Archive for Honor

Is Your Marriage a LIVED Priority?

We often get caught up in the seemingly urgent needs in life and so neglect our true priorities. We become overwhelmed by the crises—like broken water heaters, sudden car repairs—and pressing problems—like paying bills or caring for our home. We also become distracted by the daily activities that become all-consuming when we haven’t prepared for them. For instance, our children’s bedtime can become an ordeal when we haven’t developed a healthy bedtime routine. Without a menu, mealtime become a pressing need that requires us to devote thought, time, & energy to it every day…time & energy we could devote to other priorities like our marriages.  

Or, we get carried away with distractions, those things we really don’t care about but “suck up our time” nonetheless. You know what I mean…things like video games, phone games, videos, or binge-watching Netflix. We start off with the goal of relaxing for 5 minutes in front of a screen and suddenly realize we have neglected our families and marriages for the whole evening.

Or, we let lesser priorities squeeze out our most important priorities. For instance, we let work or self-care squeeze out our family time. 

You get the idea. Amidst our crises and distractions, our marriages often get neglected. Arguments over crises and pressing problems begin to form a wedge between us and our spouse. Distractions drive that wedge deeper. We grow distance as more distractions come between us and our spouse. The arguments grow as the distance increases. Lesser priorities push our marriages further out of focus and replace them in our lives. Why does this happen? Because we failed to make our marriages a “daily lived priority.” We did not think to make our marriages a daily lived priority amidst the crises, pressing problems, distractions, and lesser priorities that flood our lives. Healthy marriages require action, intention, investment…even amid life’s distractions.

So, what can you do to make your marriage a “daily lived priority” rather than a “believed priority”?

  1. Put your marriage on your calendar. You can tell a lot about a person’s “daily lived priorities” by what makes the calendar.  Wherever we invest our time is a “daily lived priority.” So, put your marriage on the calendar. Invest time. Go on a date. In fact, whether it’s a weekend trip or a quiet night snuggling on the couch after the kids go to be, enjoy a date night every week.
  2. Hug every day when you go your separate ways. Yes, physical affection is crucial investment in your marriage. Don’t limit your hug to a simple “bro-hug” type. Give one another a big hug, a bear hug, an oxytocin hug. Hug it out big!
  3. Kiss and hug every night before you go to bed. I think it important to enjoy physical affection at the end of the day. No matter your mood. No matter your energy. Take time to wish each other a good night’s rest with a sincere hug and kiss.
  4. Find a way to eat at least one meal a day together. My wife and I enjoy lunch together because we work evenings. Perhaps you and your spouse will enjoy supper or breakfast or even a “brunch.” Whatever meal you can schedule together, do so as often as you can.
  5. Put the kids to bed. In fact, put them to bed early. Get your children on a schedule that allows them to have a good night’s rest and allows you and your spouse alone after they go to bed and before your bedtime. This will be a great time to talk and catch up. (Even your teen needs sleep!)
  6. Spend at least 20 minutes every day talking to one another about your day. Healthy marriages thrive on open communication, the sharing of ideas and plans and the “what-happened-today” interactions. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy this conversation with your spouse. Your children will get used to you having this conversation and will “entertain themselves” while you do it. They will also enjoy the security of seeing their parents enjoying conversation with one another. Take 20 minutes and savor your spouse.
  7. Find a hobby to share together. After all, families that play together stay together. Get out there an enjoy a hobby together.

Is There a Hole in Your Marital Roof?

Roofs are important.  More specifically, roofs that don’t leak are important. Roofs with no holes. Roofs that protect. My family and I stayed in a cabin at St. Johns. We liked to eat on the deck. It had no roof, but it really wasn’t a problem until an iguana climbed onto a branch above my daughter and well… “relieved” himself in her cereal. A roof would have been nice.

Or, the time my family and I went camping when I was a kid and it started raining. I mean pouring. It always did when we camped. Of course, we had the tent and a dining canopy to keep us dry. But they were old school and as soon as you touched them, they started leaking. Drip…drip…drip. Drip on my head. Drip on our game. Drip on the table. Yeah, a solid roof would be nice.

