Tag Archive for sacrifice

Powerful Hints to Build a Happy Marriage

Linda and Charlie Bloom recently wrote an article in Psychology Today describing essential qualities of happy marriages. They came up with seven qualities by interviewing “50 of the happiest couples” they could find. Their conclusions are very insightful…and I wanted to share a short summary of them with you.

  1. Happy couples appreciate the differences between them and their partner. In fact, many of the happy couples managed and enjoyed profound differences between them and their partner. They saw those differences as adding richness to their relationship. As a result, they could appreciate and express gratitude for their differences. (Appreciating your spouse holds other benefits as well. Read A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life to learn of one.)
  2. Happy couples found delight in bringing greater fulfillment and joy into their partner’s life. They did not consider it a sacrifice to promote their partner’s success and joy. Instead, they found it a pleasure to see their partner find fulfillment and success. (Discover how this attitude helps the family in The Lost Art of Sacrifice in the Family.)
  3. Happy couples kept short accounts of wrongs committed. They practiced quick apologies and forgiveness. They effectively and quickly dealt with any disappointments that occurred.
  4. Individuals in a happy marriage take responsibility for their part in any conflict. They do not blame, become defensive, or scapegoat. Instead, they take responsibility for the impact of their actions and words upon their partner. They acknowledge their responsibility and make amends as needed. (Taking responsibility for our actions may involve saying The Hardest Word.)
  5. Happy couples practice honesty. But, rather than practicing “brutal honesty,” they practice sensitive, loving honesty. They remained sensitive to their partner’s feelings and vulnerabilities when expressing their honest thoughts and feelings.
  6. Happy couples maintained a healthy balance between self-care and marital care. Happy couples saw each partner’s health and well-being as inextricably tied to the health and well-being of their marriage. So, they practiced healthy self-care and encouraged their spouse to practice healthy self-care.
  7. Finally, happy couples practiced gratitude on a daily basis. Gratitude seemed to contribute to an optimistic view of their partner and their marriage. Ironically, this optimistic view of their partner and marriage contributed to even more gratitude.

These seven points are excellent ways to keep your marriage strong. Read them over and talk about them with your spouse.  Discuss how you can begin to practice each one in your marriage. Start today. Your partner will love you for it, your marriage will be stronger for it, and you’ll both discover a growing happiness in one another. Who could ask for more?

Another Successful Family Camp On The Books (2018)

Family can be an amazing, joyous celebration…sometimes. At other times family can produce a struggle. After all, family is made up of imperfect people. Still, God can use your family for amazing things. That’s Image may contain: one or more people, pool, swimming and outdoorone of the lessons from Family Camp at Camp Christian this year. Rich Aubrey taught us several things about family. For instance, he showed us how restores through family and blesses through family. He explained how God loves and blesses families, not just traditional nuclear families, but all families. If your family has experienced hardships or losses, don’t worry. God can reshape tragedy within families to create blessings when we turn toward one another and join with one another in facing the challenges of life. Those family blessings continue to grow when we learn to express our power in humble service and accept one another’s influence, to submit to one another in the reverence for Christ. This is all great advice for our families, advice that will strengthen our families. Thank you Rich and Sherri for sharing with us.

 

Great teaching is only part of the experience of Family Camp though. The children play. The adults talk. Whole families join together for activities and meals. Everyone shares. I especially enjoy seeing families in all stages and walks of life coming together to encourage and support one another. It’s a beautiful sight to see the expressions of love between family members and between families…to watch a father fishing with his son, a father teaching his daughter music, a couple walking hand in hand with their children gathered around them, parents offering loving correction and teaching …. These are beautiful sights. Perhaps the most touching moments come when families gather together to worship, to sing and learn about God’s plan for family. Even more amazing is when families actually practice what they learn–giving of themselves to their spouse and children; serving one another by getting a drink, clearing the dishes, or serving the food; or lifting up another family’s need to help them through a hard time. All in all, it gives me great hope.

 

If you have not experienced family at its best, I invite you to Family Camp next year. Terri and Jim Jones organize a wonderful weekend with plenty of free time for family fun and great teachers for encouraging words to strengthen families. They get better every year…so can’t wait to see you there next year!

What’s Love In Your Marriage?

Love…we have a lot of confusion around love in our society.

