The Cheap Seats: Controlling Our Opinions

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

The “cheap seats” is a simple term to describe a location in a stadium, in particular, older stadiums. In this day and age, most areas are built with nothing cheap and with the attender in mind. But back in the day, the “cheap seats” were economical for a reason. They were far from the action, many times your view was inhibited by a pillar or by distance, yet you got to have full participation in the moment without the cost others paid.

Today I write from a place of brokenness; a heart of humility. Psalm 139:23-24 is what I pray almost daily. Before I start my day, write a message, type of blog, meet with an individual, post on social media, or…whatever, I whisper those words of the Psalmist.

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me…”

Why do I do that? Because without that heart, I end up buying tickets in the “cheap seats.”

What are the “cheap seats” I speak of? They are the places in life that many of us like to live life. They are places where we like to hurl our opinions over someone (or a situation) even though (1) we are far from the action, (2) have limited insight to the situation, and (3) get to have full participation with little to no personal cost.

The cheap seats are great for keeping your distance so you’re not “associated with a person” while making a seemingly righteous stance. This feeble and destructive response has image of Godliness but has nothing to do with Jesus. Why? It’s all about exalting self. Without bringing my heart into check, I make myself look better by publicly (or in my circle of friends) shaming or taking a stab at someone else.

Christians friends, in the words of James, “…this should not be” (James 3:10). We have to be better; we must do better.

Do you want to stand for righteousness? Me too.
Do you want to see holiness in people lives? Me too.
Do you want to see those of influence have a greater impact in the opportunities they’re given? Me too.

Can you do better with your gossip? Me too.
Can you use better self-control with your social media? Me too.
Can you be a better listener? Me too.
Can you do better at treating people with kindness? Me too

Can we be better at halting our immediate response to any situation by starting with a moment of personal repentance (Psalm 139)?

Me too.

Maybe it’s time we stop being season ticket owners in the cheap seats. We all like to sit in them. You can find the “cheap seats” in the church halls, at coffee shops, or on social media. They’re easy to find.

These past couple weeks, seeing the amount of people buying their “cheap seat” tickets to Lauren Daigle’s interview has been astounding. Lauren responded to a question in a way many Christ-followers are not happy with. Personally, I wish she gave a better answer. But then again, that’s my “cheap seat” response. Armed with my 20/20 hindsight and my “cheap seat” location, it’s painless to dissect her and others of influence and affluence. It’s easy to say we’d do better (at least we’d like to think we would) if we had the opportunity.

But I’ve wondered over this past week? What has been more damaging to the body of Christ? A singer’s answer or our responses? A moment missed (in many people’s opinions) or an example we’ve made to the world of how we handle people in our ranks that we don’t agree with?

Do people do the same thing to me as a preacher? Probably. Honestly, I do it to myself. Most Sundays, I walk away from the pulpit thinking that about my sermons. “I wish I had said something better. I could have done better with the moment/opportunity I was given.

What should our response have been with Lauren’s statement (and others to come)? I believe it starts here:

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me...”

Before we pick up a rock to throw and a judgement to hurt, can we start with ourselves? Can we check out motives first? Can we exercise Matthew 18 of shutting our slander and dealing with offense with others in a healthy personal way? Please note: Loving others and exercising self-control isn’t a stamp of approval for someone’s decisions or lifestyle. It’s a display of the Fruit of the Spirit. Reactionary posts to make yourself look better only mar our lives with pride and self-righteousness.

The more I start with me first, the less rocks I have to throw at others. The more I begin with my own heart, the better I handle someone else’s heart.

We can do better as the Body of Christ. We must do better.  For if Jesus was a friend of sinners, why can’t that be said of us too?

So Lord, before I ask a reader to this blog to respond to this challenge of personal repentance, please start with me.

Search me, O God…show me any grievous way within me…”

 

Love you all. Praying for you today.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Use your inside voice: 5 Thoughts on Your Marital Tone

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“Use your inside voice” has been a parenting tactic for years. For some parents, it’s an attempt at telling a child to “quiet down” but in a nicer way. Randomly, I hear parents tell this to their kids in the grocery store and, every once in a while, I hear a kid say back, “this is my inside voice.”  For other parents, there is a greater lesson they are trying to teach: tone stewardship.

