Archive for January 30, 2016

A Husband’s Manifesto

A married man needs to decide what kind of husband he will be. What character will he reveal in his marriage? How does he want to interact with his wife and family? What is his purpose as a husband? With this in mind, I designed a “Husband Manifesto.” Look it over. See if you agree with the actions on this manifesto…and, consider what you might add to it?  Then, if you want more on becoming a great husband, check out our e-book, For His Eyes Only: A Devotional Workbook and Prayer Guide for Husbands. One reader commented on For His Eyes Only by saying, “If you are looking for a devotional to read that is Biblically based, short for each day’s reading, yet at the same time enlightening and challenging, I HIGHLY encourage you to give this one a try!”

husbandManifesto

Are You a Marriage Consumer?

We live in a world that encourages consumerism. From commercials to billboards, we are encouraged to consume products and services to gain rest, pain-free living, joy, and satisfying relationships. Movies even encourage the idea that intimate relationships “complete me,” satisfy our need for joy, and offer escape from bad situations. In such a world, marriage can become just another product to consume our never-ending search for self-satisfaction. If we fall into this trap, we become marriage consumers.

  • phubbingA marriage consumer uses marriage to satisfy his own needs and desires.
  • A marriage consumer demands his spouse to fill him with joy.
  • A marriage consumer expects his spouse to satisfy his hunger for approval and affection.
  • A marriage consumer consumes sexual intimacy, expecting to receive all he “deserves.”
  • A marriage consumer attaches himself to his spouse to get out of his parents’ house or away from the wrong crowd or into the most convenient lifestyle.
  • Overall, the marriage consumer finds who can provide what he hungers for and consumes it. Unfortunately, he consumes while giving nothing in return. Eventually, he is left with an empty shell of a spouse, a spouse sucked dry with nothing left to give.

There is an alternative to being a marriage consumer. In our consumer-oriented world, this alternative will strike many as risky. It will arouse our fear of becoming a doormat to our spouse. But, I can assure you nothing is further than the truth. This alternative can fill your marriage to overflowing and…The more you give the more you have to give. What is the alternative? To become a marriage servant.

  • A marriage servant his spouse as “more important than himself. He does not merely look out for his own personal interests, but also for the interests of his spouse (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • A marriage servant listens to understand the needs and desires of his spouse (James 1:19).
  • A marriage servant anticipates his spouse’s need for comfort, assurance, or love and strives to meet that need.
  • A marriage servant constantly seeks ways to express his love to his spouse.
  • A marriage servant engages in acts of kindness and support…smiling all the while.
  • A marriage servant energetically builds his spouse up.

You get the idea. A marriage consumer seeks to satisfy his own needs and, in the process, sucks his spouse dry. A marriage servant seeks to satisfy his spouse’s needs and, in the process, fills both his spouse and himself to overflowing with love, joy, and peace. Which do you want to become?

Parenting-The Most Important Thing

I have enjoyed teaching a Lifespan Development course at a local university for over ten years. For the last assignment I ask students to interview an adult over 65-years-old. I love reading these assignments. The students interview grandparents, neighbors, friends…anyone they know over 65-years-old.  They interview adults who have been homemakers, newscasters, WWII veterans, political refugees from various countries, politicians…people who have experienced amazing lives, participated in history changing events, and completed significant accomplishments. But, when asked about their “greatest accomplishment” or “greatest adventure,” their answer is family—children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces. Not just one or two seniors give this answer. More like 98% reported raising children and seeing children raise their own families as their single most significant accomplishment and greatest adventure. When it comes to the most important aspects of life, family rises to the top. President Obama said it well: “What I’ll remember on my last breath…it’s not going to be anything to do with my office…it’s going to be holding my daughter’s hand as we walk to the park and seeing the sun go down and pushing her on the swing.” Watch this video to hear the rest of President Obama’s advice for parenting…some very wise advice I might add.

Nothing on this earth is more important than family—your marriage and your children. Nothing is more important to the future than our children. “Act accordingly.”