  • From Tina Turner telling us, somewhat cynically about love, you “must understand though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react, that it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl. Opposites attract. It’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that. What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
  • To John Legend, who speaks of throwing his all into love “cause all of me loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfection…. You’re my end and my beginning; even when I lose I’m winning ’cause I give you all, all of me…and you give me all, all of you.”
  • To Blake Shelton speaking of needing the one he loves “Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt. For when I think I’ve lost my way there are no words here left to say, it’s true…God gave me you.”
  • To the J. Geils Band telling us “…this thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry…Love stinks.”

All in all, we get a montage of love that leaves us confused and unsure of what true love really is.

In wedding ceremonies, I often hear another description of love, an ancient description written by Paul, a follower of Christ, to the church in Corinth. It begins with “Love is patient” and continues to offer a wonderful, inclusive definition of love. 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;

 

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

 

Does not at unbecomingly;

 

It does not seek its own, is not provoked,

 

Does not take into account a wrong suffered,

 

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

 

Bears all things, believes all things,

 

Does all things, endures all things.

 

Love never fails…

But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three;

 

But the greatest of these is love.”

Love as described in this passage can make or break your marriage. It lays the foundation for a intimate marriage filled with joy. It’s a beautiful passage, but if fear we don’t take the time to really explore what it tells us about love. For instance, consider the first word: love.  The word for love in the original language of this passage is “agape.”  The author could have chosen “eros,” “phileo,” or “storge,” all Greek words for love; but he didn’t. He chose to use “agape,” a word that speaks of a higher love, the love of God. “Agape” is more than a feeling and more than an action based on feelings. “Agape” takes great pleasure in the person it loves and is willing to pay a personal price to continue seeking that person’s good. It sets aside pride, self-interest, and personal possessions to benefit the one loved. Although “agape” can include physical love, emotions, and natural connection, it goes…

  • beyond passion to commitment,
  • beyond the physical to intentional self-giving,
  • beyond feelings to an act of will,
  • beyond natural connection to a connection that requires self-sacrificing development.

As we implement this type of love in our marriages, our marriages will grow stronger and more intimate.

PS: Stay tuned as we explore more about this type of love in future blogs.

With An Eye to the Future

One of my daughter’s dearest friends (and a close family friend as well) got married in September. They arranged a beautiful wedding and reception. There were two unique aspects of their wedding that revealed their hearts and the direction of their life together. First, they invited all of us to not only witness their marriage but to join with them in worship during the ceremony. We sang praise to the God of Love. It was a time to remember that the love they share is a gift from the Giver and Sustainer of Love.

 

Second, they shared in the Lord’s Supper with one another after exchanging their vows. In essence, their first act as a married couple was to share in the memory of the One who “gave Himself” for His Bride, to make her holy and blameless.

 

These two acts, worship and sharing the Lord’s Supper, not only represent a moment in their ceremony but, I pray, set the direction for their marriage as well. I hope they engaged in these two acts with an eye to the future. Marriage is beautiful, a wonderful glimpse of heaven. In those times when marriage is good, I hope they remember to worship the One who gives the gift of love. But, marriage can prove difficult at times. It is not always easy to “give ourselves” to our spouse, to sacrifice our own desires in order to bring our spouses into a closer relationship with us. I pray that during those times they will remember the Lord’s Supper and how He gave Himself for His Bride, sacrificing Himself to bring His Bride closer in relationship to Him. With these thoughts in mind, I offer this pray for you, Anthony and Alyssa, a blessing for your marriage.

 

May your way, when it is easy,

Be filled with humble praise;

But when it’s rocky or obstructed

Or trying or just plain tough

Let your strength be found in worship

Of the One who feeds your love;

The One who gave Himself to make 

His True Love’s charms shine forth.

 

May you, as well, give of your selves

And so release the seed of

Love to blossom in full sight 

So all her charms are known.

Then, turn again to worship

And offer humble praise

To Him who nurtures your true love

In times of joy and pain.     

 

Anthony and Alyssa, I pray you find the joy of your lifetime in one another and in the God you chose to worship and remember during your wedding ceremony, the God who gave you this wonderful gift of love.