Recently my wife and I visited a beautiful location in Cartagena.  They had a nice outdoor dining area. A mango tree grew just outside the walls of the roofless dining area and its branches offered some shade. Nice…until mangoes started dropping off onto peoples’ heads.  Needed to add a roof for protection.

Yes, it’s nice to have a roof…even in your marriage! Paul, a first century Jewish evangelist, tells us that “love bears all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). Interestingly, the Greek word for “bears” (“stego”) means to “cover, to protect.” It’s the verb form of the Greek word for “roof”! In marriage, love is like the roof over our heads. Love takes action to cover, to protect, to preserve. A roof protects the security of our home by keeping weather, animals, and other harmful menaces out of our house. But what does love protect our marriage from? More specifically, what does love protect in your marriage? 

  • Love protects our reputations. Rather than talking trash on a spouse, love lifts a spouse up. Love elevates a spouse to others. Love speaks words of admiration about a spouse. Love does not broadcast a spouse’s shortcomings or mistakes but works first and foremost to resolve them in the private intimacy of their relationship. Love stops the gossip that threatens reputation and seeks the truth that can replace that gossip.
  • Love protects us from hurtful words. Love offers words of blessing rather than words of cursing. It offers words of encouragement rather than words of discouragement. Love does not drown a spouse in impolite, angry words but showers them with words of kindness and love. Rather than criticize and put down, love lifts up and encourages.
  • Love protects from outside forces that interfere with a healthy marriage.  Love keeps those things that do not belong under a marital roof out of the marriage—things like pornography, unhealthy people, and overscheduled lives. Love strives to keep the marriage a safe haven, a place where nothing interferes with a growing love and intimacy.

Yes, a roof protects. It covers. It keeps the unwanted out and enhances safety and security within. It allows us to be vulnerable and grow more intimate without fear of outside factors interfering. Love does the same. Love is the roof over your head.

Thank You, Body

Our society sends conflicting messages about their bodies, mixed messages that seem to develop a love/hate relationship with our bodies. As a result, a large percentage of people are dissatisfied with their bodies. Perhaps we need to change the focus from external appearance to function and character. We need to teach our children that what a body does for us is more important than appearance alone. We need to teach our children to be grateful for their body. With that in mind, I wanted to share this “body prayer” from Body Prayers: Finding Body Peace—A Journey of Self-Acceptance by Rebecca Ruggles Radcliffe (Copyright©1999 EASE). Share it with your children and let’s begin to raise a generation that appreciates their body.

Thank you hips for carrying me forward this morning.

Thank you legs for being strong enough to push on through the distance I choose to go.

Thank you feet for holding me, lifting me, supporting my every step.

Thank you ribs for sheltering my precious lungs.

Thank you lungs for taking in the sun-filled morning.

Thank you arms for embracing my life, for grabbing onto what is important to me.

Thank you face for feeling the wind and the sweetness of the day.

Thank you eyes for taking it all in, for keeping me centered, grounded, and here today.

Thank you brain for coordinating this amazing journey.

Thank you fingers for being able to stroke my child’s back, fingers, face, hair…

Thank you mouth for swallowing my morning tea.

Thank you heart for being so dedicated, so loyal, so loving.

Thank you soul for wanting so much more.

Thank you stomach for sorting out all that I put in, good and bad.

Thank you intestines for clearing out all that I do not need.

Thank you endocrine system for keeping me balanced, healthy, alive.

Thank you skin for containing me in one miraculous package.

Thank you hair for blowing free and helping me to dream.

Thank you neck for keeping all the communications in my life flowing.

Thank you womb for making me creative, life-producing, feminine, changing, growing.

Thank you teeth for enabling me to bite off what I like and growl at what I don’t.

Thank you ears for listening to the higher voice.

Thank you tongue for helping me to sing.

This is my beautiful body today and always.

Marital Warning: Don’t Argue While Hungry

Hangry. The bad-tempered, irritable, agitated state a person experiences when they are hungry. Snickers made a whole series of humorous commercials based on it.

Hangry. It’s a real thing…and it can wreak havoc on your marriage. Just consider this study involving married couples and a “spouse doll.” Researchers gave participants a “spouse doll” for three weeks. Every night during those three weeks they could “jab their spouse doll” with pins. The number of pins used in the “jabbing session” increased as the poker partner’s blood sugar went down. In other words, the hungrier the spouse doing the poking, the more pins they stuck in their spouse doll! The “hangrier” the spouse, the more vengeful they became.   