 

By the way, here are a few other insightful quotes from President Obama’s parenting advice:

  • “Kids demand your attention.”
  • “Balance comes about easier if you got a partner who’s prepared to share that process with you.”
  • “When you are home, be home. Don’t be home and just vegging out…be engaged.”

Keep Your Marriage Great with this 7-Minute Exercise

Research from Northwestern University (Read the research here) suggests engaging in a simple 7-minute exercise following conflict can help couples “keep that loving feeling” alive. Pointing fingers at each otherIn this two-year study, couples who completed three-seven minute writing exercises in the second year of the study were less distressed by disagreements and maintained a higher level of marital satisfaction than those who did not do the exercise. Think about it. A simple seven-minute exercise helped couples stop ruminating about the conflict, reduce conflict related stress, maintain a high level of marital satisfaction, and preserve marital quality. I don’t know about you, but taking 21 minutes a year to keep the quality of my marriage high and the stress in my marriage low sounds like a great investment! So, if you want to keep your marriage strong, do this simple 7-minute exercise.

  1. Think about and write a brief summary of a specific disagreement you had with your spouse. Write this summary from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved (you, your spouse, and your family). How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
  2. Almost everybody finds it challenging to keep this third-party perspective at all times. In your relationship with your spouse, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third-party perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner? Write down the obstacles.
  3. Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party perspective, people can still successfully do it. Over the next week, please do your best to take this third-party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next week? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship? Write down your ideas.

In the Northwestern study, couples only completed this exercise three times in one year and found it helpful. I would suggest doing it more often so you can make it a mental habit. After all, it only takes 7-minutes. Why not complete this simple 7-minute exercise two times per month? That’s 14-minutes a month to preserve the quality of your marriage. By the way, quality in your marriage translates into greater happiness, more satisfying interactions, and a higher quality of sexual intimacy. 14-minutes a month can help with all that? Come one! That’s an investment well worth the time!

Children Thrive Under These 4 Parenting Practices

Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, suggests children thrive in an environment shaped by certain parenting practices (Learn More Here). Children who grow up in that environment become adults who experience less depression and anxiety, display a greater ability to take another person’s perspective, and exhibit an orientation toward compassion. In other words, these parenting practices not only help a person thrive in childhood, they also nurture mature adults who contribute to a healthy community that will provide a nurturing environment for the next generation of children. What are these crucial parenting behaviors?

  • A father helps his daughter on the playgroundResponsiveness. Responsive parents become students of their children. They learn about, and become sensitive to, their children’s cues and signals. They recognize their children’s emerging emotions and respond to the underlying need before they reach a disquieting level of stress. Research suggests this level of parental responsiveness contributes to greater empathy and a greater ability to meet their personal needs and anxieties. Responsiveness also nurtures a positive self-concept, decreasing the chances of experiencing depression.
  • Affectionate Touch. Touch helps soothe and calm children, nurturing their ability to soothe themselves. Touch also expresses love, building a sense of “lovability,” self-worth, and competence. Affectionate, loving touch helps children develop healthy personal boundaries that promote safety as well. Touch requires a parent’s physical presence…and children need lots of touch. So, spend lots of time with your children and fill it with loving touch.
  • Play. Free and imaginative play with parents and other loving community members benefits children. Play is interactive, enhancing social skills. Free play, unlike adult supervised play, requires negotiation and compromise, building healthy conflict resolution skills. Imaginative play also builds perspective taking which is so important to empathy and compassion. In addition, play provides the opportunity to create social supports. Play helps children “stand a head taller than themselves” (Read Make Your Child a Head Taller than Himself).
  • Community of Affectionate Caregivers. It’s true: It really does take a village to raise a child. We need our primary caregivers—our mother and father. Still, a community of affectionate people who engage in loving interactions and provide loving guidance empowers a parent to become even more responsive and affectionate. The loving community provides support in times of physical and emotional distress as well as a greater sense of security and trust. Healthy community nurtures empathy and compassion, kindness, and even a greater sense of justice.

