7 Tips for Healthier Marriage Communication

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Marriages are built on communication. Improve communication…improve the marriage. Poor communication…it will be very difficult to have a successful marriage. We could all stand to improve in this area.

Here are 7 tips for better communication in marriage:

Be a good listener – You can never expect to grow in your communication until you learn to truly hear one another. Have you been listening lately?

Timing is important – Don’t try to address major issues when the other party is distracted. Set aside time to address important topics. Know when to speak and when to listen. Do you need to be silent more often?

Never criticize the person – You can address actions, but when you attack the person, defenses rise and communication fails. Every time. Are you being critical of the one you are supposed to be building up?

Be willing to give each other credit for differences

There are so many…

Men, you can’t talk to your wives as you talk to your guy friends…She is more tender hearted…understand that an deeper meaning is often attached to what they are saying.

Women, if you want your husband to understand something…You must say it in a language he understands…simple…straight-forward…men don’t as easily read subtleties or between the lines.

Keep emotions under control – When the female starts shedding tears or the males anger rises, even though both can be natural responses for either person, communication is hindered. Wait until the intense emotions calm, then address the issue. But, definitely address the issue.

Prompt resolutions – Don’t let issues linger too long. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. The longer an issue lingers, the harder it is to address. Do you have some issues you need to address?

Be willing to humble yourself and forgive – Marriage is hard; people make mistakes; marriage must be free flowing with grace. Are you holding a grudge you need to release?

What would you add to the list? What has improved the communication in your marriage?

Be honest: What is the real state of your marriage communication? Be willing to get the help you need.

There’s a difference in knowing and doing. Let’s commit to improving our marriage communication. I’m in…how about you?

For more help for your marriage, click HERE.

5 Suggestions for Finding More Christmas Joy

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. With the equivalence of hope, joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others - I see this so many times. You thought others would respond as we respond. We expected them to react to our gift differently. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We shouldn’t hold others to expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us.

Increase your investment in others - if we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, that we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with others. We are to give and extend grace, as it was given to us…this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us in the previous point.

Examine your life/Address known sin – You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you know. Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ.

Change your perspective – Choosing to be greatly joyful is not based on circumstances, but comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith. Joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. Choose joy. Choose again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize – If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of your faith. Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story. You can trust Him. Look again at the manger…Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God. I can’t find joy in that! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

What can the church learn from a coffee shop? (Update)

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Can/Should, the church learn from a coffee shop?

You may recall a post I did earlier this year about a new coffee shop in town. They are doing things that, honestly, I think the church could learn from them. Read that post HERE.

Well, they are at it again. Recently, thieves broke into the coffee shop. How they responded is getting citywide and even national attention.

Check out THIS local article and THIS national article. And there as many more.

Again, what can the church learn from a coffee shop?

Good job A Cup of Commonwealth!

Some of my takeaways questions:

  • How would the church respond to a break in at the church?
  • How would the community come to support us?
  • What are we doing that’s causing a community to take notice?
  • Are we making our community better?
  • Would our community say it’s a better place to live because of us?

Please add yours…

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body- Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. This message is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

The Best Christmas Present You Can Give

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Give words. Give written words.

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible…a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a great gift. An expensive gift at the time.

But, inside she included these handwritten notes. She shared her heart. She wrote Scripture that was important to her. She encouraged me to live a life of value. She expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was then and it is now.

I still have the Bible…although I have many other Bibles on my shelf…but I can replace the Bible. I can’t replace these notes.

My grandmother died a few months ago. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible…to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100′s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive…Lord willing…I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever! … at least that a human can give…

(Take a hint…who needs a letter from you?)

12 Bible Verses Which Have Shaped My Life

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Here are 12 Bible verses that have helped shape my life. There are so many others, but these were the first 12 to come to mind. I memorized these years ago and they’ve been timeless truths…daily reminders…I have “hidden in my heart”. All verses are from the New International Version, because I that was the version I primarily used at the time.

