Mind the Gap – Depression Doesn’t Need Distance

I’ll start this off as I have my previous blogs on the subject: My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others and happens, perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

Back in 2005, my wife and I found ourselves in England with 25 students working in a local church Peterborough. Of all of the experiences of the trip, one phrase we heard there always comes to mind when I think of England: please mind the gap. If you take the London metro, you’ll hear it over and over. It’s the warning to pay attention to the space between the platform and the train. The announcement isn’t about falling into a hole (gap) as much as it’s trying to keep you from tripping into (or out of) the metro because of a few inches of a “gap.”

Luke 4 has, perhaps, one of my favorite stories about Jesus. He is in a crowd of people (which wasn’t out of the norm). Unless he purposefully pulled away from the crowds, they were always around him pressing against him.

And it was here that a woman who’d been isolated in her physical, mental, and emotional struggles pushed through the crowd to reach him and perhaps be healed. What is out of the “norm” was Jesus response. Why? It seems so odd based off his surroundings.

Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me. Luke 8:45-46

Most people who approach me to ask questions about my depression are those who don’t battle with it. Honestly, it’s encouraging. And the most asked question is this, “What does it feel like?” Before you think I’m going to talk specifically about the woman the story, you may need to step back and see something else in this very familiar biblical story.

Luke 8:45-46 gives you that glimpse into that world of deep despair. And it’s not necessarily what the woman was going through but what Jesus experienced.

I’m not advocating that Jesus was or battled with depression. But it’s the situation that paints a graphic picture of what those of us experience when the “funk” comes our way. Luke 8, tells us that his question of “who touched me” confused his disciples. In the midst of a crowd that was “pressing up against” him, how could he NOT notice them? How did he miss all the people around him?

Depression is the experience of complete loneliness while being surrounded by a mass of people. We can be in a stadium of people and yet, not detect any connection for which anything of relational or emotional substance is “transferred.” I’ve heard it said to me, “how can you feel that way, you are surrounded by people all the time.” But again, there’s a difference between proximity and intimacy. Being around someone (proximity) doesn’t equal meaningful contact (intimacy) with them.

So then the next question comes up, “How can I help someone in depression?” The answer comes from the same portion of scripture. “Someone deliberately touched me.

I recognize the word “touch” in our culture is a very sensitive word. Unfortunately, “touch” has been abused and taken to massive extremes. Research tells us we need 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be healthy.  It proves that the presence of a crowd doesn’t equate to meaningful connection.

We need to “deliberately” reach out. A hand on the shoulder. A hug. A handshake. Don’t even write off the awkward “hi-five.” Intentional touches are intimate interactions.

Yet don’t assume “touch” is limited to the physical (which is critically necessary). There are simple and effective “touches” that should be done that may not touch the skin but touch the soul.

A timely phone call.
Sitting down for a cup of good coffee.
A note sent via snail mail.
A thoughtful gift.

These are the simple things to cross the “gap” that depression creates in the mind. That gap that we think separates us from everyone else and feeling deep loneliness.

The friend or loved one you know who’s battling with this terrible condition doesn’t need you to “mind the gap;” he/she needs you to deliberately reach out and be a bridge over it. I know how those of us act and/or come off when we are in this mode. It would seem we want to push people away or we just “need to be alone.” But there’s a difference between “needing some space” and isolating ourselves. Help us know you’re there. Be available to us. Be patient with us.

What is powerful is amidst all of the people around Jesus in Luke 8, one deliberate touch caused something powerful to be transferred. Like I said, Jesus wasn’t battling with depression, but I’m willing to bet the woman did. To study this passage, you know the condition of isolation she lived in physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Yet a touch transferred healing, hope, mercy, peace, and love.

If you are dealing with depression, if you are in a place of inner turmoil, don’t stop reaching out. I know you’re tired. You are not alone. You have hope. You can get help. And deliberately reaching out puts you in position for healing.

If know you know someone, who is dealing with this, please don’t mind the gap. Depression doesn’t need distance. Reach out and transfer faith, hope, and love into them. Be the community they cannot detect.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this. If anything, let this blog be the first hand to reach out to you.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Light into the Darkness: Journaling Through a Depressed Heart

Sitting early this morning in the coffee shop, I had just finished reading John 15:26-27. I sat in stillness at the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit jumped off the page.

