Don’t Hold it In

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

This is what I woke up to. This is what I needed.

I rolled out of bed, Opened up my social media messages and saw one message that said,

In my time of prayer this verse keep coming to me for you. Isaiah 40:31. May God fill you with His peace today.

No details or explanation. Just the faithfulness to make the effort and deliver the simple yet impactful message to start my day.

This kind human doesn’t know the craziness my week has been nor what awaits my packed schedule for today. This person doesn’t know the call I had yesterday and now I’m planning an unexpected funeral for someone who’d died far beyond his time. Because this is a church attender, there’s probably the idea that “Pastor Dave has a sermon to prep for.”

But non of that matters when the Holy Spirit prompts you to reach out to someone. When you have a message of encouragement, you don’t check to see condition of someone’s life before delivering it. When God gives you a word of encouragement, don’t hold it in. 

God is faithful; His timing is perfect. But on the flip-side, I’m not always faithful and my timing sometimes is “off.”

There are times God has prompted my heart to reach out and say something in a store, a coffee shop, or to send a simple message to someone over text or social media. And because of those thoughts of awkwardness, fear, or doubt, the message either gets delayed or not even delivered.

Don’t hold it in.

When the Holy Spirit gives us a word of encouragement, it’s just that: encouragement. It’s there to build up the individual. It is there to give reminder of the presence of God. Perhaps it will be the boast within their heart (like it was mine this morning) that, regardless of what I face, I will have “new strength” and “…run and not grow weary…walk and not faint.”

Has God prompted your heart to reach out to someone? Don’t delay. Don’t hold it in. Be the voice of God and the reminder of His presence to someone’s life. Find someone to encourage today.

(BTW: Thank you to the individual who breathed life into me this morning. You’re a rock star to me!!!)

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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.

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!!

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Set Up For Success : 2 Healthy Selfless Disciplines of Marriage

I’m a huge believer in the power of words in marriage. In fact, I believe your marriage will never rise above your words. Your words have power. They carry meaning, have weight, and convey emotional tone – good and bad. And just because you use a lot of them, doesn’t mean you excel at communicating them. So often, couples will say to me, “we are great at communication because we talk all the time.” But talking doesn’t equate to “good communication” just as much as hearing someone doesn’t equate to “good listening.”

Your words will have one of two impactful effects: They will tear down or build up.  It’s why I so often bring up the great scripture out of the book of Proverbs:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21

Your word choices both reflect the quality of your relationship and determine the trajectory of it. They (words) decide whether your marriage will continue to wither or proceed towards health. And the only way to manage them is to develop the self-discipline of stewarding what you say through the simple 3 T’s of communication.

Before we were married, it seems that we carried a few more self-disciplines than we do now. Why? We wanted to make a great impression during the courtship process.  But, as many of us do, we can lapse a bit and take our marriage (or our spouse) for granted.

Think about the relational dynamics in some of the couples that you know.  Ask yourself about those that seem to be making the healthiest steps forward. Whether a couple has been thriving for years or attempting to make strides towards growth, you’ll see, not perfection, but a rise in some disciplines that foster marital vitality.  When it comes to our words, I’ve personally noticed two specific disciplines in action:

1 – Listening. I submit to you that one of the best “word-disciplines” is listen before you speak. Listening is the discipline of giving ear to your spouse’s concerns. Listening is not allowing your spouse just so you can formulate a “come-back.” It’s receiving what they’re saying while looking at the world through his/her eyes. It is taking the time to grasp what they are feeling while understanding what it is, specifically, they’re asking for.

I feel that we live in a culture where we are far more concerned to be understood than to give ear to anyone else. And it seems who has the louder the voice or the most creative words gets heard. I meet far too many couples who are acting upon what they “think” their spouse needs instead of simply listening to what their spouse is saying. And if you’ll listen, you may realize that their first need is to be listened to and, secondly, the needs you are assuming they have, may not even be on their radar. I love what James 1:9 says. Seek to understand, then to be understood. Be slow to speak; quick to listen. Most of us don’t struggle with finding the right words, we just struggle listening to them.

2 – Encouragement. This may be, quite possibly the most underestimated self-discipline I have come across. Criticism and sarcasm has become more of a social norm and has leaked into marriage. Far too often, I hear people say, “The only time my spouse communicates is when I’m doing something wrong.” How did we get to the place where we think negative reinforcement outweighs encouragement? Building up your spouse is so very essential, and yet, simple.

  • Showing gratitude for the little things
    • “Thank for noticing…”
    • “When you said…did…it meant the world to me.”
  • Appreciating the mundane, every day stuff.
    • “Thank you for working so hard for our family.”
    • “Thank you for providing.”
    • “Thank you for being you.”
  • Noticing things your spouse thought you overlooked.
    • “I love how you…”
    • “It meant a lot to see you do/make/say…”
  • Sending notes/texts throughout the day.
    • “Miss you…love you…thinking about you…”

Encouragement is high-octane fuel. When you are rewarding effort, celebrating progress, and feeding hope, you are positioning your marriage to run at peak performance. Does it automatically make you healthy? Not at all. Like a car, there’s still responsibility to operate it correctly. But that option won’t be there if you don’t put in the right gas. Nobody should out-encourage you when it comes to your spouse. The encouragement you speak puts the right fuel in your marriage to be able to face whatever situation that comes your way.