The same researchers invited these couples to their lab at the end of the three-week period. They put them in two separate rooms and set up a friendly competition. The partners would compete with one another to see who could push a button faster in response to a target turning red. (In reality, they were competing against a computer so the researchers could control the winner.) Whoever “won” had the opportunity to blast their spouse’s headphones with a noise as loud and as long as they wanted. Guess what. The lower the “winner’s” blood sugar, the louder and longer they blasted the noise. Hunger increased the negative actions of the “winning” spouse. Hangry spouses were just plain meaner.

In a different study, people were asked to interpret another person’s body language. They were better able to interpret another person’s body language after having a drink of lemonade with real sugar in it. (The artificial sweeteners did not have the same effect.) In other words, hunger made a person less able to read another person’s body language. Hangry people are less aware of their partner’s body language and, as a result, their partner’s subtle responses and emotions.

These studies reveal a great piece of advice for married couples. Don’t have that argument when one or both of you is hangry. Don’t discuss areas of disagreement when hangry. Hangry is not a good state for marital disagreements. Hangry will just make your marital disagreement worse. So, if you and your spouse have a disagreement, don’t talk it out while hungry. Instead, have a nice dinner and then talk about it over dessert. It’s like food therapy for marriage. Have a disagreement? Go get a snack and talk about it while you eat. Making a big decision in which you have different opinions? Get some dinner and talk about it after ordering dessert. And…don’t get a spouse doll to stick pins in. That’s just crazy!

Kissing for Health? Hmmm…

If you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more.  A 2009 study completed by researchers at Arizona State University suggests kissing your spouse can do all that…and it’s fun. The study involved 52 couples. Half were asked to increase the frequency and duration of kissing their partner “to a notable degree” for 6 weeks. The other group made no change in their behavior. Both groups completed various surveys as well as having fasting bloodwork taken before and after the six-week testing period.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another reported an increase in verbal affection and overall relationship satisfaction. They also reported less conflict, less difficulty communicating, and less arguing in general. In other words, kissing increased their intimacy as a couple and their satisfaction with their relationship overall.

The couples that increased the frequency and duration of kissing one another also exhibited a decrease in total cholesterol between the bloodwork taken before and after the 6-week “kissing period.”  Kissing actually correlated with a decrease in cholesterol. In other words, kissing promoted health!

Let me say again: if you’re looking for a way to have a more intimate relationship with your spouse and a way to promote your spouse’s health, look no more. Just start enjoying some good old-fashion kissing!

Build-a-Spouse

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Build a Bear.” If you have children (or, if you’re the romantic type), you have probably even visited “Build a Bear” shop and…well, built a teddy bear for the one you love.  Imagine what it would be like to “build a spouse.” You’d have your budget already set as you walk into a store filled with various traits you can purchase. You’d allocate your finances for the traits you desire in a spouse—a large part of the budget toward those traits you desire most, the deal-breakers, and a small part of the budget toward those traits that are nice but simply not necessary. And, poof…out pops a spouse, built to specification.  Sounds crazy, but….

Researchers at Swansea University actually did this (well, metaphorically speaking, without actually “building” a physical spouse). They gave over 2,700 college students from across the globe (Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway, the UK, and Australia) a budget and a list of eight qualities they might like in a spouse. Armed with finances and a list of attributes available, these college students “built a spouse.” The eight attributes included: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, chastity, religious involvement, the desire for children, and creativity. (I would have added a few other traits, but I wasn’t creative enough to think of the “build a spouse” study.) Each participant had three opportunities to “build a spouse” based on these attributes: one time on a low budget, one time on a medium budget, and (you guessed it) one time on a high budget. Comparing the choices made on various budgets allowed the researchers to determine traits that participants deemed necessary verses traits deemed a luxury.

Overall, across cultures and genders, kindness received the lion’s share of the budget (22-26%). Physical attraction and good financial prospects were the next two most desired traits. Physical attraction, however, was rated as a “necessity” for men more often than women (22% of the budget for men vs. 16% for women). Good financial prospects were deemed an important trait for women more so than men (18% of the budget for women vs. 12% of the budget for men). Still, neither rated as high as kindness. (For an overview read Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner.)