The Advocate, or Comforter.

In scripture, the Psalmist calls this “selah” (stop, pause, think). And in the midst of meditating on the words of my Savior, the lyrics in my ear buds caught my attention. In Cory Asbury‘s new album “Reckless Love,” his song, “Water and Dust” spoke these words,

And when everything is falling apart, don’t lose heart.

Between what I just read and the words being sung in my ear, I set my pen to my journal to articulate what this moment was speaking to me. The words Advocate or Comforter have always been the reminder of Who has been my rescue and redemption during my bouts of depression. When I cannot see where help will come from, I look for someone to be my Advocate. When I cannot sense hope, I long for someone to be a Comforter.

I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord. Knowing that He is with me, even when I can’t detect Him with my senses, has been a huge comfort to me.

Journaling has been a place to process and express for me. It’s a safe place to work through what I’m pondering inside. I find it’s much healthier than throwing out a Facebook status empowering others to speak into my unprocessed thought while exposing my vulnerability to some that may not be equipped to help. So with ink and paper, a started scratching out a few thoughts.

From there, I began to thumb through my journal. It took me back to October when I shared with out congregation some of my journal thoughts combined with the song, “Let there be light.” Why that song? Because during a dark moment, it was my ongoing prayer to God,

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

So today, I thought I’d share those journal thoughts from that dark moment when the Comforter was not just pulling me through a tough season but was working someone deeper in me.

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

It’s the prayer of everyone who’s been hurt by disappointment
When life hits and gave us way more than expected
It’s the cry of the overwhelmed heart; the scream of a tired soul
The aching of desperation; fallen deeper into a bottomless hole
But you understand my darkness, you get the struggle of my inside
So I lift up my eyes asking you to hear my cry
You hover over my chaos ready to create with just one word
Speak Holy Spirit; I need hope in my hurt

Lord would you speak…

It’s the prayer of everyone who feels forgotten
When the devil has convinced them that they’re no longer wanted
When he’s blinded their eyes from seeing the hope of light
When their strength is drained and unable to get in the fight
I‘ve had victory on the mountain, but the valley is nothing but distress.
Lord it’s you I need. I need some hope in my darkness
I call out the only One who can reach into an unreachable place
I know I can find peace if I could just find your face

Lord I need you to speak…

To every person who thought that nobody cares
To every tired soul, bearing weights to heavy to bear
To those longing to knock but cannot find the door
To those who seek a way out and cannot take any more
Lift up your face, look beyond the valley
The sun may have set behind you but it’s not your finale
There’s a God who creates out of the depths of your chaos
Lift up your head, the Son rises to call us

“Let there be light…”

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

What is Romance? 5 Ways to Make Sure You Are Actually Romantic

In premarital counseling, I really enjoy asking questions. Jesus seemed to be great at it and, I feel, was an effective tool in helping people learn about the Kingdom. So I find myself asking a wide-range of questions, not so that I can give an answer, but to give a couple an opportunity to think deeply about some issues that they may or may not have even pondered.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is romance?” (It’s a bit harder than you think.)

Most guys (conservatively saying, 90% of them) want their ladies to answer first, and then reply, “everything she said…that’s what I think too.”

Which is precisely why I don’t let the ladies answer first anymore. I’ve learned that I enjoy hearing the guys give me their take on “romance” as to what it is and/or what that looks like.  Most of the time I hear things like, “a movie, flowers, chocolate” and other staple answers. I’m not saying those are bad whatsoever, but they seem to be the “default” or the “go-to answers.”  (BTW: I was that guy 19 years ago.)

But more often than not, their female counterparts have a “look” on their face when those “default answers” are given. Then a conversation unfolds before me with statements like,

“That’s nice, but it’s not really romantic?”
“Wait, you don’t think that’s romantic?”
“That may be romantic to you.”
“I guess that’s okay…I have fun…but I find _________ romantic.”
“So you haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done? Are you’re saying I’m not romantic?”

