.

Who doesn’t like a complement?  It’s very rare (and I mean rare) where you legitimately find someone who doesn’t enjoy (not necessarily seeking after) a genuine complement.

I’m not talking about flattering someone.  The purpose of flattery is to get a reaction or a response that will directly benefit the person giving the so-called “complement.” A true complement is selflessly giving for the purpose of affirming and encouraging someone with zero manipulation.  Edification should be the only motivation behind complements.

When it comes to marriage, it seems that the longer people are together, the more apt they are to take complements for granted.  They seem so small, and to some so insignificant, but they’re a huge need in your relationship. One of my favorite books to use in premarital counseling is Gary and Barbara Rosberg’s, “The 5 Sex Needs of Men & Women.” In it both him and his wife discuss the top 5 needs of both genders.  Of the five, two needs are shared amongst both sexes: Connection (purposefully linking into your spouse’s world) and Affirmation (offering emotional support or encouragement).

Think about it, genuine and meaningful compliments touch at least two of the most intimate needs us as human beings have.  That’s the power of a complements.  The key to this, and it may seem difficult, is the mentality behind it.  Yes I want you both to go after this. But I want our mindset to be very personal.  Let it start with you. If you go into this complementing thing waiting for him/her to start it and/or reciprocating it, you’re more about flattery than the true complement. Make this both a personal strategy as well as a couple’s strategy.

Marriage issues are never a quick fix.  But sometimes it’s the small changes that help turn the Titanic around.

Here’s you go…6 easy ways to compliment your spouse:

1 – Go After the Effort. Guys, she may not care about your vehicle, hobby, or sporting interest, but if she asks, it means she’s trying to connect with you. Ladies, don’t think to yourself, “he doesn’t really care.” He does and he’s trying. It may not look or sound the way you want but he’s attempting to connect with you.

The quickest way to shut down any progress in a marriage is to look pessimistically at attempts to step forward. I’ve always counseled parents to praise the efforts of their kids and not necessarily just the accomplishment.  Why don’t we do that with our spouse? Why do so many of us jump at the criticism before gratitude and encouragement?

2 – Look for the obvious.  Don’t be the person that says, “he/she already knows how I feel.” From his/her role in the family to how he/she loves Jesus, bring out the obvious things.  

Both men and women deal with the lure of constant comparison with the people in their lives.  We are faced with constant changes physically, emotionally, and mentally. Don’t take ANY obvious complement for granted.

3 – Go after the not-so-obvious. Guys, your wife loves details. Saying “you look nice” doesn’t cut it.  Look beyond the surface words and specifically point things out. She works hard on details.  You should work hard on noticing them. Ladies, get after what he is into.  You may not care specifically about it, but you care about him. Asking and encouraging will bring you into his world. When you two get past the surface, it speaks value to your spouse. Ask yourself, “what does he/she think I don’t notice.”  Go after that.

4 – Get spiritual.  When was the last time you complimented his/her desire for a deeper relationship with God.  I’ve met too many spouses that have an intimidation of their partner’s spirituality.  Get over that and encourage their walk with Christ.  Feed your spouse’s every spiritual step toward Jesus with high levels of encouragement.  That doesn’t mean that you are doing the same bible studies and having 3-hour prayer services together before you go to bed. Celebrate what Jesus is doing in your marriage and each other’s lives.  

5 – Be frequent. Please don’t use the words, “I’ve already said that.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a couple who complement/encourage too much.  Making a habit of affirming your spouse keeps, what Gary Chapman would say, your husband’s/wife’s “love tank” filled.  Far to many affairs have happened because someone stepped into a void left by an unmet need. Leave no place for anyone to out-complement you when it comes to your spouse.  Do it often and do it well.

6 – Leave no strings attached. Ever met that person that gave you a compliment with the expectation you were going to give one back.  It’s self-serving and manipulative.  Pour encouragement into your spouse with zero expectations back.  Why? It fosters humility. It removes pride.  The right motives are developed and lived.

Do you want it reciprocated back?  Sure you do.  But stringless edification sets down “self” in order to place your spouse’s needs first. Imagine if you had two individuals doing this at the same time in their marriage. That’d be the craziest display of marital health you’ve ever seen.

Proverbs 11:25 The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.

Have any one of us “arrived.”  Not at all.  Whenever I feel like I’m good at it, either I take it for granted or, out of my humanity, I begin to attach strings.  You’re human which means your broken.  But don’t let that be your excuse not to take intentional, self-initiated steps toward building up your spouse.  When you step forward to bless your spouse, the natural outcome is you and your marriage get blessed (Proverbs 11:25). Don’t be stingy.  Don’t neglect it. Speak out and build up your spouse.