When parents implement these four practices, children thrive. They mature into responsible adults who support a healthy community which, in turn, encourages parents who implement these four basic practices with a new generation of children. In other words, implementing these four parenting practices can initiate a revolution of growing health in our communities. Sounds like a great reason to start using these parenting practices today.

Because I Said So

I was talking to a young man last week about his struggles coming home from college between semesters. One of his struggles involved his parents setting rules with no parenting challengeexplanation. When he asked about the reasons for some rule, his parents would simply say, “Because I said so. I’m the parent and you need to listen. I said so…that should be enough!” I’m sure we’ve all heard that explanation in some form or another…and most of us have probably said it at one time or another. But, is it really true. Should our children obey simply “because I said so.” When we tell our children to obey “because I said so…”

  1. We expect them to respond simply because of we have authority and power. This may work while they are young. However, parents’ power wanes as their children mature. Parents’ power and authority will diminish if they attempt to control behavior only with power. As children mature, effective parental authority and power is directly proportional to the relationship they develop with their children. Teens rebel against their parents’ power not their parents’ love. They will use a strong parent-child relationship as a secure base, a place of safety, while attempting to discover their independent power.
  2. We send the message that our children are incapable of understanding the reason behind the rules and incapable of learning self-control. This message demeans our children. I understand the difference between a toddler and a teen and a college age child. Still, children can begin to learn self-control at any age. We can begin to offer age appropriate explanations for the rules when our children are young. I am not suggesting you offer long explanations and debates to your toddler, just a simple, short reason for the rule. “No cookie before dinner. It will ruin your appetite.” “Time for bed. You need rest to have the best time tomorrow.” These explanations can grow more involved as your children mature.
  3. Our children will have little to no motivation to follow the rule. They may even become resentful of the rule and the parent who enforces the rule. Opposition will increase. Parents will likely resort to nagging and lecturing since the only tool they know is asserting power. Children will dig in their heels or comply out of fear. The parent-child relationship suffers.

On the other hand, when we offer our children age appropriate explanations for the rules…

  1. Our children learn to follow the rules based on rational reasons and natural consequences of misbehavior. They learn to trust us as the reason for the rules match their experience. For instance, they learn staying up late really does impact their mood in the morning.
  2. Our children learn to obey their parents’ rules out of respect for authority. They learn authority can be trusted. Authority has their best interest in mind. Authority is benevolent and loving. Authority is positive and worth listening to.
  3. Our children learn self-discipline by internalizing our explanations over time. As children grow, they can learn the appropriate times to discuss various rules they would like to change. This discussion will involve both parent and child listening to one another and one another’s rationale…and, it may or may not lead to a change in the rule. Either way, it represents a child become more self-disciplined and self-controlled, the goal of discipline in the first place.

If you want to raise children who think for themselves, respect authority, and practice self-discipline you might need to offer more explanation for a rule than “because I said so.” It takes more work and more time, but the long-term reward will be an influential relationship with your respectful, loving young adult child.

NOT Just Any Old Bride & Groom

newly married couple chasing each other in fieldLast Saturday I had the privilege of witnessing the marriage of two wonderful people. I have known the bride a long time. In fact, when I first met her she was a toddler. I can still see her beautiful smile (she has always had a beautiful smile) as she ran (as only a toddler can) down the center aisle of our church before wrapping her arms around me with a big hug and kiss. Now she is an adult, a beautiful young woman. Last Saturday I watched her walk down the same center aisle at the same church with an even more beautiful smile and a much more graceful gait. Her eyes, glistening with tears of joy, focused intently on the young man at the front of the church, the man she was marrying. As I watched her exchange vows, I was struck by her beauty, a lovely young lady giving her heart to the man she loves. And I realized I was not merely witnessing the marriage of a young lady, but the marriage of a precious child of our heavenly Father…a heavenly Father who has cared for her and protected her in so many ways. Exchanging her vows, she stands before her groom as a reflection of her loving Father. She bears His heavenly image: strong yet willing to become vulnerable in giving her heart to the one she loves; compassionate and gracious, willing to share her life and resources with another; honest, willing to speak the truth in love if and when conflicts arise. Yes, she is a child of our King, the temple of His Holy Spirit, a sacred vessel of God deserving of great respect and worthy to receive the deep love of another.