A simple question, with what seemingly had a simple answer, turned into a conversation that revealed two elements that deteriorate romance: Assumption and miscommunication. And usually, BOTH parties are a bit guilty of indulging in both elements on this very important subject. My simple question helps create revelation and warning that romance, if not monitored, can fade away in marriage.

My simple definition:

Romance: Selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

**NOTE: I wish I didn’t have to use the word “selflessly” as “serving” should indicate everything needed to approach your partner. But it seems, more and more, I find couples only “serve” their spouse in order to get something back.  If serving your spouse is based upon what you are going to receive, it’s not serving that you’re doing, it’s manipulation. So I added the “selflessly” to reinforce the Christ-like heart and approach we should have. Jesus didn’t give based upon our response. He selflessly gave (served us) because of His immense love for us (Romans 5:8).

So on the most romantic holiday (according to Hallmark), I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on growing and maintaining the romance in your marriage. 

Breach the subject.
Simply said, “TALK ABOUT IT.” Assumption gives access to idle thoughts. And idle thoughts have a way of seeding false senses of discontent, frustration, and anger. Often I hear things like, “well, he/she should know what I like.” While that may or may not be true, leaving your spouse in the dark purposely only invites the darkness into your marriage. The lack of knowledge your spouse may have on what romances you may have nothing to do with their intelligence but the lack of effective and healthy communication from the both of you.

Be the one to step up first.
Lead the way in selflessly serving your spouse. If you’re waiting for him/her to make the first move, your motivation isn’t serving, it’s getting. Now don’t get me wrong, the serving should go both ways. And in time, I’d hope that through communication (and potentially some help from a marriage resource), some good, healthy serving habits would develop in the both of you. But stubbornness about being the initiator may feel justified in the moment, but it leaves you both empty, hurting, and vulnerable. Simply said: If you both are selflessly serving, your love tanks will stay full.

Recognize that your ideas of romance may not be your spouse’s idea of romance.
I spent unbelievable amounts of money on flowers in the three years of dating Anne. Later, I found out, while she very much appreciated them, they were not as big of a deal as I thought they were. And simple conversation in the sweetest tone AND in the proper timing from her switched my romantic approach (not to mention saved me money). I find many couples in the same boat. And the remedy for that: A conversation with the proper timing, tone, and technique can help pave the way for healthy romance.

Don’t assume your spouse still has the same love language.
Romance has a tendency to evolve. And it’s the seasons of life that tends to be the thing that shifts a person’s love languages. Pre-kids, we both were very high on “physical touch.” After Cammi was born, “quality time” became the vocabulary of my wife’s heart. And what we’ve noticed is, through the past almost 19 years, the evolution of the love languages of David and Anne. Romance doesn’t have to fade, but it does changes through the seasons. While our top love languages haven’t budged, we’ve seen the others (words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts) morph into greater and lesser importance.

Find your joy in your spouse’s fulfillment.
It’s not going to feel romantic to your spouse if you look and/or sound miserable while communicating your spouse’s love language. For example, I think I’ve ruined a few “quality time” moments shopping with Anne because I was so bored. I was happy to be with her, but the loud “sighing” and “grumbling” ruined any enjoyment she was having. Learn to love, not by what you receive, but by what your spouse is receiving. When the end-game of your romance is your spouse’s fulfillment, you’ll discover a deep level of marital fulfillment and health only experienced when two people serve each other.

Although I do want you to have a great Valentines day, I would hope that this blog may set your feet on a greater path so your romance isn’t relegated to a holiday or when you want your needs met. I pray that you will be that spouse in your marriage that leads the way in selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my BRAND NEW book of my blogs!! Order one today!!!

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: #MYCHURCH week 1 “Everyone is Significant”

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.

image1-1

January is about “newness.” Whether we are talking about a new start, new life, new opportunities, or just new vision, a new year naturally directs our focus forward into endless possibilities.

And its every January where we celebrate the newness of what God has in store for Kfirst  community as we kickoff our annual #MYCHURCH series.

Yesterday, we focused upon one of our values which states, “Everyone is Significant.” And we believe that the cross and resurrection of Jesus is proof of that.