Let me explain.

In most of the pastoral counseling I do, I can trace most issues back to communication. It’s why I talk constantly about the 3 “Ts” of communication (time, tone, and technique). But of the three, tone seems like one that is the “game-changer.”

I’ve heard it said that “10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion, and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice.” (Na Mariz) Your tone can create urgency or foster peace. It can bring passion or it can communicate displeasure. A forceful tone can speak of a lack of sensitivity just as much as sarcastic tone can miscommunicate indifference. Just a change in the fluctuation of your voice can make or break what needs to be said. What if, what you are trying to say, is getting lost in your tone?

What if the tone you’ve chosen isn’t as effective as you think it is? What if your tone is destroying everything your trying to communicate? So I thought I’d give you some “tone” thoughts.

You possess more than one tone.
It almost sounds overly simple. Yet I see so many marriages that do not adjust or manage their tone with each other. I hear statements like, “This is who I am” or “This is how my family talks to each other.” You you may be correct from one point of view, those statements are either ignorance of what your tones are doing to your spouse or you are giving yourself permission to not work personally on something. Tones can make or break a symphony. Your tone can add to the harmony of good communication or completely disrupt it.

Be a better listener. 
Many issues I come across are misguided reactions to misunderstood information. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. It’s engaging in someone’s context (their situation) and request (what are they really asking for). I often wonder if we seek to understand, rather than be understood, we’d have a better tone to our communication.  Your tone signifies what you are really listening to. For example, your spouse may be trying to tell you how hurt they are. If you don’t listen, your tone can be defensive over assuming you are the cause to the hurt. Where you’re busy defending yourself, you spouse may have needed a softer tone of understanding than a reactionary tone of defensiveness.

Learn to hear what people hear. 
I don’t like what I sound like. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle listening to my sermons the next day for evaluation. I’ll sit back and say, “Is that what I really sound like?” What you may hear coming out of your mouth may not be what people hear. Ever had a “fight within a fight”? This is one of those moments. You’re fighting over something, then a tone comes in, and now you’re fighting over the tone you used that your spouse took the “wrong way.”  If the people in your life are hearing what you are not hearing, it’s time to step back and realize: If I am the common denominator, then I may have a common problem. Self evaluation is more than the identification of issues. It’s a an understanding that you have more to grow in.

Stop giving yourself permission to be offensive. 
I grow weary of hearing the excuse “If people get offended by the truth, well, that’s their fault.” I partially agree with the statement. As a preacher, I have no problem confronting people with God’s Word but I don’t have to be a jerk about it. Being “truthful” has become the excuse to blast people all in the name of Jesus. Don’t leave a wake of mess behind you. Your mouth and it’s tone are gifts for you bless not curse; a vessel to be managed not to be enslaved by.

Keep conversations that demand tone offline.
I tire of messages from people who’ve decided to engage in conversations online that have blown up because it was a dialogue that demanded tone. For example, you type a message of apology to help convey your heartfelt request for forgiveness but also want to help the person understand why you reacted in the way they did. The person on the other side of the message reads: “I’m sorry. But my reaction was your fault but I’m going to be the bigger person and apologize first.” I’ve learned that I can emoji the crap out of a message in an attempt to develop some “tone,” but it does not replace the inflection of a voice and the gentleness of a humble heart that can only be conveyed in an audible tone.

I go back to my opening scripture,

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

How often are we to point the finger requesting that your spouse step up first? How often to we demand him/her to change before we’ll offer any more change? This simple scripture points to our hearts and says, “Stop blaming others for not being the source of peace. Go after peace as if it all depends upon you.”

Your tone is your responsibility. And your tone can make or break your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Lift the Lid: 3 Ways to Raise the Level of Your Marriage

I’m an eclectic reader.  As a pastor, my “reading bent” may be toward marital subjects, but I like to read on a variety of topic as I desire to constantly grow. And what I find myself doing is, as I read, I journal thoughts for personal reflection and make notes for future/potential sermon use.

It was about a month ago, I came across a couple of observations about Proverbs 31. The chapter, itself, has been historically known as the “Virtuous Woman.” I’ve heard it taught on, many times, as the “check-list” for how a woman ought to live.

