A Life Principle My Daddy Taught Me

You May Need This One Today

My father was probably the most bottom line guy I know. One of his most quotable lines was “The main thing is don’t get excited.” If anyone was ever tempted to stress about an issue he would interject this often repeated line.

And, there have been many times I have needed to remember those words.

There’s another phrase he used often, however, which may be even more poignant for our day. Perhaps you need this one – for whatever you are facing – or fear you may face.

It is what it is.

And, you know, it really is what it is.

In other words, you can’t change it now. That’s a fact, Jack.

There is a Bible verse which always comes to mind. This may be one of my favorites.

If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. (Ecclesiastes 11:3)

It is what it is.

When the clouds are full – it rains.

When the tree falls – there it is.

Admitting “it is what it is” allows you to quit complaining and actually begin to figure out how you will live with the reality you are facing.

You didn’t get the job promotion. It is what it is.
The business failed. It is what it is. 

Where do you need to admit it is what it is?

Perhaps your marriage is in trouble. Maybe you have a spending problem. You’ve let your weight get out of control. Perhaps you’ve been a lousy friend. It could be you are in over your head and don’t know what to do about it.

Insert yours here __________________. But, whatever it is…

It is what it is.

The first step in moving forward is often to admit the reality you’ve been denying or trying to ignore. Now that you’ve admitted what it is you can ask more important questions, such as – What are you going to do about it?

Because where you’re going is far more important than where you’ve been or even where you are currently.

7 Ways for a Husband to Encourage His Wife

I’m not a perfect husband.

I’m not a perfect husband.

I’m not a perfect husband.

I would write that 100 times, but I think you get the message and I’d probably lose most of you at number 17. That’s the average number of times you’ll read the same thing. (Of course, I just made that up.)

But, I want it clear up front, I’m not a perfect husband.

I have learned a few things and I do want to be a better husband. I know, for example, part of my happiness is found in Cheryl being happy. I love my wife enough I want her to be happy. I think most husbands would agree with this statement. If not, its time to get outside help for the marriage.

Obviously, I can’t control all the things which happen in a day for her. I can’t stop people from being rude to her as she drives to work. I can’t keep the co-worker who is having a bad day from taking her bad day out on Cheryl. I can’t stop the pressures and stress Cheryl will encounter by being a pastor’s wife or by being a friend, mother, daughter or sister.

All I can control is the way I respond to Cheryl and the things I do to encourage her happiness. I do believe – as I read Scripture – just as I strategically think for my ministry, I should strategically think how to encourage my wife. It’s part of loving my wife as Christ loves the church.

Obviously a wife wants to know she’s loved, that you believe in her and respect her, and that we are committed long-term to the relationship. But, what are some practical ways to show this on a continual basis? Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

Here are a 7 ways I try to encourage Cheryl:

Send flowers – when they aren’t expected. 

This seems so trivial, but I honestly have to remind myself to do this. Flowers on a special occasion are nice, but I have found the ones she enjoys the most are sent on the days she’s not looking for flowers. This could be something besides flowers if your wife isn’t into flowers much, but I’ve also discovered many of the practical-minded women who say they don’t want flowers actually love receiving them occasionally.

Reserve a day – just for her.

I try to do this every Saturday. I let few things interrupt this day and none without consulting with Cheryl first. You may not be able to do this once a week and it may not be for a full day, but it should be consistent enough she can anticipate it. I think it’s great if these are placed on the calendar and trump other interruptions. (There are always emergencies, but as much as possible keep them. Plus, some things we claim as emergencies could actually be delegated to someone else.) During the times when life is most stressful and you are pulled in different directions, these reserved times give her something to look forward to and remind her you’ll be able to “catch up” soon.

Give a giftt which keeps on giving.

This idea is brilliant, I must admit. I love to give a gift which takes a while to receive. When the boys were at home and getting away was more difficult, I would give Cheryl a trip for Christmas every year. We would take the trip in May. I would usually pick a location, request brochures, and give them to her as her “big” gift at Christmas. We had months to plan for it, which built positive emotions leading up to the trip and then anticipating the next Christmas trip. (Plus, many of these expenses were paid outside the Christmas spending frenzy, which helped our budget.) We are more flexible with our schedule since the boys have moved out, but I still try to keep something planned ahead for Cheryl to look forward to in the future. These are huge boosts on otherwise cloudy days.

Be a responsive listener.