The first chapter of John brought our focus upon how that truth helps us to form healthy habits. And when we establish healthy habits, they lead to holy moments. In John 1:35-42, John the Baptist connected with to those around him and pointed them to Jesus. How? Through relational equity. Those in his community trusted in him because of the relationship of integrity he built.  The more you grow relationships, them more potential you have for impacting lives. He grew enough equity that when he pointed out the Messiah, people knew they could believe him.

How can we build “relational equity”? Two ways:

  1. Love people where they live.
  2. Tell people what you know.

When we form the healthy habits of loving people right where they’re at AND telling them the story of our journey, we have great potential for holy moments of impacting them. Our response of love mixed with the authenticity of our stories help build bridges from the Kingdom of God into people’s lives. (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Our messages are for Monday and we need to put action to what the Lord is speaking. How can you begin these healthy habits this week? How can you begin to build relational equity with? How can you show the love of Christ in your sphere of influence? Who can you speak encouragement into? This is how we can respond and be the church Kalamazoo needs.

Also, if you’re looking for 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 for your week’s playlist.

Pastor to Pastor: 10 Ways I Keep My Passion to Pastor

From the get-go: If you are a pastor struggling with your passion, then I am writing this to encourage you.

I love being a pastor. And, more specifically, I love pastoring Kfirst.

I don’t just say that flippantly. I’m not just speaking by faith some word into existence hoping my feelings catch up to it. Nor am I trying to “prove anything” to myself or anyone else. I genuinely love pastoring this amazingly awesome and imperfect church. But this isn’t just me. In the wake of hearing the other day, once again, the statistic of well over a 1000 pastors resigning every month, I have recently come across other pastors and missionaries who feel exactly what I feel about where God has called them.

My minister friends, this is how it should be.

I’ll admit, in the past, I’ve been skeptical of others who were a little bit “too passionate” about ministry. I thought they were either newer or were not facing any of the type of challenges that I was dealing with. I’d find myself avoiding them as they, quite frankly, annoyed me. But, if I were to be really honest, it wasn’t them personally that bothered me. It was the envy in my heart for what they had and what I lacked. It was a tough place to minister out of because my happiness was dependent upon everything else BUT the Lord.

Having a passion about ministry doesn’t equate to massive numbers or packed events (though I do enjoy both). Possessing deep joy doesn’t necessarily depend upon any denomination (or lack thereof), title, or church. This overwhelming sensation is all about being where God placed you and the joy of walking obedience to Him.

Deep passion doesn’t mean you don’t face tough seasons. I’ve come to realize that the more you want to do for the Lord, the greater the giants you’ll face. Personally, Kfirst still faces the challenge of an aging building and a community still growing into it. We’re still trying to discover how to stop being so “program-dependent” and develop the systems needed to facilitate personal discipleship and corporate growth.  I get frustrated that people want an event to do outreach corporately but refuse to do it personally. Do you still get hurtful comments? Me too. From unsigned cowardly notes to those making critical comments to me right before the service starts (sucks to preach with that on your mind).  These things happen in ministry. You are human. So are the people you minister to. And I believe that all of these things are pivot points in which we can live in frustration or continue pivot forward toward what God has called you to do.

So I sit back in my parent’s cabin and thought I’d pen-out (type out) some of the changes that I feel the Holy Spirit challenged me to make over the past 4-5 years that, I believe have stoked my passion:

