If It Worked…I Resolve…

resolve

I don’t make resolutions. They say they don’t work anyway. No one keeps them. So, I guess I won’t. I mean, why try something others say you can’t do? In fact, I read a news report that said a third of all resolutions are broken by the end of January. So, with those odds, better comply with the news. It’s what everyone does. Right?

But, if I did…if I did make resolutions…I’d make some worth keeping. I might even call them goals…or benchmarks…just to feel better about them.

But if I chose to defy the odds…or the popular culture of debunking resolutions…it might go something like this…

I resolve…

To pray more than worry, so I can trust more than doubt.

To choose the healthier food choices when available, and keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum.

To allow my time spent reading to compete against…maybe even win…with my time spent watching television…since I often say “there’s nothing worth watching” anyway.

To value rest and exercise as a vital part of my day, since I know how both impact my productivity and overall attitude.

To keep a close reign on my tongue, saying only those things which bring value to people and make life better for them.

To speak the truth in love, but never be ashamed of the Gospel.

To forgive easily, knowing that a grudge causes me as much harm…or more…as the person I am forgiving.

To use any influence God should give me for His glory and not for my own.

To seek wisdom from those who seek progress, more than from those who only seek to complain.

To speak words of affirmation and encouragement to those God intersects with my life, knowing the value such words have had in my life…often at just the right time.

To enjoy the abundant life, knowing that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

To guard my heart above all things…for it is the wellspring of my life.

What would you resolve…if you actually resolved…and if these things actually worked?

In my next post, I’ll share three steps to set goals you can actually achieve.

Communicating with Men Tips (Repost)

(Reposting the most read posts of the year.)

I hear from both sides continually. Between the two sexes, communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The differences in men and women make communication difficult. (I also posted 5 Tips When Communicating with Men.)

My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.

Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:

We meant what we said…not what you heard – Thats true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable :) ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded, so we aren’t usually talking in a code language. Not that women would be… :) Try to hear only what was said without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. Ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only…nothing more…than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)

We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information, especially when a man hasn’t proven trustworthy, but know its often out of our realm of comfort to provide it. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely we’ll be to share facts, and even occasionally, details.

Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. If you ask us how we feel, “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.

When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but I wrote a post about this issue HERE. There is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, but anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that cause most girl’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop testosterone-producing anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does that for me continually.

Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart…often we never do – This is sad and we may even know it. The more you make us feel we’ll be respected regardless of the situation or the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions. You can actually help us with this one!

Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. You can read my thoughts about mutual submission in a marriage HERE and HERE. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.

Men, what did I miss?

Wives, any tips on how we could better understand you? I’ve learned a few and could share them, but thought it may come better from you :) .

Do you care to hear my women’s version…even realizing I’m not one?

7 Ways to Help Children Cope with FEAR

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Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night. We talk about it at the dinner tables. Our children are not immune in an information age. Violence even happens in school. Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Don’t assume – Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened that they don’t know or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and that there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid…even a recent time.

Limit exposure – You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember they process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance.

Ask questions – You may think they are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots.

Assure them – Let them know they are safe. Don’t lie to them, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare…very rare. Remind them you’d do anything to protect them. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live normal – As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm – Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. They get their faith through you.

Give them Scripture – They need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word that will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often.

What else would you share with parents?

Husbands: 7 Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

Christmas gifts

I know I’m talking to some men who haven’t even thought about what you’ll get your wife for Christmas yet. Right? I understand. It still seems early to you Christmas Eve shoppers. :)

Maybe you’ve thought about it, but not being as in tune with things like this as your wife is, you haven’t a clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book – A date night a week…or a month… Make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit – She may have tried to change you. It hasn’t worked. You need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or maybe it is the way you talk to her. You are super critical of her. You talk down to her sometimes. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly or not so subtly tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her.

Start listening – Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? You know the distraction. Maybe it’s a picture of your face, symbolizing you’re going to look her in the eyes and not always have an answer…trying harder to listen next year.

Open a savings account – Put $100…or $50…whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it…”future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step to make it happen this year.

One night in a nice B & B – Many men shy away from these…and many women do…but for Cheryl and I, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Make a new habit – Could it be that you need to do a Bible study together? What about a prayer routine? Could planning your personal finances be in your future? You probably know what she wants in this area. If not, ask her. Then wrap it up! If you’re subtle enough you may even be able to surprise her still. And make her very happy in the process.

