Tag Archive for service

Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace

My wife, my daughter, and I went to a choral concert presented by the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh entitled PEACE.  We heard several composers’ choral renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace. We also heard various testimonies and readings from three people who have invested their lives in various avenues of promoting peace within our communities. The whole experience was beautiful, inspiring, and peaceful. Then we left the concert setting and returned to the world of confusion, animosity, and conflict.

Peace seems so distant in our immediate environment of division, antagonism, and hostility. Everywhere we turn dissonant, hateful chatter rises up and floods over the banks of polite boundaries and congenial discourse. Fear and anxiety, resentment and hostility are infecting the lives of our children. Peace seems, at times, a distant dream. But, as we listened attentively to the various renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem and contemplated the readings offered, I realized peace is not so distant after all. Peace is very near. It begins with a God of peace who “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist….” Peace is our original design. Peace destroyed was restored through the sacrifice of One Man who “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Paul—Ephesians 2:15). The One who sacrificed for our peace has “proclaimed peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Paul—Ephesians 2:17). Since we have been given peace it is very near to us. We need only open it, pursue it, and promote it (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

In all reality, pursuing and promoting peace are integral aspects of our daily life. We can pursue peace by sharing polite words with those you meet. We promote peace by listening, really listening, to understand those who speak. We pursue peace by opening doors for others, literally and figuratively. We promote peace in patiently merging into the various streams of life with others and generously allowing others to merge into those same streams of life. We encourage peace by offering words that build up instead of words that tear down, words that bless instead of words that curse.  We promote peace when we lift one another up, even those who disagree with you, rather than shaming and ridiculing. We nurture peace when we forgive those who have offended and apologize to those you offend.

Truly, peace is closer than we think…but it takes the investment of our words and actions. Begin the peace investment in your home as you treat your spouse, your children, and your parents with honor and dignity, decency and grace. As we do, our families will become the catalyst for peace in our communities. Yes, peace is closer than we think. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace.

Family Happiness in 1938 AND Today

The year: 1938. The question posed by the Bolton Evening News: “What does happiness mean to you and yours?” Bolton is a town in northwest England. Bolton “reached it’s zenith in 1929” with over 200 cotton mills and textile industries. Recently, researchers from the University of Bolton recovered and analyzed the answers given by the original 226 respondents. Three themes emerged in the analysis of the respondents’ answers.

  1. “Contentment” and “peace of mind” contributed to happiness. In other words, being satisfied with what one has rather than constantly seeking more contributes to happiness. Having a healthy family filled with emotional connection and acts of honor increases a sense of contentment, even when we don’t have the most expensive shoes or the newest gadgets.
  2. “Family” and “home” were important to happiness. A happy marriage, healthy children, loving family contribute to happiness. A home is a celebrating community of honor and grace. As we shape our homes around honoring one another and sharing grace to one another we find greater contentment and more happiness. That is a reason to celebrate!
  3. Helping “other people” contributed to happiness. Actively seeking ways to help other people brings happiness. It turns our focus outward and opens our lives to relationship. Helping others as a family strengthens our family. And family, as noted in #2, contributes to happiness. (Read more in Lessons from the Past on How to be Happy.)

These three themes can still help to build happiness in your family today. Read these blogs to discover ways of building each of the characteristics into your  family.

  1. For ideas on filling your family with “contentment” and “peace of mind” read
    1. The Secret to Family Peace
    2. Recognizing the Benefit of Emotions in Parenting
    3. Beatitudes for a Happy Marriage
  2. To improve your “family” and “home” conenctions
    1. Why Family Honor
    2. Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family
  3. Help “other people”
    1. The Paradox of Happy Families
    2. Give It Away for Family Fun

You can find many more blogs to build these characteristics into your home and family. Just explore the many blogs on this site, put them into practice, and…find family happiness.

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!

Teach Your Children to Live Happy

I’m always on the lookout for ways to promote happiness in my family and teach my children how to live happy lives (Family Fun Night). Researchers from the University of Zurich just added another tool to my Family Happiness Training Toolbox (Generous People Live Happier Lives). In this study, fifty people were given 25 Swiss Francs each week for four weeks. Half of them pledged to spend it on others and half pledged to spend it on themselves. According to Functional MRI’s, simply pledging generosity activated areas of the participants brains’ associated with altruistic behavior and areas associated with happiness. In other words, simply pledging to use the money generously increased the pledging person’s happiness. Over the course of the four week experiment, those who pledged to spend the money on others made more generous choices.  They also showed an increase in self-reported happiness. Interestingly, generosity did not have to be extraordinary or exorbitant to increase happiness. Just a “little more generous” produced greater happiness.