  1. I tweaked my prayers from “Lord change the people in my church” to “Lord, let the change start with me.”
    • It may sound cliché, but “be the change.” Don’t expect something in your congregation that you are not opening to doing. My passion for change in people is fueled by the work the Holy Spirit is doing in me.
  2. I got back to journaling. 
    • This has been a game-changer to passion in my personal life and sermon prep. It has helped me process thoughts as I’m in the Word or reflecting over things the Lord has laid upon my heart. Passion, unrealized is potential. And potential is nothing unless it is accessed and released.
  3. I started running. 
    • Passion is fed on every level (spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional). For me, this was more than just “getting in shape.” Though the physical health benefits have helped me, there are tremendous emotional and mental ramifications to getting exercise.  Besides, a spend time on my runs talking to the Lord and spending time listening to Him.
    • SIDE NOTE: You’re congregation need you to take care of yourself.  A healthier leader = better preacher and stronger leader.
  4. I stopped leading ministries. 
    • My passion was depleting as it was being spent in so many directions. I needed to listen to Paul’s word to Ephesus when he said to, “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” We pastors should be pouring into people and launching leaders. The more we step back and allow people to step up, the less the church will be about us and the more it will be about Jesus.
  5. I changed my “hours of operation.”
    • I literally love waking up passionate about what I do and I don’t wait till 9 to start work. I’m focused and creative in the early mornings and can get so much accomplished before the sun comes up. In saying that, most of my evenings are spoken for as most people who I need to connect to work during the day.  I’ve creatively approached my hours to create margin for marriage, family, and ministry.
  6. I frequent the same local businesses during the week.
    • It’s easy to get lost in your office and never see the light of day. From where I get my coffee in the mornings, to lunches, to where I go to get my haircut, I want to engage with people in our community. I’ve learned their stories, brought them donuts, developed friendships, and get to do one of their weddings.
  7. I give people the benefit of the doubt. 
    • I was wasting passion fixating on assuming the worst. A simple rule: assume the best in others. I needed to learn to look at people, not through the surface lens of my perspective but how the Lord looks at them. This deeper look into people literally changed my attitude overnight. It’s helped me look for ways to build bridges for healing instead of destroying relationships by disregarding personalities. Which leads me to…
  8. I’ve stopped being so serious all the time. 
    • Looking for the negative in life is like catching a cold; you don’t have to do anything to get it. I like looking for the lighter side of  life. Yes, I know reaching people is a serious thing, but I’ve learned that for people, laughter is a bridge to the seeing the heart of God. Personally, amusement has become my best medication to frustration and depression. I believe one of the most spiritual things you can do is laugh. We as pastors should be conduits of joy and not hammers of judgement.
  9. I study pastors/churches.
    • I used to get depressed looking at the successes of pastors and/or churches as my own pastoral insecurities got the best of me.  I was missing out on the wealth of creativity and Kingdom-building ideas that God was doing around the world. I want to sit and listen to pastors. I want to read their books and listen to their podcasts.   I’ve recognized that I can AND need to learn from everyone regardless of their age, experience, church size, or denomination. We should be a Kingdom of collaboration and not a group of “Religious Silos.”
  10. I stopped fighting change. 
    • I don’t look to change for the sake of “change.” But I’m doing my best to not give God an excuse every time He starts testing my comfort zone. I was depleting my passion by wasting strength fighting God on keeping the things I didn’t want to change. The more I’ve opened up to the change He wants to make, the more joy has been released in my life and in ministry.

Sorry this was so long. But this has been burning in my heart over the past month (as it’s taken me a month to finish journaling about it).

My prayer for you is that of David in Psalm 51:12,

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”

Ask God to do a new work of passion in you. And as He leads you, follow with willingness. As you become more passionate, so will the congregations you lead.

Love you. Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

“Just like the picture”: 4 Approaches to Developing the Uniqueness of Your Marriage

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14

As a pastor, I tend to visit the same places in my city. Admittingly, I’m a creature of habit but this goes deeper than that.

I visit the same coffeehouse every day. I go to the same chicken place on Wednesdays. I get my haircut at the same location by the same person every other week. Familiarity and frequency helps me to develop connection with people in the community. It helps me develop relationships and moves conversations past “weather talk” into deeper things (this would make a great blog idea for pastors).

Last week, I had a conversation with the young lady who cuts my hair. Amidst talking about her family and the salon she manages, a statement about she only likes to cut guy’s hair. When I enquired why that was, she talked about her frustration with ladies who are excited about an image clipped out of a magazine of a someone’s hair and demand that be done to them. More often than not, they’ll leave upset that the result doesn’t “look like the picture.” She says that people don’t get the number of components that are in play with the hair styles they covet.  The type of hair, shape of head, how well they take care of their hair, etc.

In other words, customers were demanding the picture perfect results but don’t account for the factors at play.