I realize whenever Cheryl says something there is usually a deeper meaning, so I try to listen for the deeper meaning. I try to understand her thought process.(Girls, guys really do talk in simpler facts, which makes it more difficult for us to understand subtleties sometimes.) Instead of dismissing what Cheryl said, because it wasn’t clear or assuming I know what she’s saying, I ask questions for clarification when needed.

Give her details.

Okay, I know, this one can hurt – and, I’m not the best at it. Again, I’m not the perfect husband here. (Do I need to write that again?) I try allowing Cheryl to ask me questions and I try to tell her when I’ve told her everything I know. I realize details are more important to her than to me. (This may be opposite for you and your spouse.) Cheryl is very accommodating here – knowing I don’t like details. We plan times together where she knows I’m more likely to talk – such as our morning or evening walks. I have to remember though – just because details aren’t important to me doesn’t mean they aren’t to her.

Listen without fixing.

This is my toughest, but just in the last couple week I did this. I hope she caught it. She had a list of things on her mind she was struggling with and I didn’t say a word until she got through all of them. And, it was hard. I am a fixer. I fix problems everyday. Give me a problem and I’ll be quick to race to a solution. I realize many times, however, Cheryl simply wants my ear and not my expert insight.

Brag to others about her.

Let your wife hear you bragging about her to other people. She’s wonderful, right? Let her know you recognize it. Of course, this should be genuine, but I know Cheryl appreciates hearing me affirm her to others. And Cheryl is wonderful. You heard it here first. It’s funny sometimes, because people who haven’t picked Cheryl out in the crowd on Sunday or met her yet, will ask – “Are you ‘the Cheryl’?” They’ve heard me talk about her enough they want to know who she is.

Guys, your list will be different from mine, because your wife is different. Some of them will be the same. The point of this post is to encourage you to think strategically about how you can encourage your wife.

Ladies, feel free to help us men. Most of us really do want you to feel encouraged. So, anything you would add to my list which would encourage you?

7 Thoughts for Parenting a Young Family During the Presidential Election Season

And other scary times of life.

Can we just admit this has not been our favorite presedential election season? I’ll admit. I’m one who tends to see the more positive in every scenario and it’s honestly difficult to do this time.

A man with a young children asked me recently how should he and his wife parent their family during this season. Great question. Regardless of whether or not your choice for president is clear, tensions have never seemed higher. This is true even among believers. Children surely have sensed the tension in us. 

I don’t have all the answers – and, my children are grown – but, I have a few. 

Please understand. This is not a political post. This is a dealing with life around you as a parent post. And, I would suggest these for other times when their world is scarier than normal. 

Here are 7 suggestions for parenting children during this presedential election:

Help them see hope.

There is always hope, right? If you’re following after a Savior named Jesus who has overcome the world – there is always hope! Children will seldom be more hopeful about their future than you are hopeful about yours.

Don’t shelter them.

Everything should be age appropriate, but pretty much every newsstand and every television has something about this election. They hear it at school and in the restaurants and stores. They see you react to Facebook posts. There really isn’t much of a way to escape it completely if they are old enough to carry on a conversation.

Don’t overexpose them.

I certainly don’t think I would sit an elementary child in front of the television every night – and, really, this is regardless of what’s on television. Again, the child’s age is important as well as their interest level. When I was in elementary school I actually cared about current events. I wanted to watch the news. I do think as parents we should monitor not only how much they watch, but also how it seems to be affecting them.

Allow them to ask questions.

It’s probably best to see if they have questions and let them guide the discussion with how much or how little they want to know. No question should be off limits and I don’t think there should be many “we’re not going to talk about it anymore” rules. If children are curious enough they will find information somewhere and where better than from you?

Read Scripture together and pray for and with them.

The ultimate answer for our day is the truth which never changes. I find great comfort in the Psalms. Children love to read. Find a good Bible for children and read truth together. And, I have often heard and said, “Prayer doesn’t always change the circumstances, but prayer always changes me.” The same is true for children. There is a comfort in prayer – when you “take all your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” Children learn faith from you. Share your faith with them. (The Scripture and prayer time will help you also.)

Teach them Biblical principles of how to respond to the world.

Regardless of the times, we are to love our neighbors, care for others, and strive to live in unity. We even have to respect authority – unless it differs from the commands of God. Those are timeless Biblical truths. You can certainly teach them principles of government you adhere to also, but mostly we should be shaping the character of our children – of course, ultimately into the character of Christ. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if the character of Christ impacted our politics today?