Kindness was the number one priority to have in a long-term partner in this study. Chances are, you and your spouse put a high priority on kindness in a spouse, too. So, if you want to have a happy, healthy marriage, practice kindness in your marriage and family. To help you get started, here are 31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage. (Read the Mighty Power of Kindness for Families to consider how kindness will impact not just your marriage but your family and our world.)

I would have added a few other traits to the list of possibilities for purchase—traits like honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty. I wonder what would get the lion’s share of the budget then? What traits would you add to your “build-a-spouse” project? What are the most important traits to you in a spouse? Why not spend a little time discussing these qualities with your spouse this week—perhaps over a cup of coffee or a dinner date?  

A Surprising Contributor to Long Life

This surprising contributor to a long life was uncovered after examining data from 4,400 couples over the age of 50 and living in the United States. For eight years, these couples reported on their life satisfaction and several other factors believed to be related to longevity. Of course, this study confirmed several factors known to contribute to a long life…things like physical activity and access to resources. But, one factor was surprising. A happy spouse was associated with longer life. That’s right. Those participants who had a happy spouse tended to live longer. Those whose partners had a higher life satisfaction lived longer. It seems that higher life satisfaction (happiness) in one’s spouse led to greater physical activity and less stress for both partners. This finding held true even when other factors—like resources, physical activity, self-rated health, and partner death—were taken into consideration. In other words, spousal happiness had a positive impact on longevity of life regardless of other factors that also influence longevity. (Read a review of the study in People With Happy Spouses May Live Longer.)

If you want your spouse to have a long and happy life, learn to love life yourself. Build your happiness…your spouse will live longer as a result. For tips on how to do this, read:

And, if you want to live a long life yourself, promote your spouse’s happiness. Support your spouse’s dreams. Acknowledge your spouse’s effort. Thank your spouse for deeds done. All these will build their happiness…and contribute to your longer life. Even more, you’ll both enjoy your long lives together; lives filled with dreams and adventures you enjoy together; lives filled with satisfaction, joy and intimacy.

Pushed to Succeed-The New ‘At-Risk’ Group

We’ve heard a lot about adverse childhood events (ACEs) and how they detrimentally effect a child’s life. It makes sense. Trauma, abuse, bullying, poverty, parents who abuse drugs, incarcerated parents…these all have a negative impact on childhood and development. But, a recent “consensus study report” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has added youth who attend high-achieving schools to this list of “at-risk youth.” (Students in high-achieving schools are now named an “at risk” group, study says—Washington Post.) In other words, a consensus has been reached among the National Academies of Sciences that an overemphasis on personal achievement puts our youth at risk just as much as poverty, abuse, and trauma. Sounds crazy at first. But, consider just the short-term negative impact of an overemphasis on achievement.

Don’t put your child at-risk by overemphasizing achievement. Instead, encourage them to do their best. Accept your children as “wonderfully ordinary.” (Overcoming Fear of the Ordinary) Teach them kindness, gratitude, and good character rather than overemphasizing achievement. You might be surprised as you do this. Your children might just achieve more as they experience your acceptance and grow more self-motivated in response.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads of Daughters: TIME

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” “Cheat codes” help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon they need to succeed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you probably feel like you need a “cheat code.” You want some inside information to help you move up to an advanced level of understanding or win points to deepen your relationship your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” for obtaining the special power needed to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters. 

The Cheat Code: Spend Time With Your Daughter.

Purpose: Spending Time With Your Daughter will…

  1. deepen your relationship with her,
  2. increase your understanding of her, and
  3. strengthen your influence with her.

Value: Why is spending time with your daughter important? Your daughter does not spell “love” with the letter “L.” She spells it with the letter “T” for T.I.M.E. Spending time with your daughter communicates your love for her. It increases her sense of value and self-worth.

Instructions: In order to communicate love effectively through time, you have to make some adjustments.