A trip away…in May – This is my best gift idea. It isn’t as practical for me now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home.This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions up until the trip. When she’s having an exceptionally stressful day she can remember…at least we are getting away soon. In addition, you can plan the trip now, yet pay for most or all of it later, helping to stretch your Christmas budget. (To do this I often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now before I get Dave Ramsey emails, be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms. You forgot you bought those already, didn’t you? She didn’t.

Seriously, not trying to be funny. Trying to help. Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

3 Things I Know About God

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)

As I read the Scriptures, here are 3 things I know about God:

God wants people to seek Him – From the beginning of time, God has been calling His creation into fellowship with Him. Before a person ever seeks God, God has first sought after that person. (John 6:44, Acts 17:26)

God is easily found – Remember the story of the boy Jesus where His parents misplaced Him for a short time. Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, learning from the temple leaders. When questioned, Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” God desires that same attitude in our hearts today. I have never known anyone who genuinely searched for God who didn’t find Him, because God is always waiting that we may call on Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. He will never hide from you. (Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:27)

God desires to change our lives – God’s design for us is to be righteous. He wants us to have the mind of Christ so that we might receive the full blessings of fellowship with Him. Being perfectly Holy, God cannot accept sin; any sin. He wants to clean us up and mold us into the image of His Son. He wants to turn over the “unplowed ground” and make it fertile enough to bear good fruit. He wants to change us so we may better experience Him and all of His glory. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 2:10)

What thoughts does this post trigger about what you know about God?

NOTE: If you’re seeking God today, don’t be surprised if you find He’s already been seeking you!

An Encouraging Phone Call

My childhood pastor preached for me recently. He is 93 years old and still preaching almost weekly. He continues to be one of my mentors in ministry today.

He called me the following week…It was one of the most humbling phone calls I ever received.

It went something like this:

Ron, I want you to know I’m proud of you. You had some difficult family situations growing up. You’ve come a long way. You had your own obstacles to overcome. But, you’ve allowed God to use them for His glory. I’m just really proud of the man you are.”

Don’t you think I was encouraged? Of course I was! In fact, it was one of those days I needed the call most. I’m so thankful for the people who have believed in me and invested in my life.

It was also another reminder to use my experience to encourage you:

Don’t let trials hold you back. Let them launch you into who God wants you to be.

All of us need encouraging at times.

Who could you encourage today?

Make the call!

Some of my best work…

Is done when I can’t understand all that I’m doing…

  • When things are messy…
  • When my head is cloudy…
  • When I have more questions than answers…
  • When my faith is being stretched…
  • When I am unsure of my position…

If you wait until you have all the answers…where doubt is removed completely…

You’ll often find yourself stagnant on making decisions…

You’ll seldom achieve “the best you can do”…

And the rewards you receive will be less than monumental…

Part of living the Christian faith is actually using it!

How are you currently having to walk by faith?

One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

How to Become a Regular Church Attender

I love when people who don’t currently attend church, give church a try. Many of these once attended church, but for some reason, they no longer do. The best church growth, in my opinion, happens this way. And, statistics tell us there are plenty of people willing to give church a try if we will simply ask them. (Hint. Hint church people.)

The most common thing I hear from people who begin attending church or who want to is that it’s hard to get into the habit of church. I understand. Beginning anything new requires a change of lifestyle. That can be difficult.

Recently someone asked a great question, “How can I get my family back in the habit of church again?”

Great question. I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few suggestions:

Recognize the greater purpose – Why are you going? If it’s to check it off a “feel good” list, that won’t sustain you when a “better offer” comes along. If it’s part of your spiritual growth process…if it’s making you a better person…if it’s to serve others…fellowship…grow…you’re more likely to be committed long-term. You’ll also complain less when the message isn’t the greatest or they don’t sing your songs :)

Discipline until it sticks – I don’t really get up wondering if I’m going to church. And, I didn’t when my family was young and I wasn’t in ministry. It was a habit. If you attend long enough, without too many breaks in between, it will soon become a very welcome and comfortable part of your weekly schedule.

Plan the night before – Don’t make the decision to go to church Sunday morning. Make it Saturday night. (or earlier). Lay out your clothes. Plan your breakfast choices. Set your alarm. Be prepared.

Find a place to serve – If you really want to go for the long haul in church attendance, find a place to serve in the church. If there’s not a place, stand in the parking lot and welcome people. Become a servant of others and you’ll not only be more faithful in attendance, you’ll get more out of the experience.

Make it a priority – The reality is that we make time for things we value most. If your kids want to play soccer, that game becomes a priority, right? If you want church to be a regular part of your life….make it important enough to follow through.

Help this post. I’ve never had a time in my life when church wasn’t part of my weekly routine. If you have, and you now attend regularly, what happened?