Have some fun with them.

You need it and so do they. The fact is when we’ve been living under the cloud of our times like this election has done for many of us our own energy level might be drained. You may be missing some enthusiasm you usually have. But, children need to laugh and play. They need to have fun within the safety of their parent’s strength. Maybe turn off the television, play a game, or do watch something which causes everyone to have a big belly laugh. Coudln’t we all use one of those about now?

Those are just a few thoughts to get you thinking. I have written similar thoughts before on helping children respond to fear from tragedy. You can read another post HERE. What would you add to my list?

(And, I’m really not looking for political commentary here – just trying to help some young families parent.)

7 Tips for Healthier Marriage Communication

Healthy marriages are built on communication. Almost without exception – if you improve communication you improve the marriage. A couple with poor communication will have a difficult time building a successful marriage.

By the way, every marriage could 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. Ask yourself – have you been listening lately – really listening? Good listening takes time and effort – and usually a muted television.

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. A good question here – do you need to be silent more often? Maybe you need to not try to solve the problem today and schedule a time next week to really talk about things which matter.

Never criticize the person

You can address actions, but when you attack the person, defenses rise and communication fails. Every time. Again, ask yourself, are you being critical of the one you are supposed to be building up? Does your spouse feel valued by you?

Be willing to give each other credit for differences

And, 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 there is almost always a deeper meaning attached to what they are saying.

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

Keep emotions under control when trying to communicate

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.

Work for 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 now which you’ve been building in your heart as angst against your spouse? The enemy loves to use these as a wedge between couples.

Be willing to humble yourself and forgive

Marriage is hard – people make mistakes. Marriage must be free flowing with continual grace and truth. Are you holding a grudge you need to release? This is not an excuse for bad behavior and we should always strive to do better, but at some point for the marriage to move forward there may need to be forgiveness.

What tips can you share? What has improved the communication in your marriage?

For more help for your marriage, click HERE.

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post.

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. It’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success

Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner personal struggle

I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ

Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself

The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences where God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord – Here am I – send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call

After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences?

What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

When our boys were at home

Reflections for parents of young children.

It seems like only yesterday our boys were living in the home at 9 Canterbury. The house was full.

The house was loud. (What does “inside voices” even mean to an 8 year old boy?)

Balls were constantly flying through the air. (A lamp or two may have lost its life during these days.)

The floor was used as a wrestling ring. (And, I usually got to hear one boy squeal and Cheryl say, “Someone’s going to get hurt!”)

Every night seemed like it was filled with a practice or ballgame. (We ran a taxi service it seemed at times.)

We had little “free time” for ourselves. (And, thankfully we stole every moment we could.)

Clothes were left lying on the floor. (No matter how many times you warned them not to be.)

The toilets weren’t always flushed. (And, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.)

The boys usually didn’t help around the house unless forced to do so. (It was like they didn’t even notice everything which needed to be done.)

They left the top off the toothpaste. (One of my pet peeves – and they often squeezed the tube in the middle – another pet peeeve.)

They didn’t want to go to bed on time. (And, they had a million excuses why they needed to stay up later.)

They didn’t want to get up in the morning. (Does “We’re going to be late” even motivate a child?)

I hated science projects. (And, they had lots of science projects – all announced to us days before they were due – sometimes even the night before they were due.)

There were endless hours of them performing “shows” for us. They would pick out one of their favorite songs – “Dancing with the Dinosaurs” by Steven Curtis Chapman first comes to my mind – and “perform” a dance routine for us. And, of course, we were expected to be their biggest fans. (They may hate I shared this one.)

We sacrificed a lot for them. They really did take a lot of our time. Just being honest, in some ways, they ‘cramped our style’. They consistently altered our plans, so we could help them with their plans. And, they never seemed to realize it either. 

And, you know what?

I miss those days. A lot. 

Some days more than ever. Those days were some of the best days of my life.

Do you still have kids at home?

Those days pass so quickly. One day you have clothes lying on the floor and it seems like only the next day you have an eerily empty bedroom.

Don’t neglect the good days.

One day you’ll miss them too!

7 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Children

Which will last a lifetime

Most parents want to develop a close, lasting bond with their children which goes beyond the years a child lives in the home. Having a relationship with children which transcends time begins early in a child’s life as the heart of the child bonds with the heart of the parent.