  1. Put down your cell phone.
  2. Turn off the TV. Quit reading the paper. Stop watching the game.
  3. Spend 20-30 minutes simply interacting with your daughter. You can do this by going for a walk with her or simply sitting down with her and talking. You could take a ride to the ice cream shop and talk over an ice cream cone. Let your creativity and your daughter’s interests guide the where and when of the conversation.
  4. Use your time to time to listen “twice as much as you talk.” Let her set the topic of conversation. If she does not initiate a topic, ask about her interests, her activities, her friends, or her dreams. Compliment some aspect of her that you admire.
  5. When she does bring up a topic, show interest. You may not really be interested in the “best color skirt” to wear to the dance or the ongoing saga of girl life in middle school. Show interest anyway. Ask a few questions. Be excited with her and mourn with her. Learn about how she thinks about everything. 
  6. As you spend time with your daughter, she will learn of her value. She will learn she is valuable enough to have your undivided attention for a period of time every day. You will also develop a stronger relationship with her…one that will last a lifetime.

Stay tune for more “cheat codes” to come!

4 Simple Ways to Build Cooperation with Your Children

As parents, we teach our children to help around the house, to become part of the household, to cooperate with chores. When we successfully involve our children in “running the household,” they develop a growing sense of value, purpose, and competence (If your children don’t know, send them this letter: Dear Children, The Real Reason I Make You Do Chores). In spite of these benefits and all our good intentions, our children rarely say, “Oh cool. Thanks for the work. I love it.” Right? They often respond with complaining, grumbling, some odd body movement or facial expression that elevates us to a surprising level of agitation, or slamming things around. It gets old quick. So, when I can find any hints to help build cooperation, I “swoop ’em up.”  The more options we have as parents, the better off we are. The more tools we own, the more problems we can fix. With that in mind, here are 4 tools to help increase your children’s cooperation around the house.

Give choices. Choices empower our children. Choices also maintain parental authority. What kind of choices can you give?

  • Our children can choose what they’d like to do to help. For instance, “Would you like to set the table for dinner or pour the drinks?” Or, “We have to clean up before our guests arrive. Do you want to clean the tub or run the vacuum?” “Would you rather take a bath or a shower tonight?” 
  • At times, our children can choose the timing of their cooperation. For instance, “Do you want to take a bath before eating your snack or after your snack?” “Would you rather cut the grass today or tomorrow?”
  • They can help make family decisions with their choices. “Would you rather have green beans or corn with dinner tonight?” “Would you rather go to the library today and museum next week or the museum today and the library next week?” You can even include your children in the choice vacation places and times. “We have to decide between camping at the ocean or by the lake. Which do you want to do?” Just be sure you’re willing to take their input seriously.
  • Children can also make choices about clothing and styles. “Do you want to wear this red shirt or the blue one tomorrow?” “Which swimsuit do you want to take to the party?”

Offer a carrot not an ultimatum. Offering a carrot involves the promise of a more enjoyable and preferred activity after the chore is done. For instance, “We’ll head to the park and get some ice cream as soon as your room is cleaned up.” “I’ll get the movie ready and, as soon as you’re done taking out the garbage, we’ll start watching it.” Notice the carrot is offered as an incentive rather than used as a threat of what they might lose. Incentives are kinder than threats. Incentives build cooperation; threats and ultimatums build walls and elicit anger. Offer a carrot.

Be specific with your requests. Let your children know “how many,” “how much,” and “how long.” “Bring the towels to the laundry” may result in them bringing 2 of the 5 dirty towels you wanted followed by them complaining when you telling them to go back for the rest. Start off with a more specific request, “Bring all the dirty towels to the laundry. There are at least 5 of them.” Or, “I need your help for about 15 minutes. Then you’re free to go.” “We need to wash the dishes. It will take about 20 minutes then you can meet your friends.” This specificity gives an end in sight and helps them focus for the time needed to complete the task.      

Be polite.  Everyone is more willing to cooperate when asked politely. Aren’t you? And, your politeness models politeness for your children. Be as polite to your children as you want them to be toward you. It’s a two-way street starting with your politeness toward them. (Read Children: Jesus in the House for more on this 2-way street of politeness.)

Give choices. Offer carrots rather than ultimatums. Be specific in your requests. Be polite. Do these 4 things and you will experience a whole new level of cooperation coming from your children!

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