How I Kept from Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

I didn’t gain any weight over Thanksgiving. I know…sounds sad…right? But, don’t feel bad for me. I ate what I wanted. Turkey. Ham. Sweet potato casserole. Pie. All my favorites.

Before you call me a party pooper. There’s a reason for my madness…and this post. Always before I kicked my holiday season off with a few extra pounds and it was downhill from there through the New Year’s celebration. I’ve learned by experience that I’m most productive when I maintain a healthier weight. I always blew that this time of year.

This year I’m trying to be smarter. Trying.

How did I do it over Thanksgiving?

Exercised daily – Everyday, for the four day break, I went for a run and did sit ups. Everyday.

One big meal a day – I could have had two…or three. I had one. Everything I wanted. Once a day. Then chose much smaller, more sensible meals the rest of the day.

Got full and stopped – When I had enough…I stopped eating. I know. It makes too much sense, right? But, I didn’t gorge. I ate, got full, and quit.

Took what I liked, not what I didn’t – I often find myself eating things I really don’t like that much…certainly not my favorites, just because it’s there. And it’s the season. I stuck with those things I especially liked and stayed away from others. I found my plate was not as full as in year’s past, but every bite was a treat.

Quickly back to normal, healthy eating – Monday, following the Thanksgiving break, I started eating in my normal routine. In the past, I’ve allowed Thanksgiving to kick off a month long holiday binge. I always regret it the first of the year. Trying not to do that this year. There will be lots of Christmas events, but as much as I can, I’ll be eating sensibly.

Sounds simple, right? Yea, it was. I’m committed to trying it again through Christmas. I wanted to start the new year off without a lot of extra poundage or the sense of burden that I need to lose some weight. The year will have enough responsibility without having that pressure.

That’s my plan.

Do you have one? Does it matter to you?

7 Specific Ways I Deal with Stress

Yesterday, I shared some general ways I deal with stress. Today I’m following that up with some specific things I do that help me deal with daily stress.

You can read yesterday’s post HERE.

Here are 7 specific tips I have for handling stress:

Plan each day – Begin each day with a predetermined win for the day. What do you intend to get accomplished? Learn to plan what you can actually do. Don’t overcommit. Complete the item or move it to another day. Keep in mind, if you keep moving items you are either not making good use of your time or planning too much for effectiveness. The more you plan days you can complete the less stressful individual days will be and, ultimately, the more effective you will be. (In fact, read a post HERE about doubling your productivity.)

Switch projects – When I’m really stressed about a specific project, I like to take a break and work on something different; hopefully something I can easily complete. Now obviously that can become a problem if you never complete the stressful project, so use it as a help not a crutch. Sometimes, howerver, the energy created in making progress on another project will fuel you for the stressful project.

Review your time commitments – Monitor all the ways you spend time. (I wrote a post about this previously HERE.) If you were going to create a monetary budget for the first time, financial planners would have you track everywhere you spend money. The same principle applies here. If you’re always stressed chances are good you have a time management issue on your hands. Figure out the problem areas and you’ll decrease stress.

Practice redirection of thoughts – Read a Psalm. Listen to a song. Recite poetry. Look at pictures of your family. Take a moment to reflect on something of greater value in your life than that which is causing the most stress. (By the way, this works even if the family is causing the stress :) )

Move your body – Take a walk. Stretch your muscles. Head to the gym. I have found that the deeper the stress the more exercise I need, even during the middle of a busy day. When I come back from time in physical activity I’m more energized to attack stress and win!

Talk to someone who listens and cares – Sometimes just walking to another office and venting will relieve a stressful moment. Others, especially those who know me and care for me, can see things from a perspective I can’t see. They can speak into my day. They can help redirect my focus and give me a fresh start.

Stop and dream – What’s something you can look forward to? It may be at the end of the day, the weekend, or a year down the road. Knowing there’s something beyond today helps me handle the current stress. Guys, this is one reason I’m always intentionally trying to have a mini-vacation on the calendar for my wife and me. I know she and I both need that in our marriage to handle the daily stress grind. Again, don’t let this become a distraction to progress. You’ll have to discipline yourself back to the task at hand, but,in my experience, typically people who stress the most (people like me) are wired for progress more than process. We stress when things aren’t getting done fast enough and we tend to overcommit. I’m not sure our basic wiring will ever change, but sometimes, in the midst of that stressful moment, stopping to “smell the roses” lowers our stress level, gives us more fuel for the journey, and makes us more efficient…and more happy!

Those are my tips.

What tips could you add?