But these two observations had nothing to do with an inventory of actions for a wife to live up to. They were two very refreshing takes on this beautiful chapter.

First,  Proverbs 31 was a blessing that Hebrew men memorized and sang over their wives. Not only was their time and effort made to read and memorize this song, but the care and intention was made to sing it over your wife. AND this specific song wasn’t there to be the “to-do” list, but colorful, poetic, and prophetic statements of value and encouragement.

Second, in verse 23, it says, “her husband is an elder at the gates of the city.” The verse attributes his position to herShe believed he was an elder before he was one. It makes me think of the amount of encouragement/affirmation he must have heard in his home that aided to the level that he rose to.  

For me personally, this chapter has been completely transformed. Two simple thoughts have only gone to emphasize that your marriage will not rise above your words. If you want your marriage to grow, your words, and how you use them, must grow too.

Take your spouse higher. (Sorry if you now have the Creed song  stuck in you head…I do.)
I wonder how many marriages are not seeing the growth they’ve craved because their words (tone, timing, technique) have stifled the growth.  Proverbs 31 shows me the power of words and how they raising the level health in the atmosphere in my home. And if I give my spouse a healthy atmosphere to grow, it gives a place for my marriage to grow. Where do you want your marriage to be? Your words facilitate the climate of how your relationship will grow.

Excel in generosity. Cut your spouse a bigger slice.
I like statistics. And I think the easiest way to show them is in a “pie chart.” 

If you were to take all of the words you give your spouse and create a pie chart, what percentage would be shown for things like encouragement and criticism, honor and disrespect, complement and sarcasm? Whatever you’ve been divvying out for your encouragement and honor, live generously and cut them a bigger slice! As silly as this might sound, I’ve never seen some get a bad attitude when someone offered to cut a larger slice of pie than anticipated (pie > cake).  Generosity is expressed in an act but proven in a lifestyle. All that to say, develop a lifestyle that is generous with words that build your spouse up.

Paint a better picture. 
Your words create identity. The verbiage you use (and how you use it) doesn’t give your spouse a new name but it tells her/him what you really believe about them. I’ve counseled with far too many people who would rather spend time at work or with friends simply because the words they hear, paint a more encouraging picture than the one depicted in their home. Two simple rules to live by, if you want to “paint a better picture” to your spouse is to, first, honor your spouse where you want them to be. I didn’t say to tell your spouse where you want them to be but “honor” them where you want them to be. When you show honor (or respect) it speaks of a humble and giving heart that shows recognition and value. I believe it prophetically speaks vision into your spouse of what you see in them

Then second, refuse to let anybody out-encourage your spouse. I’ll admit that I write about this A LOT. It’s primarily because I’ve seen far too many people be tempted through something, seemingly simple, yet profoundly powerful. I refuse to let anyone out-encourage me to my wife.

Today, I’m not asking you to memorize Proverbs 31 (or any song) to sing over your spouse. As much as Anne loves me, I don’t think she’d be encouraged by my singing voice. But I would challenge you to raise the level of the words of your home and marriage. Adjust the tones you use, think about the timing, and switch some of your techniques and watch health begin to develop in your lives.

Love you all. Praying for you today.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

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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: “Growing an Environment of Faith” #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 kicked off a new series at Kfirst. “The Two” is 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: “Faith will develop or deteriorate by the words that you speak.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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We are determined to be a voice of faith in a world that feeds off fear. But what comes out of our mouths is a result of what’s happening in our hearts. Like “The Two” (Caleb and Joshua), we need a response that will create an environment that will grow faith. Our two challenges:

  1. Silence the Negativity (Numbers 13:30). Use the right filter. See through the eyes of Jesus and respond with His love. Then change your inputs. Change the things that are feeding into you that are contrary to the nature of God.
  2. Speak faith & command your space. (Numbers 13:30; 14:7-9). God has placed you into your sphere of influence, not as a thermometer (telling the temp) but as a thermostat (setting the climate). Speak faith and set the environment for other’s faith to grow.

Our prayer this month:

Your two next steps this week: 

  1. Dedicate your words (spoken/typed) to reflect #TheTwo.
  2. Find TWO people this week to send a message to build their faith.

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 kick off a new series!

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

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…