Tag Archive for sacrifice

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!

The Countercultural Message of Marriage

I wonder what Jesus would say about marriage? Of course He did talk about marriage some. But, imagine if He had thrown a “section on marriage” into the Sermon on the Mount.

newly married couple chasing each other in field“You have heard it said,” Jesus might begin, “That marriage will complete you and make you whole. But I say to you that only your heavenly Father can complete you. Truly, truly, marriage is not a matter of addition in which half a person added to half a person makes a whole person. No, marriage is more like multiplication in which half a person times half a person results in only a quarter of a person.  Truly happy marriages are made up of two people already complete in God. Only one person complete in God with another person complete in God equals one complete marriage.”

“You have heard it said that you will live happily ever after once you’re married. Marriage can bring great joy, even a taste of the kingdom of God.  But, a marriage that brings great joy and happiness is built upon individual growth, character, and sacrifice. Truly I say to you that you will find joy and happiness in your marriage only to the extent you grow in God-like character and willingly make sacrifices to bring joy to your spouse.”

“You have heard it said that marriage, when founded on deep feelings of love, will be easily maintained. But I say to you that marriage is based on commitment. Passion will wax and wane. Intimacy will fluctuate with the seasons of marriage. But commitment will carry you through the difficult times and the low tides. Commitment will bring you through the valleys and lead you to the mountain tops of even greater intimacy and passion. Our Father created marriage and established it upon the principle of lifetime commitment, not the fickleness of human feelings that wax and wane.”

“You have heard it said that commitment in marriage is not necessary for great sex and deep intimacy. But I say to you that only within a committed, intimate marriage can two people stand before one another in total trust and security, willing to expose themselves on the deepest level. Honestly, it is over years of learning about one another that a couple learns how to please, how to touch, how to cherish, how to hold…how to experience deep intimacy and great sex.”

“You have heard it said that marriage will never last. After all, statistics suggest that a large number of marriages end in divorce. What’s going to make mine different? But I say to you again, marriage is founded on commitment. Remaining committed to your marriage involves effort. You must invest in marriage to make it last just as God the Father committed himself to, and invested Himself in, you. That investment is paid in currency of time, service, and affection, all given on a daily basis to your spouse.”

A healthy marriage really is countercultural. It is established on the principles of personal commitment, humility, service, sacrifice, and love. Such a relationship will have a positive impact on your children and leave a lasting impression on all those who have the joy of witnessing a godly marriage, a countercultural love.

My Spouse an Angel? 4 Ways to Make it True

AngelWifeOne of my Facebook friends posted this pic. I love the proverb written on it: “If a man expects a woman to be an angel in his life, he must first create heaven for her…angels don’t live in hell.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live with an angel. So, I have to ask myself: how can I create heaven for my wife? How can I make my wife feel like an angel? Upon what is heaven built?

  • Heaven is built on honor—treating one another as special, precious, sacred. To create heaven for your wife, treat her with honor. Honor her above all others like a diamond above coal. Constantly think about the character and beauty you adore in your wife. Don’t stop with merely thinking about your admiration of her character and beauty. Let your words and actions communicate love and admiration to your wife. Let your eyes sparkle with delight and adoration when she walks into the room. Speak of her with high praise when you describe her to others.
  • Heaven is built on unfailing trust. To create heaven for your wife, live a life of integrity and faithfulness that will build trust. Let your actions and your speech enhance her sense of security and acceptance. Keep your promises. Be available. Remember: the small, positive moments build trust; so, enjoy playful interactions, simple adventures, joyful moments and moments of sorrow, friendly conversations, and laughter. Work to “keep in tune” with your wife’s emotions. Comfort her when she needs comforted. Rejoice with her when she rejoices. Rest with her when she needs rest. Join with her in life.
  • Heaven is built on servanthood. To create heaven for your wife, become a servant in your marriage. Serve your wife by listening to her and accepting her influence. Serve her by cooking dinner, washing clothes, or running the vacuum. Serve her by asking what she would like you to do to help her. Become the leader of servanthood in your home.
  • Heaven is built on sacrifice. Jesus willingly became the Sacrifice for our sin, a sacrifice that brought peace between man and God. Sacrifice opens the doors to heaven. To create heaven in your home, become a leader in sacrifice. Make small sacrifices like giving up the TV remote, giving away the last cookie, giving up your seat for your wife, giving up “the game” to take a walk…you get the idea. You may also make bigger sacrifices like giving up your music to listen to her music in the car, giving up time on your project to do what she desires, giving up the adventure movie to watch a “chick flick” followed by the emotional discussion of the movie…. You know what would prove a heavenly sacrifice in your home. And, you know that your sacrifice will produce greater security and open the doors for heaven in your home.