I’m happy to say my boys are grown, but they are two of my best friends. And, they call or text frequently to discuss life and seek my input. I couldn’t ask for more. I realize now there were some things we did along the way which built the bond we have even today. Some of it may have been “accident” on our part. They don’t have to be for younger parents.

Here are a 7 tips to help build strong, lifetime relationships with children:

Choose activities to do together that they enjoy.

It’s a great plus if they enjoy your hobbies, but you will have better success in connecting if you do the things with them they enjoy most. Don’t try to create a clone of you. When they begin making choices for themselves, learn to love their activities and play times.

Don’t force yourself on your children.

As children get older and begin developing outside interests, do not be the parent who always has to tag along. Be there if you are invited, but allow your children some freedom to explore. As they get older, welcome other adults you trust to invest in them. This is one of the great values of being active in a local church. Men I admire made huge impacts on my boys.

Remain accessible to your children always, but especially during busy or stressful times.

Children cannot handle or understand stress the way adults can. They just know when they want or need their parents. Make sure you are available as much as possible when the desire strikes them. We made sure our boys knew they were never an interruption and we were always there when needed. This meant building our schedule around time planned with them. The busier I was and more stressful life became, the more I protected our family time. We wanted our boys to know we would always be there for them – even when they made mistakes. Never cause your child to question your accessibility.

Communicate on their level and with their interests.

Understand the language of their age and learn about the things they have interest in doing. I never knew much about soccer or wrestling, but one of our boys did, so now I do. Wanna wrestle?

Learn to love their friends.

This is huge and will show you value their choices in friends and relationships. We sometimes had to gently guide them and we even distracted them from some friends, but we wanted them to love everyone. Be patient with them. They should not be expected to have the maturity of an adult yet. They will make mistakes and will not always make the decisions you want them to make. Help them form good values then honor their ability to make choices while you are still there to help them recover when they make bad ones. They’ll need good decision making skills for a lifetime.

Slow down.

Life races by and before you know it the kids are gone. Believe me when I say this – it passes fast. Too fast. In your race to provide them all the right opportunities, all the stuff, make sure you give them what they need most. – YOUR TIME.

Be intentional.

When our boys were young I didn’t have a smart phone. It was probably a good thing they weren’t around yet. But, I was busy, as all parents are. I worked hard running a business we owned, was active in dozens of professional and spiritual activities, including holding public office, but I rarely missed a ballgame or practice. Their time went on my calendar first. FIRST. (Even as adults, my boys still have the opportunity to interrupt just about any meeting with a phone call.) And, I had no problem saying no to other opportunities. There are always unexpected interruptions, but those should be the exception not the every week occurrence. (And, I still contend pastors can make this commitment. There are others in the church who can help with ministerial responsibilities.) 

To be clear, none of these are excuses to give children everything they want or to allow them to set the standards for your home. I believe parents should parent. For more on my parenting philosophy here read other posts under the category of PARENTING.

Connecting with children in a way which lasts beyond the years they must connect with you, however, begins early in the child’s life and takes a consistent effort on the part of the parents. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact I have known parents who seemingly did everything right and things didn’t turn out as they had hoped. Their children went astray, they are no longer close – I even talked to some godly parents recently who said they haven’t talked to a child of theirs in four years – even though they’ve tried. Children are unique individuals – all of them – and, just as Proverbs are principles, not promises, this is what I’ve attempted to share here. When you’ve done all you know to do – pray like crazy! 

7 Words of Encouragement for Sending a Child to College

In August of every year I see the posts and get the emails. Parents are dropping off their kids at college – and, it’s hard. I know it is hard.

Our first son went to college in the city where we lived, so we got a somewhat break from this one – although even them moving in a dorm room across town is hard.

I think it’s the empty bed, which causes such a problem – you know, the one in the room you used to fuss about never being clean? And, the empty spot at the dinner table. And, the laughter. And, sometimes the late night school project because they thought it wasn’t due until next week.  

There is a profound sense of loss. (Word to parents of children at home. Enjoy those messy bedrooms while you can.)

When our oldest son went away to school – nearly 8 hours away – it was almost more than I could stand – or, so it felt like at the time. With both boys out of the house I went through a minor depression stage. And, I know the symptoms. It felt life would never be as good again. And, my wife and I had and have a great relationship together. We simply loved having our boys at home.

I have had a few years to process moving a child to college and I have some advice to share. Please know I’m being sensitive. About every year I get a frantic email from a parent. Everyone responds differently, but it hits some people so hard they are near panic.