I have only met the groom a few times; but, based on those meetings, I know he will treat her with that respect, caring for her as a precious and sensitive daughter of our Eternal King. I have seen glimpses of the strong leader inherent in this young man. He, too, bears the image of His Heavenly Father. I see that image reflected in his willingness to lead his marriage through humble service and his respectful pursuit of intimacy. I pray he will protect his bride and his marriage from the trap of busyness that causes couples to drift from one another. I ask God to give him the wisdom to protect his bride from the world’s lies that prey on the lonely and disconnected. I pray that, as a leader in his marriage, he will take the initiative to pursue peace and actively seek out opportunities to cleanse her with words of kindness and gratitude on a daily basis. I pray knowing he will do these things. I’ve seen it in his actions and words already. He is a man of God…a child of our Eternal Father.

So, as I watch the bride and groom seal their marriage with a kiss, I smile and give thanks to our Father for the wonderful work he has done in the lives of these newlyweds. I rejoice to see His image reflected in the bride, the groom, and their union. I look forward with great anticipation to bear witness to the new and equally amazing work He will do in their lives as a couple. Love you. Congratulations…and may the celebration never end!

Want More Positive Interactions with Your Spouse?

Want more positive interactions in your marriage? Become more spiritual! That’s the findings of a research team from Bowling Green University. They explored the connection between spirituality and marriage in a study involving 164 heterosexual couples having African American Couple Laughing On The Floortheir first child (click here for full article). The members of the research team defined “spirituality” as the “disclosure of one’s journey, questions, and doubts” to a spouse who “offered non-judgmental support when receiving the disclosure.” The results suggest that couples who report more spiritual intimacy also exhibit more positive behaviors and fewer negative behaviors toward one another, even in the midst of high conflict discussions. Perceived spiritual intimacy motivates couple to remain kind and increases their desire to preserve and protect their spouse and marriage. This study also found that those who view their marriage as sacred—as eternal and holy, reflective of God’s intentions—experienced more positive marital interactions as well.

So, we ask again: do you want a marriage with more positive interactions, even in the midst of conflict? Become more spiritual…and here are 4 ways to help you do this.

  • Consider how your marriage reflects God’s intentions. For instance, Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. The opportunity to serve your spouse represents an opportunity to reflect the servanthood of Christ as described in Philippians 2. There are more to consider…like 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 4:25-29, Colossians 3:12-17. Reflect on how your marriage reveals God’s intention.
  • Share your life’s journey with your spouse. Recognize that life is a journey for all of us. Like any journey or adventure, our life’s journey is more enjoyable when shared with another. Share it with your spouse. And spouses, listen to that journey. Allow yourself to recognize the miracle inherent in your spouse’s story. Sharing our journey and standing in awe of the miracle of that journey will increase respect and intimacy in ways you never imagined.
  • Accept your spouse where they walk in their journey. We are all in different points on the journey. We all have doubts and questions. Listen to your spouse’s doubts and questions. Accept those doubts and questions and join your spouse in his or her struggle with them. Enjoy the intimacy that grows from exploring those doubts and questions. You might be surprised at how much your intimacy grows through the struggle.
  • Recognize the sacredness of your marriage. When you married your spouse, you set your relationship apart as sacred. Your relationship with your spouse is holy, a step above all other earthly relationships. You set your marriage apart as the place to share your deepest joys and your most profound sorrows. Your marriage is a place set apart to share your greatest creative work, the raising of children. In marriage you ordain your relationship as the place of personal growth, a place of sacrificial giving, a place of dying to yourself in order to promote your spouse’s growth. Marriage truly is a most sacred place.

Consider how your marriage reflects God. Share your life’s journey with your spouse. Accept your spouse’s journey. Recognize the sacredness of your marriage. Take time to do these four things and you will experience greater intimacy, more positive interactions, and more joy in your marriage. (And, might I say a more satisfying sexual relationship? Yes, I think I will! You will experience a Sacred Sex, as Tim Alan Gardner so aptly names it.)