A Paradoxical Way to Strong Family

In a previous post I mentioned that the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single and even alienated from His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. The advice comes in two parts. Part one was to “deny yourself.”  Part two is to “take up your cross.”  When this advice was first spoken, the cross was a way to punish, in a very public and humiliating way, those who threatened the way the world was organized under the ruling authority of the Romans. To take up our cross as a family means to live a family life that will stand in stark contrast to the world around us, to have a revolutionary family life based on principles in opposition to the “world powers” around us. Let me explain by offering a few examples.

  • The world encourages us to assert our power, stand up for our rights. A family that “takes up a cross” will submit to one another in love and service.
  • The world encourages us to promote ourselves and “build our brand.” We are told to climb the ladder of success on the backs of others because it’s a “dog eat dog world.” A family that “takes up a cross” will encourage one another, promote one another’s success, and build one another up rather than focus on my own success.
  • The world calls us to achieve a status in which we can BE served. A family that “takes up a cross” strives TO serve one another within the family and TO serve others as a family.
  • The world encourages leadership through power brokerage techniques, such as taking charge, delegation, and telling others what to do. A family that “takes up a cross” will lead through love. Each one will want to lead in forgiveness, showing kindness, and serving one another.

The family that “takes up a cross” exhibits different values than the family that lives according to “the world system.” It may, at times, lead to some ridicule or misunderstanding from those outside the family. However, it will also lead to a stronger more intimate family. “Taking up a cross” creates a family whose strength is found in humble service, loving accountability, sincere encouragement, and kindness.  It sounds odd, even wrong, but taking up your cross to build a strong and intimate family is a wise and powerful action to take!

Hard-to-Swallow, But Amazingly Effective, Family Advice

Some of the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single, even alienated somewhat His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. Before I tell you the advice, I have to offer a warning. It’s hard-to-swallow advice. It sounds foreign to our ears, dissonant with the prevailing cultural norms; but, it’s still great marital advice. It comes in two parts. The first part of this hard-to-swallow marital advice is “deny yourself.” I told you it’s hard to swallow.  It’s not popular advice. Practiced wisely, however, it will lead to a strong marriage and family.

When you are completely honest with yourself, you probably know this advice is true. But we don’t like it. Culture teaches us to watch out for “number 1” rather than “deny ourselves.” Still, in our moments of self-reflective honesty, we recognize the inherent value of “denying ourselves” for families.  Think about it. Truly effective parents deny their own wishes and desires to meet the needs of their children all the time.

  • Parents deny their desire to go out whenever they want in order to stay home and put the baby to bed or feed them or care for them when they’re sick.
  • Parents deny their own wishes for new shoes or some other purchase to assure their children have nice clothes for school or get that special dinner for their birthday.
  • Parents deny themselves of sleep so they can comfort a crying baby or care for their sick child.
  • Parents deny themselves of the opportunity to avoid those things they find disgusting or gross in order to change diapers and clean up vomit.
  • Parents deny themselves of an afternoon of ease in order to run children to activities, wash clothes, or prepare snacks for their children’s visiting friends.
  • Parents deny themselves when they forget their own agenda for the moment in order to listen carefully to what sounds like child “ramblings” or to engage in child’s play.

It’s not just parents who deny self to express love in action and build a stronger family. Spouses do it as well. It can be seen in simple things like:

  • One spouse denying themselves by giving up control of the remote and watching what their spouse wants to watch.
  • Spouses denying themselves the freedom to go out with whoever they want whenever they want in order to accommodate their spouses’ desires for a night together or because they want to ease their spouses’ concerns.
  • Spouses deny themselves when they forget their own agenda in a conversation and focus on listening intently to what their spouse has to say.

Self-denial may be seen in more extravagant forms as well, like denying oneself of working extra overtime because it will take too much time away from family or being the first to offer forgiveness when a wrong is committed. The point is that healthy families practice self-denial in big and little ways every day. They “consider one another as more important than themselves” and “look not only to their own interests but to the interests of one another as well.” Joseph Campbell expressed the idea of self-denial in marriage when he said, “Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.” And, from Joseph Campbell once again, “When you make the sacrifice in marriage you’re sacrificing not to each other but to the unity of the relationship.”  To paraphrase slightly, “When you practice self-denial in family, you’re sacrificing the ego to a community we call family, you’re building the unity of your family.”