Why not use the knowledge to promote happiness in your family? Just bring up the idea of doing something nice for someone when you meet with your family. Maybe you can bring it up while eating dinner or while driving home from an activity. The suggestion could be as simple as:

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to give some cookies to your teacher next week?
  • I hear Mr. Smith isn’t feeling well. How about we cut his grass this weekend?
  • I have an extra $10 this week. If you could do something nice for someone with $10, what would you do and who would you do it for?
  • Let’s write the church pianist a thank you note for playing this week. Which card do you think she’d like best…or would you rather we make the card?

You get the idea. Be creative. You could come up with the idea or ask your family to come up with an idea. After you have the idea, enlist your family’s help in getting it done. Then get out there and do it…. You will have done a nice thing and that will increase your family happiness.

One last caveat…. You might find your children really like this kind of activity. They may start coming up with all kinds of ideas to share generosity. When they do, seize the moment. Jump on board. Work with them to make it happen. When you do, do you know what you’re doing? You’re teaching your children how to create happiness in their lives…and that is a lesson worth teaching!

Happy Wife, Happy Life…& The Rest of the Story!

A recent study of 1,981 middle age heterosexual couples supports the saying, “happy wife, happy life” plus more!  What could be more?  Well, it’s not just about wives. “Happy husband, happy life.” “Happy wife, happy life.” They’re both true! A happy spouse Senior Couple - Kiss on the Cheekcontributes a healthier life over time. In fact, the principal investigator of this study observed that “simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself.” (Read having a Happy Spouse Could Be Good for Your Health for more on this study.) Having a happy spouse may contribute to health because:

  • Happy spouses provide stronger social support.
  • Happy spouses encourage their spouses to get involved in activities that promote good health.
  • Happy spouses may simply make life easier.

So, if you want a healthier life, work to increase your spouse’s happiness. If you want to encourage your spouse’s health, enhance your own happiness. Here are four ways you can do just that!

  • Develop an atmosphere where everyone expresses gratitude on a daily basis. Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you, for your family, for your home.
  • Develop a home environment of service. Seek out ways to serve your spouse every day. Serving your spouse may be as simple as washing dishes, changing diapers, or working in the yard. Doing little things every day will add to your spouse’s happiness.
  • Develop an environment of emotional connection. Take time to emotionally connect with your spouse every day. Respond to your spouse’s attempts to interact and connect. Initiate interactions with your spouse. Support their interests and share your own interests with your spouse.

I’m sure you can think of many more ways to enhance your spouse’s happiness and your own. These four tips simply point to one important fact: enhancing your spouse’s happiness centers on doing little things for your spouse every day. So, do the little things every day. Make your spouse happy because “happy spouse, happy (and healthy) life.”

Increase Your Spouse’s Sexual Desire

A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Read Article Abstract Here) revealed a simple way to increase your spouse’s sexual desire for you…and you can do it anywhere! Here it is: the secret to increasing your spouse’s sexual desire for

you. You can increase your spouse’s sexual desire for you by being responsive to them outside the bedroom. The authors of this study exposed their findings after having 100 heterosexual couples keep a 6-week diary recording their own sexual desires and the responsiveness of their partner outside the bedroom. Responsiveness emerged as a key factor in maintaining sexual desire over time. Responsiveness to our spouses reveals a deep concern for their welfare and an awareness of what they really care about.  It exhibits a willingness to invest emotionally and mentally in the relationship, making the relationship feel special, unique. When you respond to your spouse’s wants and desires, you also communicate his/her special value in your life. All in all, this leads to increased sexual desire. And guys, the effect was bigger for women. So, the more responsive you are to your wife’s wants and needs outside the bedroom, the greater sexual desire she will feel. Need I say more?