That conversation got me thinking about how that translates to marriage. Quite often, I meet couples who take for granted the UNIQUENESS of their marriage (heck, I still do it). We chase the picture of perfection that we see in someone else and want to get there without the hard work of dealing with the individual factors you both bring.  While we all understand that we married someone quite different from ourselves, we still get frustrated. But I’m afraid many assume your individual differences compound your marital problems instead of seeing how they add into the your uniqueness. Your perspective of how you perceive your differences changes the scope of your marital health.

I love what the Psalmist says,

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14

If we believe in the “oneness” of marriage, can we not look at our marriage in the same light as the Psalmist looked at individual lives? Your marriage is “wonderfully complex” and the “workmanship is marvelous.” And I wonder if the first step to embracing the wonderful complexity of marriage is to accept what makes you both distinct. Differences are a good thing; they’re not automatically an impairment. Just because our spouse and marriage are different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means we have a unique marriage and bring unique individual qualities to the marriage.

Simply said: Stop trying to achieve an image. Build your marriage from the inside out.

Finding uniqueness means that marriage will never look “just like the picture” of some else’s marriage. Don’t cookie-cutter yourselves. You may seek health, but EVERY couple works with different factors that are peculiar to your marriage. Consider…

  • Your backgrounds.
  • Your personalities.
  • Your likes and dislikes.
  • Your skill-sets.

How do you develop the uniqueness of your marriage?

1. Look at the reality. No one is perfect, and therefore, there is no perfect marriage. So my recommendation is to stop seeing perfection in others and stop expecting it in your spouse and/or marriage. The only things to expect in yourself and your spouse is humility, teamwork, and growth. In my opinion, there are only two types of marriages: Those who work on them and those who don’t. Be the first type.

2. Learn to appreciate your spouse. Vision is everything. The direction of your marriage will go in the direction of your focus. And if you learn to look for the good in your spouse, your marriage will go in that direction. Differences do not automatically mean “wrong,” many times, they simply mean “different.” And when you bring value to those differences, you bring value to your spouse.

3. Learn how to express appreciation. Silent appreciation is not appreciation at all. Let me take that a bit deeper: appreciation with strings attached is not appreciation at all. Gratitude has the ability of elevating our attitudes above bitterness. Let it be said of your home that, while you don’t have marital health figured out, you do have an atmosphere of which health can grow. And that atmosphere is “appreciation/gratitude.”  A rule that I try to enforce with my family (as well as my staff): For every negative thing, be sure to bring up two to three positives. The simplicity of the exercise will help retrain your negative mind into a more positive one.

4. Pray for blessings on your spouse and ask the Holy Spirit to bring change in you. Sometimes we can spend too much energy trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit instead of releasing Him to bring the change only He can bring.  I think we can transform our attitudes by first praying for blessing upon our spouse and then allowing the needed change in our marriage to BEGIN with ourselves. Humility in the heart paves the way for the formation of healing and health.

When it boils down to it, the more you follow a “perfect image” of a marriage that you’ve seen on social media or in someone you know, the more you’ll wind up frustrated in your marriage. The more you follow a Perfect Savior, the more you’ll see your imperfections and see an opportunity for His grace to shine through your marriage.  The two of you, as a unit, are “wonderfully complex” and His “workmanship is marvelous.” Today…

Be the blessing your marriage needs.
Be the change your marriage needs.
Love your spouse through the love you’ve received from Christ.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

Beyond Words: 6 Ways to Express “I Love You” Without Words

Once in awhile, I feel the need to write a disclaimer for a blog.

This is one of those blogs.

DISCLAIMER: I believe in talking to each other. Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. As it flows so does everything else. I DO NOT want you to stop talking to each other. Immature tactics like the “silent treatment” only go to further damage the marriage as it is pride-driven to injure your spouse in a futile attempt to hurt him/her more than they have hurt you.

Now that I got that out-of-the-way, the heart of today’s blog is to help move “love” past words. I want you to learn to love without words. (You get that I don’t want you to stop talking right?) I propose to you: if the gift of verbal communication between you and your spouse were to stop, what evidence would be left to convey the depth of your love?

It’s what I love about the immense love of God that we are called to model. He wasn’t afraid to tell His people of his love (Jeremiah 31:3). He wasn’t afraid to express it (John 3:16).