You may want to pick one, write it on an index card and put it on the refrigerator, and hid it in your heart.

Here are 12 life-shaping verses:

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Genesis 6:22

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 1 Peter 1:14-15

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalms 51:12

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. Psalms 13:6

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25:2

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

What is one of your life-shaping verses?

7 Hard Words I’d Say to Every Pastor

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I love pastors. I love to encourage pastors. And, that’s Biblical. (Ephesians 4:29…or something like that.)

Seriously, I’m a pastor. And, I work with pastors everyday. Having not been a pastor in the business world longer than I’ve been a pastor, I’ve still got somewhat of an objective…almost outside perspective. And, now I am a pastor. Have been one for over a decade. Sometimes I wish I could share with pastors what I’m really thinking.

Well, maybe I can.

Here are 7 hard words I’d say to every pastor:

Your family should not be second to your ministry – Your ministry is important. It’s your calling…hopefully your passion. But, so is your family. Or, at least, they should be. In fact, I’d claim that if your family suffers, almost without exception, so will your ministry.

You may never feel completely in control – I realize the ministry has so many unknowns. You work mostly with volunteers. You can’t seem to motivate people to do what people need to be doing. That’s not going to change. You are walking by faith, remember.

You need someone in your life, besides your spouse, who knows the dark places – Your spouse will usually feel the need to cover for you…and almost always see the best in you. You need someone who knows you well, but can look at you and say…”You’re not telling me the whole story. What’s the real deal?”

Your pace often determines your longevity – If you run too fast…you’ll burnout. If you run too slow…you’ll get bored. And, either is dangerous.

You aren’t the only one who can do that – In fact, God has designed the church as a Body…with many parts…who can do many things. Are you seriously allowing yourself to be held responsible for everything? You’ll be far more successful in ministry if you learn to equip and release.

Your church can function without you – You aren’t indispensable. You’re awesome…and wonderful…and the greatest pastor ever…maybe…but the “church” has lasted for several centuries without you. Sorry to break that to you, but when we come to realize this as true, it is a freeing reality. Jesus is in control.

You’re doing better than you think you are – Admit it. You’ve been comparing yourself to others…haven’t you? And, it’s depressing at times. How can they do the same or even less effort as you do and seem to get more results? But, God has a plan for you. It’s unique from His plan for everyone else. Be faithful to what He has called you to do. And, don’t worry about everyone else. And, someday…I’m convinced…you’ll indeed hear “Well done…good and faithful servant…well done.”

Pastor, do you have a hard word you’d share with other pastors? (Here’s your chance!)

7 Suggestions When God Is Silent

Here Are My Prayers

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over three years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can imagine the stress he experienced during those years.

Something strikes me, however, that seems to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1:

“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple New Testament passages, this “After a long time” was actually three and a half years. The famine was three and a half years long. For three and a half years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive…not speaking…even to His great servant Elijah during this time.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet. You have to wait.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is not liked and unpopular. He’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent.

God would soon do a miracle through Elijah…one he couldn’t even imagine…certainly not script, but during this period all Elijah could do was wait.

If you have been follower of Christ very long, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You don’t need much help doing that. The tough part of life is figuring out what to do during the years of silence…during the years when miracles are seemingly nowhere to be found.

What do we do during the spiritually dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God?

Here are 7 suggestions for those times:

Don’t ignore the silence… – Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness…when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. Stay very close to God and watch for Him to eventually display His power. He will in the fullness of time.

Confront known sin in your life – This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, but the problem for the Israelites was that they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now, but if you have known sin in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.

Go back to what you know – Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it 100’s of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith…which is the very character and promises of God. God is in control. He really is…even when it doesn’t seem that He is anywhere to be found.

Make a decision…Choose sides – You can’t adequately serve God and the world. (Consider Joshua 24:15) Something happens in life, often sin, busyness, boredom, or a tragedy…but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your obedience, get back securely on the right side.