Forget the Flowers & Do the Dishes

A recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology by Matthew Johnson and two other authors (Read abstract here) suggests an association between a husband’s willingness to serve and the couple’s sexual satisfaction. Specifically, 1,338 heterosexual couples were asked about housework (How much housework do you do? What specific chores do you do? Do you have any “beef with the breakdown”?) and their marital relationship. Results indicate that men who take on a fair share of the chores report a higher frequency of sex with their partner and greater satisfaction with their sex life as whole. It appears that acting on the opportunity to serve one’s wife may enhance sexual intimacy. Really, the benefit of living out an attitude of servanthood is not a new idea. The first century evangelist, Paul, stated that we “were called to freedom. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). Even Christ told His followers, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). Christ came to serve His future Bride!

So guys, “Sex Begins in the Kitchen,” with serving, just like Kevin Leman suggested in his book of the same title. If you want a more intimate satisfying sex life, start by serving your wife and family. Do the dishes. Help with the laundry. Cook a meal. Clean the bathroom…. Use your freedom and position to humbly serve your wife. You’ll find the results exhilarating!

Pay It Forward…The Surprising “Rest of the Story” For Your Family

We all know and love the “pay it forward” stories. Just last Christmas (2013), a customer at Starbucks generously paid for the order of the next person in line, who also paid for the person in line behind them, and so on…for 1,468 customers! (Read this story here) I also Parents kissing their cute little babylove the commercial (Watch it here) for “Random Acts of Kindness” in which one person shows kindness, inspiring the recipient of that act of kindness to show kindness to another person, who is inspired to do the same…and on down the line, contributing to an ongoing spiral of kindness that results in an Utopian environment of generosity and joy. We love these stories…. I love these stories. But, research suggests this is only part of the story. As Paul Harvey used to say, we need to know “the rest of the story.” People do not only pay generosity and kindness forward. We also pay greed forward. In fact, generosity gets paid forward more often as equality and fairness not as more generosity. And, people tend to pay greed forward more vigorously than generosity. Research suggests this is true for work tasks as well as finances. So, if we are the recipients of a stingy, greedy gift…or, if we are given the worst chores while someone else does the easier, “more enjoyable” chores, we may pass on the greedy, boring task out of our frustration and anger.

 

What does this mean for our families? An act of kindness to another family member may actually inspire more acts of kindness. A show of generosity toward family may promote more “fair sharing” among family members in the future. Acts of kindness and generosity can create an environment that promotes further kindness and sharing, an upward spiral leading to greater intimacy, joy, and celebration. On the other hand, sticking other family members with the worst chores will encourage them to do the same to another family member. Stinginess, greed, and self-centered actions and decisions by a family member can create a family environment promoting further greed and self-centeredness, a downward spiral leading to further frustration, isolation, and pain. Which environment will you promote in your family? The choice is yours. Start building an upward spiral by practicing kindness and generosity within your family.

 

By the way, if you find your family already in a downward spiral initiated by stinginess, greed, and self-centeredness, there is hope! The study mentioned earlier also found the negative emotions that drive us to pay greed forward can be reduced and even reversed. In the study, simply having a person rate how much they enjoyed three cartoons (a fun, humorous task) reduced the likelihood of passing the greed forward. So, if your family is caught in the downward spiral of stinginess and self-centeredness, reverse the cycle by stopping “one thing” and introducing “two new things.”  First, stop “one thing”—engaging in stingy, self-centered behavior. Second, introduce “two new things”—kindness and generosity. Think about the other person and offer to do the more menial task (an act of generosity and kindness). Third, add some fun into your family. Play some fun game. Share some funny cartoons or your favorite joke. You can do all three of these things at the same time. Do all three and watch as your family spiral changes direction and becomes an upward spiral motivated by kindness, generosity, and celebration.

Today’s Family Question Is…

Janet Jackson asked “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” (1986 version). In this song, she wondered out loud about why her lover was not honoring her the way he used to honor her. Did you ever ask that question of your family? Everyone in the family gets caught up in their individual activities and runs from one thing to the next. Children run to sports, music, school, church, friends…. Parents run to work, home, church, transporting kids, maintaining the house…. Everyone is doing their own thing and the family winds up in what William Doherty calls the Entropic Family. Chores are left undone and Mom ends up doing them. Requests are ignored as people run out the door to do their own thing or forgotten as I get caught up in what’s important to me. Someone else has to do what another person forgets. In the midst of this busy-ness, family members feel taken advantage of. Parents begin to feel as though they are running a “bed and breakfast” with chauffer services. Children begin to think they are the family slave. Emotional distance grows, frustrations multiply, and anger swells like a tsunami. People start spouting off with Janet Jackson, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”
 