A Two-Week Marriage Improvement Challenge

A research team from University of Rochester recently published an interesting study on marriage and compassion. They had 175 newlywed couples (married an average of just over 7 months) keep a two-week diary recording instances in which either spouse put aside personal wishes in order to meet their partner’s needs. These compassionate acts included meeting needs as well as actions that “expressed tenderness, showed the partner they are valued, or changed plans to accommodate their partner.” Each partner also recorded their own emotional states during the day using a standardized list of emotions. When the research team compared the diary of compassionate acts with each spouse’s emotional state, they discovered:

  1. The spouse on the receiving end of the compassionate act experienced an “emotional boost” when they noticed the act. However, if the spouse did not know an act of compassion had occurred (perhaps one spouse changed their plans to accommodate their partner but said nothing about the change) they did not experience an “emotional boost.”
  2. The spouse giving the act of compassion benefited from an “emotional boost” whether their spouse noticed the act or not. In other words, acting compassionately was beneficial to the giver whether the receiver noticed it or not.

I find it interesting that acting compassionately toward one another benefits a marriage even for newlyweds, a couple still enjoying the honeymoon of marriage. Perhaps we can all benefit by building acts of compassion into our marriage. We could even formulate a challenge based on this study—the two-week marriage improvement challenge. Here is how we’ll do it.

  1. Keep a two-week journal to “jump start” compassion in your marriage. For two weeks write down acts in which you or your spouse act compassionately. These acts might include:
    1. One spouse setting aside their personal wishes to meet the other spouse’s needs (like watching a show your spouse wants to watch instead of one you want to watch or cleaning the kitchen when you’d rather play golf),
    2. Expressing affection or tenderness toward your spouse (a hug, saying “I love you,” holding hands, etc.),
    3. Changing plans to accommodate your spouse’s plans or desires (putting down the game on your IPhone to talk or eating what your spouse likes even if it’s not your favorite),
    4. Showing your spouse how much you value them (a genuine compliment, a thoughtful gift, a written note expressing your love, etc.).
  2. At the end of the two week period, sit down and review your journals together. Recall and celebrate your love and each act of compassion.

There it is: A simple two-week marriage improvement challenge based on compassion. Won’t you join the challenge? Your marriage will thank you!

Marriage Compelled By the Love of Christ

I recently had the opportunity to speak on marriage with a local congregation during their worship service. The passage for the morning was Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

African American Couple Laughing On The FloorEven though this passage speaks about Paul, it also describes a powerful foundation for marriage—the love of Christ. As believers, the love of Christ compels us to interact with our spouse in a powerful, virtuous manner. Think of it:

  • The love of Christ compels us to love our spouse with a sacrificial love rather than a self-serving love.
  • The love of Christ compels us to seek ways of giving to our spouses rather than taking from our spouses…to ask “what can I do for you today?” rather than “what have you done for me lately?”
  • The love of Christ compels us to accept our spouses instead of striving to make them what we want them to be…to love them “where they are” rather than trying to shape them into the person we imagine.
  • The love of Christ compels us to show our spouses grace rather than demanding they earn our acceptance, respect, or forgiveness.
  • The love of Christ compels us to seek out ways of expressing our love and initiating that expression rather than expecting our spouse to “love us first,” “make the first move,” or “treat us right first.”

These bullets only begin to touch on ways this passage invites us to love one another as married couples. And, we could write for hours to expand on each bullet. But, you might get bored listening to me. Instead, I invite you to grab your spouse, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down together to discuss what these bullets call you to do in your marriage. That will prove a whole lot more fun than reading any explanation I would offer. And, it will be specific to YOUR marriage. So, have some fun learning how the love of Christ compels you to love your spouse!

The Healthy Balance of Family

Establishing a healthy family is a balancing act. It requires finding the best blend between diametrically opposed traits. For instance, a healthy family finds balance in at least these three areas:

  1. A healthy family lives in the balance between structure and freedom. Too much structure and a family becomes rigid. Spontaneous fun and laughter disappear. Family members feel trapped and imprisoned by the constant demands of an imposed and unbending structure. Too much freedom, on the other hand, and a family experiences chaos. Limits and boundaries become broken or even disappear. Predictability flies out the window and, as a result, family members experience insecurity, confusion, and even fear. Healthy families find a balance between these two extremes by establishing a flexible structure. Flexible structure provides a daily family schedule and daily routines while leaving room for down time and unstructured play. It leaves open the possibility of making adjustments as situations and circumstances change. A flexible structure provides the best of both worlds: structure and freedom.
  2. A healthy family lives in the balance between connection and independence. Too