Again, don’t expect everything to change over night or assume marriage issues are a quick fix.  Take it a moment at a time. Take it one word of edification at a time. And watch your humility and encouragement change the atmosphere of your marriage.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

What my parents didn’t teach me about marriage – Part 3

Two weeks ago, we started this new blog series that focused upon the things my parents didn’t teach me based upon some of the issues we see today.  Again, please don’t take any of the following blogs as a guilt trip to those who have struggled or have made mistakes.  I do not elevate anyone, including my parents, above Christ. But I do obey scripture to “give honor to whom honor is due.”

To catch up, read Part 1  and Part 2 of the series here.

Part 3…what didn’t my parents teach me?  They didn’t teach me to withhold encouragement.  

I stand by a statement I said to our congregation at Kfirst on March 23rd, 2013:

“If you are NOT an encourager, you will NEVER become the spouse/parent God wants you to be.”

That message was a crossroads for me as a believer and pastor.  I remember the season of ministry I was in. It was astounding the amount of people (including pastors) that were calling me just discouraged.  They were broken and bruised.  These people were either beat up by discouragement or starved by the lack of encouragement.

What does that have to do with what I learned from my parents and or marriage? Well, first of all, they were married.  Secondly, they are pastors.  I have seen them discouraged in life and ministry.  Yet of all of the things they didn’t teach me, they didn’t teach me to allow their circumstances to make them serve encouragement sparingly.

I don’t think of a single time in my life where I didn’t see them encourage each other, their children, or the congregation they served.  I can’t even recall moments in my life as a child/teen/adult where they were not the first to step up as an encourager in my life.  Believe me, they’ve had every excuse to not be encouraging. I’ve seen people treat them terribly.  As a pastor’s kid, I’ve watched discouraging moments happen to them.  People have taken advantage of their kindness.  Others have turned their back on them.  Circumstances have come and gone that would’ve depleted anyone of joy…yet, no excuses were given and words of edification were always in great supply.

Now, I recognize that many people (possibly you the reader) never had that growing up and/or have it now as an adult.  As stated in my first blog of this series, they’re not perfect.  But their example has shown me this:

No matter if you had someone to encourage you in your past or not…
No matter what you are dealing with right now…
No matter if there’s no one in your corner right now…

…you can and should be an encourager.

Proverbs 11:25 “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

The cycle of discouragement must stop here and NOW. You may have an excuse to not encourage.  We all do.  I know my parents did and probably still do.  Life is hard.  Sometimes life just plain sucks. But there’s something powerful about the issue of encouragement: when we launch out to refresh others, we get refreshed.    I don’t believe the refreshing comes from others.  I believe it comes from the Lord.  If you are depending upon your spouse (or anyone for that matter) to be the one to “fresh” you, it is clear that your life is centered upon deriving meaning, purpose, and joy from limited finite sources.  In Christ we find life.  And it’s from Him we get refreshed.

Stop waiting for others to refresh and replenish you.  Don’t wait for your spouse to be the one to take the first step.  Christ didn’t wait till we were ready to receive him to give hope to our discouraging circumstances.  He gave.

And because he gave…we too can give.

Keep encouraging.  Keep refreshing and let Christ help you become the spouse you need to be.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Stupid Spouse: A culture of demeaning our mate.

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I do like sitcoms (situational comedies).  I grew up watching them. You probably have your favorites. I’ve got mine (MASH, Newhart, Taxi, Cosby Show, and Home Improvement). The really good sitcoms take every day situations for the everyday person and makes them funny.  It’s what keeps our attention and helps us to see the humor in own lives.  Now that Netflix has “Everyone Loves Raymond,” I find myself finally watching the show right before I sleep just to let the comedy relax my mind before sleep.

But…it’s got me thinking.

At 30-minute intervals, we see situations revealed and the comedy unfold.  While we watch, we, and especially our children, subliminally soak in messages and quotes.  They sit in our minds and crowd up our memories.  (Even now, you’re thinking of your own favorite sitcoms and/or the quotes and moments that stick out to you.) Unfortunately, over the years, there seems to be a steady vein running through most sitcoms.  It was there from my earliest memories of seeing “The Honeymooners” and it lingers now into our modern-day shows.

The “Stupid Spouse.”