Stop. Bring the family together. We need to reframe the question. Let each person ask themselves, “What Have I Done to Honor My Family Today?” What have I done to show my parents how much I love them and appreciate all they do for me? What have I done to show my children how much I love them and admire their character and growth? If you are not sure what you can do to honor your family, try these ideas:
·         When you finish your drink, wash your cup or put it in the dishwasher.
·         Keep your family informed of your schedule.
·         Make time to complete simple chores around the house.
·         Enjoy time with your family, even if it means sacrificing one of your activities.
·         Say thank you and show appreciation with a hug.
·         Ask instead of demand or tell.
·         In general, think about your family members. What can you do around the house to make them happier today? Do that. What would bring a smile to their face? Do it. What will make them feel loved? Get it done. 

Children & Pressure: What’s a Parent To Do?

Our children face multiple pressures. They live in a world where significance is idolized, recognition (being number 1) is sought with great fervor, and self-worth is determined by performance. Those pressures, unfortunately, sneak into our lives as parents and attack our children from within the home…from their own family…from us! Lies and rumors voiced among parents in the community fuel our fears and those fears translate into a performance-orientation. Hearing other parents boast about the accolades, awards, and opportunities their children have received arouses our own insecurities and fans the fear that our children may miss out on the “limited opportunities available” for success. Rumors incite us to encourage our children to prepare their college resume as soon as possible, to become proficient in sports yesterday, and to make crucial career decisions now. As a result, our children are forced to make adult decisions before they are developmentally ready. They find themselves compelled to make commitments to adult pursuits (career, sports involvement, etc.) while still lacking the experience and wisdom to do so. When these pressures sneak into our family life, whether the result of parental fears or misguided dreams, our children suffer. They find no respite, no relief. As family shepherds, we must guard our home against these pressures in order to maintain a refuge for our children. How? Here are a few hints to help.
 
First, identify the pressures your children face in their school and community. Most likely, they encounter one or all three of the following pressures.
     1.      They may feel the pressure to achieve, perform, and gain recognition. They may also feel that the only way to truly know you have achieved is to earn prizes and awards. In the midst of this performance-oriented environment, children find it difficult to simply enjoy a fun activity. Such an environment threatens to squeeze the joy of internal motivation out of our children and replace it with the craving for external rewards.
     2.      Or, your community may emphasize material belongings. Perhaps the families in your community live by the rule that says “the one with the most toys wins.” 
     3.      Your children may also encounter families that feel the need to give children everything they want, to never suffer the pain of disappointment or discipline…even if it means the family suffers. In these families, children’s schedules and desires run the household. Children grow more entitled every day as their family experiences a growing sense of resentment over their children’s lack of gratitude.
 
After you have identified the threat, give serious thought to your own beliefs in that area. Parents also risk falling into the trap of community pressure. To avoid the discomfort of seeing our children disappointed or “wanting,” we may give in to their demands and spoil them. We don’t want them to miss out on the opportunities that their peers experience, so we give into their every request and desire. In our desire for them to “have a better life than us,” we push them to perform and achieve in order to get into the best colleges or gain the most promising opportunities. All done with the best of intentions, but none the less, conforming to the pressures of the world that harass our children.
 
Once you have identified the pressures your children face and confirmed that you do not personally play a role in creating those pressures, you can create alternatives in your home. Since your children most likely encounter at least three pressures, consider at least these three alternatives.
     1.      Replace the pressure to achieve and perform with the grace of unconditional acceptance. Honor one another for effort and learn to celebrate participation in activities by simply having fun together. Allow your family to play and enjoy one another’s company without the need to perform a certain way or achieve a certain level of “expertise.” Have fun just to have fun!
     2.      Replace the emphasis on material belongings with a focus on relationships. Give your family the gift of your time. Let them know that your relationship with them is far more important than any material blessing you might have. Teach them that material belongings do not bring happiness, loving relationships do. Build intimacy with one another. Practice gratitude for the many material, relational, and spiritual blessing you do have…and share gratitude freely with one another.
     3.      Replace a sense of entitlement with an environment of generosity and service. Teach your children that we find greater joy in giving than in receiving. Model generosity with your affection toward them and your service in the home. Teach them by example and actions that service is a sign of true greatness.
 
Make your home a place of refuge from the world of pressure. Create an environment of honor and grace. Shape your family into a celebrating community of honor and grace.
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