Trust More…Not less – Times of silence may be filled with fear, but ironically, these times require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. That’s not an indication to quit…it may be that God is using that time for something bigger than you could have imagined…but whatever is next will most likely require a deeper level of trust.

Listen and Watch Closely – Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. Don’t miss them. He may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know that God is moving. (Read THIS POST if you need help discerning God’s will.)

Get ready to receive – God will break the silence some day…and when He does it WILL be good. If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence.

Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?

7 Aspects of the Man: Nelson Mandela (And Quotes)

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Nelson Mandela. He is referred to as the “Father of a Nation”. He lived a life of inspiration. He is mourned around the world. His life was long, and varied. He had plenty of highs and lows. Married and divorced three times. Prison. Labeled a terrorist. I don’t know all his story. Probably neither do most of you, but, from what. I know, I’m impressed how he ended. He finished well.

Here are 7 examples of the man Mandela was:

A man of peace – Pictures of Mandela can be found with leaders from all political spectrums. He brought peace to a nation and inspired peace in others. He fought for peace. (I think one key here too is that he was a person of humor. Countless reports mentioned that he made people laugh frequently. I love that.) Mandella once said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy,” 

A man of suffering – Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of his stand for equality. Eighteen of those years were spent sleeping in an 8 foot long cell. He was willing to suffer for a greater cause. He understood suffering as a part of achievement. One or his more famous quotes, ”Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

A man of courage - Mandela was willing to stand against bigotry, tyranny and injustice, even at personal risk. Mandela said, ”I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

A man of conviction – And he inspired others with that conviction. He once said, “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”

A man of triumph – Much of what the world admires about Mandela is the man he became after his years in prison. Bishop Desmond Tutu said that prison shaped him into the man he was in his final years. He once said, “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.

A man of humility – I love this quote of Mandela, “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”  It’s amazing that he gave up the presidency after one term. He most likely could have held the power position even longer. It’s reported he lived modestly, even giving away a third of his income as president.

A man of faith – My favorite trivia about Mandela isn’t trivial. Apparently, he was a believer. I loved THIS ARTICLE from Christian Today. Read some of Mandela’s quotes. It’s hard to deny his faith. As an example, consider this statement of Mandella. ”Each Easter marks the rebirth of our faith. It marks the victory of our risen Saviour over the torture of the cross and the grave.”

Nelson Mandela wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Politically speaking we may have even disagreed on some issues. But, what a great life! What an inspiration! What a great legacy! Rest in the peace you fought to realize.

5 Options for Dealing with Emotional Pain

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What do you do with pain? You’ve been injured. It wasn’t fatal, but it hurt. In this post, I’m talking about emotional pain. The fact is emotional pain often hurts more than physical pain. It certainly can last longer. All of us have experienced emotional pain. Some more than others.

What do you do with emotional pain?

You have options. Here are 5:

Rehearse – You can keep reminding yourself how much it hurt. You can go over and over again in your mind the people to blame. You can live the hurt repeatedly in your mind. The longer you do the longer it seems to hurt.

Repress – You can pretend it doesn’t hurt. With the right performance you can even convince people you’re okay…even yourself…for a while. But, deep inside, when the fake smile goes away and the pretend laugh goes away, it still hurts.

Resent – You can build a grudge. You can increase your anger towards others. But the depth of the grudge will be directly proportional to the depth of the pain and the time of recovery.

Repeat – You can hurt others because you were hurt. Get even at your next opportunity. Take out your hurts on another. But the emotional pain remains. It does.

Release – You can let go, admit it stinks, ask God to begin to restore your heart and allow you to begin again. Emotional healing is almost always a process that takes time. It may require outside help. It won’t be easy, but it begins with the intentionality to release the pain and move forward.

Choices…choices.

Which will you choose? 

Obviously this is a simplistic approach to a very complex issue. But the principles are true. If you have serious emotional injury, get help. Don’t struggle alone. See your physician. See a counselor. Talk to a minister. (As a word of counsel, if it is serious emotional issues most ministers aren’t equipped to counsel through this. But, most can refer you to someone trained to help you.)