Join My New Year Epidemic

A new year has begun. I’m glad. I am tired of the hassle, the bureaucracy, the constant barrage of sensational seeking in the news. I want to shed the heaviness of stress and feel the lightness of joy. So, I’ve decided to start an epidemic in my family. That’s right. I want to become ground zero for sending cheerfulness viral this year, starting right here in my own home with my own family. Perhaps you will join this epidemic to spread cheer and joy in your family and, from there, into the world around us. Here are some ways I plan to spread cheer this year.

  1. Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Smile. I am going to find reasons to smile. When I don’t feel like smiling, I will intentionally smile. I will smile at my spouse when she walks into the room. I will smile at my children every chance I get. I will smile at the clerk who rings up my groceries and even the person who cuts me off in traffic. I will smile because I’m happy to be alive. Smiling brings joy to the one smiling and the one who sees the smile. (Read On Safari for the Elusive Smile for more benefits of smiling.)

  2. Laugh. Yes, I want to laugh. I will seek out jokes to make my whole family laugh. I will laugh at myself. I may even tell more dad jokes (learn about The Power of the Dad Joke) to create more “rolling eye laughter” among my family. A good hearty laugh is good for us. It will reduce stress and draw our families closer together. (More in Laughter is No Laughing Matter)
  3. Show kindness. Nothing increases cheer and joy more than sharing a kind deed or being the recipient of an unexpected, kind deed. So, this year I will make it a point to show kindness to others. I will hold doors open for my family and the stranger behind us. I will give away the last cookie and let my spouse control the remote—in a real blast of kindness I will even let my children control the remote. I will wash dishes and do other chores around the house. I will seek out ways to help my neighbors. Cheerfulness and joy will ride into our lives on acts of kindness; I’m seeking ways to remain on kindness the whole way into the lives of all those I meet. (Click here to learn about The Mighty Power of Kindness and 8 Ways to Teach Children to be Kind.)
  4. Express gratitude. In the midst of our abundance, we sometimes lose sight of how richly our families are blessed. We neglect to offer thanks and become burdened with the weight of ungratefulness and even entitlement. This year I will combat that sense of entitlement and say “thanks” to those who wait on my table at a restaurant or ring up my drink at the gas station. I will thank those who teach my children. I will thank my children and my spouse for all they do. I will become known as “the guy who always says thank you.” Wouldn’t you like to know that guy? Wouldn’t you be glad to help that guy? I would. This year, I’m going to “be that guy!” How about you? (Learn about more benefits of Intentional Gratitude in this short blog.)
  5. Practice acceptance. This may prove one of the hardest behaviors in my search for cheer this year. In the words of the serenity prayer, “I will accept the things I cannot change.” Bureaucracy will continue to mount its assault. Hassles will remain countless. Stressors will constantly arise. But, I will accept these impingements on my joy as reminders of what I have. The hassle of being caught in traffic reveals the blessing of owning a car. The bureaucracy that raises the cost of nearly everything reminds me that I have employment and income and opportunities. The stress of paying bills reminds me of the abundant material blessing I have—running water, TV, internet, heat, air conditioning, transportation, etc.—that many in the world are forced to live without. Which brings me to the final way I will spread cheer this year…
  6. Practice generosity. Our families truly are blessed. Unfortunately, those blessings sometimes enslave us and we begin to hoard the blessings. This year I will “break out of the hoard” and share…generously…as abundantly as possible. There is joy in giving, great joy. In fact, an ancient writer tells us that Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Your act of generosity may even get paid forward in another act of generosity, creating a rippling effect from ground zero in the epidemic of cheerfulness (read about a way to Pay It Forward here).

 

I’m starting this year…ground zero for an epidemic of cheerfulness and joy. I’m making it a point to spread cheer in my family and beyond. The world MAY BE a better place for it; but my family and I WILL BE a happier people because of it. Will you make your family a happier people?