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stu·pid/ˈst(y)o͞opid/ lacking intelligence or common sense.

Most of you reading this won’t have to think back very far to see the sitcom with the “Stupid Spouse.”  You name the sitcom and you’ll have no problem naming off the spouse or the person in the relationship that has been chosen to be “stupid.” Not only is he/she the butt of the jokes, but the role that he/she plays becomes a laughing-stock of their family. Children are allowed to disregard dad because he’s an idiot. Don’t respect mom because she’s disconnected from reality. Husbands are spineless and weak leaders.  Wives are selfish and conniving. There is very little respect for marriage as well as parenting.

My wondering: has what we have been viewing and enjoying been allowed to soak into our own families? Have we allowed our entertainment to actually shape our marriages?  Have they become emotional pornography creating unrealistic ideals that ravage the reality of how the Lord has designed you both?

Do you have a culture of demeaning your spouse?

Our homes SHOULD be the place of safety. Our spouse SHOULD be our greatest supporter.  Our marriage SHOULD be the source of our greatest encouragement.

But somewhere in this demeaning culture, we have become what we watch.  We tear down our spouse.  Now we don’t do it to their face all the time. Let them leave the room first before we give a comment to our kids about how you disagree with their father/mother.  When our parents call us, we’ll start-up again on how “stupid” our spouse is.  We’ll even go to church and sing of the love of God and put on the facade to our friends of how our family is. Somewhere this has to stop.  Someone has to draw a line in the sand and make a stand for encouragement.

James deals this sensitive subject by saying, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

If you find yourself thinking about how stupid (lacking intelligence or common sense) your spouse is…
If you are constantly refusing to let your spouse be a helpmate…
If you cannot speak to them respectfully and lovingly…
If you cannot talk about your spouse without tearing them down to someone…

Husbands and wives…THESE THINGS OUGHT NOT TO BE SO!

Before you cancel your cable, Netflix, and Hulu accounts, take a step back.  I’m not telling you to go all “pharisee” on me with your TV’s and computers.  I’m asking for you to just pause and reflect.  It’s time to turn the tide of the culture of your home.

1 – It starts with you.  I’ve dealt with too many marriages where a husband and wife are acting like middle schoolers and not adults.  Don’t wait for him/her to make the first move to having a culture of respect and honor.  Thank the Lord that Jesus didn’t wait for us to make the first move back to him before he extended love toward us. “Drawing a line in the sand” ISN’T about “do this or I’m leaving.”  It’s about saying, “It stops here and now.” STOP TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE!  Let the change start in you.

2 – Ask for forgiveness.  Admitting fault is not a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign of strength. Hiding your faults is what makes you weak. Humility is the antibiotic for a pride-filled marital culture.  Proverbs 22:4 says, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

3 – Create culture.  Embrace who your spouse is and how the Lord created them as an individual. Your differences are to be celebrated…not rejected. Create a culture where encouragement and praise becomes the norm. When there is a culture of edification, the constructive criticism that is needed for growth is received on furtive soil as opposed to calloused hearts that have been damaged by harsh remarks and disrespect.  You may have been married 2 years, 20 years, or 40 years.  It’s not too late to create a new culture of encouragement that will foster the atmosphere of healthy marital growth.

4 – Lastly, be dedicated to feeding the new culture.  Occasionally, Anne ticks me off.  I never make her mad (okay that’s a lie). But there needs to be a decision that, no matter how out of the norm it is for you, to feed the culture of encouragement and honor.  Your kids cannot see and hear you demeaning their father/mother.  Your parents cannot hear you tearing your spouse down.  Before other and before the Lord, chose to be a spouse who builds instead of destroys.  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” You will have moments that you will not feel like feeding the “new culture.” That’s where we come to grips with the fact that love is a decision and not just a feeling.  Love your spouse to feed the culture of a healthy marriage.

If we were real here, we’d admit we ALL have moments where we are lacking intelligence or common sense.  Be humble to see that in yourself and that humility will feed into how you deal with your spouse.

Encourage liberally.  Laugh loudly.  Love unconditionally. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo #31Days – “Don’t fall apart”

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We started a new series this month called “#31Days.” What “#31Days” means is we are encouraging everyone to take the challenge of encouraging someone via social network for 31 days.  Make sure you use the hashtag!

Today’s scripture: Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Minute Devo: “Remove the Weight” Proverbs 12:25

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August is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Watch Your Mouth”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Proverbs 12:25:

Proverbs 12:25

25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.