    much connection and family members becomes entangled and boxed in. They feel intruded upon, unable to develop their distinct interests or pursue their individual opportunities. No one can develop their individuality, their unique character. Each person in the family will even experience great difficulty establishing their identity. Move too far toward independence, however, and family members find themselves alone, isolated, and without support. They have no one with whom they can enjoy life, no one to help them develop as unique individuals. We need relationships to discover our own identity. Healthy families find balance between these two extremes by developing interdependence. Interdependence empowers family members to engage one another and enjoy individual time. Relationships become the springboard for individual identity development by providing a safe harbor from which to explore interests and ideas as well as a safe haven in which to find comfort and reassurance. Interdependent relationships become the place of safety, comfort, encouragement, and empowerment for each individual and the family as a whole.

  3. A healthy family lives in the balance between “mine” and “yours.” Too much focus on “mine” and family members becomes self-absorbed and self-centered. Stinginess undermines sharing. Greediness leads to excessive competition for resources that everyone perceives as limited. But, when the focus turns completely to “yours,” at least one person becomes a doormat. After time, she will feel taken for granted and used. Eventually, she will rebel. She may lash out in anger or shut down in defeat, bitter and resentful. The whole family suffers as a result. Healthy families balance “mine” and “yours” with “ours.” Finding “ours” is no easy task. It requires a growing knowledge of each family member. It demands a long-term vision, a willingness to postpone “my own” agenda and even sacrifice for the good of the family. In short, finding “ours” requires love and acceptance. “Ours” presupposes differences but learns to tolerate, accept, and even celebrate those differences as opportunities to learn, love, and serve.

How does your family balance these three areas?

Changing the World: Families Sharing Grace

Watching the news today saddens me. The world is troubled. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have reached an all-time high. They have hit the streets in our communities…and our communities have become more dangerous and isolated as a result.
They roam the halls in our schools…and our children suffer, even going from class to class in fear and isolation. Even more insidious, vengeance, power grabbing, and self-obsession are broadcast across social media…creating anger, bitterness, and hurt within our families and friends. I fear that these attitudes have even infiltrated our families and our relationships, tearing us apart at the seams. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have left our world, our communities, even our families, desperately troubled. We need a change and that change begins with YOU practicing one small word in your daily life and family: GRACEbusinessman holding gift

Grace simplifies life by filling us with an awareness of unconditional acceptance. Acceptance within the family creates a sense of security. It communicates that each family member is loved “no matter what.” It builds loving bonds and intimate relationships out of which appropriate behaviors like respect, honor, helpfulness, and kindness blossom and bloom. Make it a point to show acceptance to your spouse and children today and every day. Set aside your own plans for a time so you can spend time with your family, learn about their interests, and let them know you love them.

 

Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness, releasing us from the burden of vengeance. One way grace does this is by promoting forgiveness. Forgiveness strengthens marriages. It creates secure parent-child relationships. It restores loving sibling connections that last through the good times and the bad. Forgiveness replaces bitterness and other hurt emotions with greater understanding and happiness. It replaces the desire for revenge with love and compassion, restoring broken relationships. It replaces walls of division with bridges of long-term intimacy.

Grace liberates us from the entanglements of narcissism by teaching us how to serve and sacrifice for one another. In Fighting for Your Marriage (For a more thorough review of this book, click here), the authors state that “research suggests some degree of sacrifice is a normal, healthy aspect of a solid relationship. In the absence of an attitude of sacrifice, what do you have? You have a relationship in which at least one of you is in it mostly for what you can get. That’s not a recipe for satisfaction or growth.” I would go further to say sacrifice is not only normal but necessary for a growing healthy relationship. Seize the opportunity to give up your own momentary interests to learn about the interests of your spouse and children. Capitalize on the opportunity to give up your right to sleep in so you can invest time in your children. Snatch the chance to watch the movie your spouse chooses and even enjoy talking with her about it. Wash the dishes. Help with homework. Clean the bathroom. Serve one another!

 

Our world is troubled, no doubt. Changes our troubled world begins with changing our families. Model grace toward your family. Teach grace in your family. Practice grace as a family. Let it overflow into your community…and watch how grace can point our troubled world toward change.

For at least 50 practical ways to share grace in your family, go to The Family Bank of Honor: Gifts of Grace…and have fun sharing grace!

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