 

“Expect your wife to be an angel in your life”? Start creating heaven in your home. Build your home and marriage on honor, integrity and trust, servanthood, and sacrifice. Believe me, you will live with an angel…and you will get a taste of heaven on earth!

Welcome to the Family Games

We love to watch competitions—to see our favorite athlete in the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Lively family playing tug of warthe World Series, the World Cup, or any number of various competitions. Many of us also love to compete. Competition hones our skills and motivates us to improve. Why not use that competitive spirit for good in your home?  Let the power of competition motivate your family to reach new heights of intimacy, fun, and camaraderie. Maybe some of these family competitions will help your family hone skills that will strengthen your family.

  • The Race of Apologize. We all do things from time to time that hurt members of our family. But, you can be the first to apologize for the hurt you cause. Cross the finish line to apologize first and win the joy of restored relationships. Take a victory lap and enjoy the newfound freedom of knowing you took the monkey of guilt off your back and opened the door to deeper intimacy when you apologized for the hurt your cause.
  • Score a Compliment. I can hear the announcer now… “He takes a step toward the table and looks at the food. He smiles. He shoots…a compliment;” or, “Wow that compliment was the perfect shot;” or, “He sees his wife’s look of confusion. She doesn’t understand his compliment. Look at that—he recovers and compliments again.” Imagine a simple comment like “Supper really smells good” followed by the announcer—“What a shot, straight to the net. His kids nod in agreement. His wife’s eyes sparkle and her smile grows. And, he scores!” That’s how to score a compliment. Keep track one day to see who offers the most or greatest number of sincere complements over the course of day…shoot and score!
  • The Kindness Swish. Acts of kindness will surely score you points in the family games. Most acts of kindness are shot from the 3-point line: hold the door—3 pointer, give a backrub—3 pointer, give a hug—3 pointer, do the dishes—3 pointer, throw in a load of laundry—3 pointer, bring home some flowers—3 pointer…the list goes on. As you can see, The Kindness Swish is a high scoring game. Points add up quickly and relationships grow exponentially!
  • Politeness Polo. We do not play politeness polo as much as we used to; but, it is a fast-paced family game filled with anticipation and action. In this family game you score big points by “hitting it with politeness.” You know, statements like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” “My pleasure,” “You’re welcome,” and “Let me help you” become big scoring runs. This is a fast paced game with family members having the potential for scoring as many five to ten times in a matter of minutes.  Imagine the scoring sequence (scoring is capitalized): “Will you take out the garbage, Kids on Victory PodiumPLEASE?” “MY PLEASURE.” “THANK YOU.” “YOU’RE WELCOME.” We have four scores in mere seconds! Imagine the score over the course of a day!
  • Out of the Park. This game is a hard hitting game of grace. Showing grace will “hit it out of the park.” You can show grace by giving your spouse, your kids, or your parents a gift with no expectation of anything in return. To become a really good player of Out of the Park demands sacrifice, but the benefits are worth it! Hit it out of the park by doing someone else’s chore for them, giving up the last cookie, letting someone else sit in your favorite seat, giving up your free time to help another family member with some task, giving up your right for an apology to apologize first, giving up your choice of movie and going to one your wife likes…with no strings attached. You get the idea, give up your desire and fulfill another family member’s desire to “hit it out of the park,” a grand slam over center field!

 

Try these games out. They are easy, fun, and add joyous intimacy to family life. Maybe you have some other family game ideas. Please share them with us…we’d love to play. Now, let the family games begin!

« Older Entries