The common denominator between these two is they are SELFLESS disciplines that help keep love alive. It’s this selflessness that we see modeled in Christ. He not just gave to us regardless of how we would respond, He did it joyfully (Hebrews 12:2). We can see how centering our lives in Christ and living through His example is pivotal for keeping and making marriages like new. In Christ we are promised new hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17) having new outlooks that free us to selflessly and wholeheartedly listen and encourage our spouses.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Unleash Encouragement” #TheTwo

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

We are in series at Kfirst called”The Two.” It’s our study of Numbers 13-14. In the face of a culture that shifted from moving toward a land of Promise to a an atmosphere of negativity and hopelessness, two men stood strong in what the Lord had called the nation into. Caleb and Joshua would stick with the promises of God and not the opinion of man.  Our goal yesterday was to help people understand, “Encouragement moves the boundaries of human limitations to faith-filled potential.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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There are so many people who live in boundaries of what negativity has kept them in. For Israel, the mentality they lived with in Egypt, kept them from seeing what God had in store for them. What they experienced internally, fed discouragement that we all are susceptible to.

  • Anxiety due to a loss of security (13:28).
  • Frustration due to a lack of ability (13:33).
  • Hopelessness due to a loss of vision (14:2-3).
  • Disappointment due to a loss of confidence (14:4).

So our challenge this is to have that “different spirit” that Caleb had. Do do that we need to do three things.

  1. Get rid of negative space.
    • Deal with your heart. Find the places of negativity and evict them.
  2. Change your negative face.
    • Feelings follow actions. Position yourself as an encourager and watch the feels follow purposeful actions.
  3. Step into a dark place.
    • The only way a light works is to be placed where it’s needed. Find someone dealing with discouragement and unleash encouragement.

This week, see yourself as a catalyst of encouragement by bringing hope into someone’s life. Our messages are for Monday and we need to put action to what the Lord is speaking. Ask the Lord to lead you to encourage in a simple, tangible way.

Also, if you need a scripture reading plan to go along with our message, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you this Sunday as we continue our series!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist:

Marriage Blog: A Letter to Our Younger Selves

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Dear younger Dave and Anne (22 years old and 20 years old),

It’s 2016 and I felt compelled to write a letter to you.

Let me get some bad news out-of-the-way. No flying cars (darn you Jetsons), nothing looks the way Back to the Future showed us, and the Lions still haven’t won anything.

The good news: you’re going to make it.

Here in 2016, we love the life and the marriage we have. I can’t say enough how much love deepens through the years. Christ continues to be our foundation and we’ve learned how to laugh.  We legitimately have fun together as having a light heart has created a healthy home.

Your children are the best. They are in love with Jesus and love to serve others.  On top of that, they’re absolutely hilarious. I’ll admit, it’s a bit frustrating when you begin to see yourself in them, but watching them grow is a treat. In fact, you could make the humor of your family into a reality show (but you don’t know what a “reality show is yet…that’s coming soon).

The positions God has placed us in have been an absolute privilege to hold. I know preaching feels awkward in 1997, but give it time and practice.  You’ll move from groaning at the thought of preaching to losing sleep over the excitement of proclaiming the hope of Jesus. Ministry is fun. And it’s one of the best choices you’ll ever make.

It’s sooooo good in 2016.  It’s not to say you won’t have some tough seasons. But you’re going to make it! There will be…

…financial decisions that won’t be the wisest.
…fashion choices you’ll regret.
…parenting blunders with your children.
…and fights over the silliest things.

But you’re going to make it.

There’s going to be tougher moments.  Like…

…pastoral moments where you’ll wonder if you’re cut out to minister.
…memories that you’ll wish you could change.
…words you wish you could take back
…decisions you’ll totally question.
…and, unfortunately, you’ll have moments that hurt like hell (forgive the strong language).

Don’t forget: You’re going to make it.

Winston Churchill says it best,

If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

This letter is to encourage you BOTH to never stop fighting for your marriage. You will have those moments where one of you will fight for it more than the other…keep fighting. You’ll approach crossroads where you struggle seeing things eye-to-eye.  That’s nature…keep fighting. In the face of hopeless feelings and a tunnel with no end in sight…keep fighting. Because “…I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

You’re going to make it.

So now that you’ve been encouraged, I want to give you some last bits of advice in the case you pull out this letter during a “tough season.”

Encourage the effort in each other more than praising results.
It’s okay to say “no” to people so that you can say “yes” to each other. You can never have too much time with each other.
Exercise and healthy eating is beneficial on every level (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual).
Tithing, benevolence, and missions giving needs to go beyond a checkbook.
Friends who are constant discouragers are not really friends; get some distance.
Don’t stop learning.
Celebrate every bit of progress no matter how large or small the progress is.
Less stuff is better than less love; more money, bigger house, and nicer cars do not equate to a healthy marriage. Which leads to my next thought…
Debt is stupid.
Your kids need your time more than material items.
Sex is far less of what the world says and more important than what the church has emphasized.
Be quick to listen; slow to speak.
And lastly, feed hope.

That’s all for now.  I’m sure there’s going to be more to learn as we’ve only made it 18 years and plan on going the distance with each other. And with Christ as our foundation, we know all things are possible. 

I may write you again as this has been a bit therapeutic. But I just felt the need to encourage you that you can do this. God is faithful. You will make it though.

Love you guys!

Thanks for letting me ramble… (You’ll understand that in 2008 Dave. It’s your blog tagline. Of course, you don’t know what a blog is…never mind, just be ready.)

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…