Our culture seems to have watered down love to an emotion instead of a statement of our being; a flash of sentiment in our heart instead of a deep-seeded passionate conviction. And when we want to express it, 3 simple words are used (of which I do NOT take for granted): I love you.  But I tend to wonder, in the day we live in, if those words have been muddied a bit.

Don’t get me wrong. Please do not ever stop telling your spouse that you love them. The words “I love you” shouldn’t be reserved just for special occasions. Being married IS a special occasion. Therefore, open up your mouth freely and frequently to express verbally your love (this is disclaimer #2).

But if you couldn’t say it, specifically to him/her, what evidence would be left? 

 

Your schedule.
What does your schedule convey to your spouse? Your calendar will speak vision. And vision is born out of passion. The priority of time and quality of moments will speak volumes about what you are passionate about. Share calendars and let your spouse see things from scheduled/blocked-off time together to vacations and down-time. I’m of a firm conviction that NO marriage should go a month without a date. It doesn’t have to have immense cost (or any for that matter). But I’ve always said: consistent dates are cheaper than divorce lawyers.

Meaningful touches.
I read a study from UCLA a number of years ago that said that EVERY human being needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be healthy. But the key word there is “meaningful.” What does that look like? For some of you with higher libido, it’s learning how to touch your spouse non-sexually (simply put: a touch that isn’t laced with expectations). For those who aren’t driven physically, it’s creating opportunities to impact your spouse with your touch. It’s all about initiating creative touches that put aside your touch-agenda (or lack thereof) to create a healthy touch climate in your marriage that expresses your love for one another.

Self-initiated projects.
Are there things your spouse has been wanting to get done around the home? Are there projects that you hear him/her talk about frequently? This is as simple as making a mental note of what your spouse has been wanting to accomplish AND showing you took notice by scheduling and implementing that project. Whatever the task is, the love isn’t conveyed in the actual project as much as it is in the action of listening and responding.

Special moments. 
I’ll admit, I don’t like Hallmark created holidays. Also, I’m not big on gift giving (that’s at the bottom of my love languages).  BUT…it seems like the longer we’re married, the more we take for granted special moments that either, come by the calendar, or by the nature of our relationship (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.). RECOGNIZING and/or CREATING significant moments helps your spouse feel more like your “significant other” rather than the “obligatory other.”

Respect.
The absence of respect will kill the heart of a marriage. When a couple no longer recognizes the most base level of human dignity in one another, passion bleeds out and life leaves the relationship. Why? We respect what we value. It doesn’t mean our spouse is going to always act in a respectable way. But do we value our marriage? If so, we need to be a spouse that works hard to live in a respectful way that shows how much we value, first the Lord, and then our spouse. When you lead in respect, you build hope. And where hope is present, love is grown.

How others perceive your spouse.
What is your spouse’s reputation or image based upon your closest friends and/or coworkers? How do others perceive your spouse after they’ve interacted with you? Whether you like it or not, what you say or do will get back to your significant other (it always does). I’ve heard it said that “Integrity is who you are when no one is looking.” Perhaps marital integrity is how much you love your husband/wife when he/she isn’t around. What a statement of love to be a someone who hears that their spouse was speaking words of appreciation, gratitude, respect, and passion without them in the room.

Two challenges for you: 

1 – Have a conversation with your spouse about this. Ask your spouse what “non-verbal” ways speak out “I love you” to them. Get some input. Give some feedback. Perhaps, make some apologies where you (or both) have missed the mark. Marriage goals are not to point out where you lack; Marriage goals are to look to where you can grow.

2 – Make it a daily challenge. On top of VERBALIZING the words “I love you,” what can I do today to NON-VERBALLY express those words that will bless my spouse? Get personal and practical without the worry of reciprocation. This shows the true heart of a servant. And that is how marriage grows.

I’d love to say I’ve mastered this. To be honest, I think I have a ton of room for improvement. As a husband, one of the greatest privileges and challenges is to tell my wife I love her without uttering a single word. It’s so simple yet not an easy task.

Sit with your spouse. Have the conversation with a vision of growing the communication of the commitment and love you both possess. Remember: marriage is a long-haul journey built within healthy daily moments of growth.

Love ya.  Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…