These are particularly helpful for the time of dropping off your child at college and the few months which follow – those appear to be the hardest. 

Here are some quick words of encouragement about leaving your child at college:

Don’t overstay your welcome.

When the time comes to leave – leave on a high note. This may be the most important advice I can give and the one I didn’t do right. You want to see them having fun if possible.

Nate was mature enough to know it would be hard, so we decided to make it a father/son adventure to drop him off at school. He had a couple good days of orientation where they wanted one parent there. Nate seemed to be making friends. He had a great group of guys in his dorm. I was excited for him. 

Then I made one fatal mistake. Learn from me parents. I spent another night and said we would have breakfast together before I left in the morning. Wow! We sat in a breakfast place for 2 hours and never said a word. He is a youth pastor now across the country from us, so I don’t think he would mind me telling you the truth now. When it was time for me to leave, he lost it. I had to pull myself away and knew he was miserable as I left.

Had I left when he was busy, involved, and surrounded by friends it might have been easier. I certainly think it would have been.

Let them have their space.

It’s their new journey. This may include letting them decorate their room – as they want to decorate it – or looking for hints when they want to make the decision on their own. Now isn’t the time to baby them. They are entering a very adult, independent phase when they get to college. Treat them with this respect.

Of course, we know they have much maturing to do. They still need your wisdom – and, hopefully will want it. But, you are more likely to get asked for it if you do not force it upon them.

Let them help determine the level of communication.

Obviously you cannot wait to hear from them. But, be careful. This isn’t elementary school – nor middle or high school. Remember how with each progression you knew less and had to figure out more on your own? Well, this is college. Don’t keep texting them looking for updates. Don’t guilt them into calling. As hard as it is, the more pressure you use the less they may be motivated to tell you.

This said, I think it is fine to send them encouraging cards and emails. Don’t overdo this either, but they will especially enjoy getting mail – the snail kind. You could even use this time to affirm them and let them know how you are praying for them. This is good advice for grandparents too. And, occasionally include some of their favorite snacks in a care package.  

They probably will do better than you think they will.

You need this reminder, don’t you? Because, right now you’re concerned for them. Will they know what to do if something bad happens? Will they take care of themselves physically? Will they eat right? Well, I can almost assure you they won’t do everything right. Do any of us? Even still? But, at least in my experience, children often seem to perform better when we aren’t around. Hasn’t it been this way much of their life? You loved how other parents bragged on them for their behavior at their house. Even in this sometimes careless days of college they will not forget but you taught them. 

There will be a period of adjustment.

Adjustment will come for you and for your children. It is harder for some parents and some children than others. Seek encouragement from other parents who have done this one – and survived (which most of us do). Church is a great blessing for this. 

It’s okay to cry, but try not to as much on drop-off weekend. (I knew I needed to be strong for my son, so I waited until I got to my vehicle -then I cried all the way home.) Be prepared to encourage your children during this transition season. They will need you more than they know how to ask for your help. They have their own emotional sense of loss. They may try to be strong, but the first semester may be difficult. Remember, they’ve never done this either!

They will come home again.

You feel a sense of loss, but you’ve not lost them. They will be home. It will be different, but it will be great. You will enjoy these times and make new memories. And, trust me on this one, as much as you’ll love them being home – anytime – in time you may even be glad it’s time to go back to school again. 

If only we could put a lid on time. If only we could slow down the speed of our children’s life. We can’t. It keeps moving forward. Enjoy this new season of their life – and yours – like you have (hopefully most) every other season.

If you’re having to do this – it means you did something right.

You’ve done your job well. Most of us want them to mature, grow up, move out and settle on their own. Remember, you raised them for this moment. And, many others they will experience.

Celebrate parenting done well. You are sending them out with more foundational wisdom than you think you are. Let your godly pride for them replace some of the emptiness you feel inside.

If the day has come to send them to college – do it with joy! Embrace the moment. These are good times too. Seriously.

Praying for you.

Experienced parents – any other advice you’ve learned?

4 Expectations Which Can Injure a Marriage

Is your marriage struggling?

I do not at all mean to oversimplify your problems – there is always more to it than what is immediately visible – but, sometimes, in my experience, there may be a problem with expectations.

Expectations are critical for the success of any good relationship – especially in a marriage.

If you have false expectations you will have trouble in your marriage – and, in every relationship of your life.

Here are 4 expectations which can injure a marriage:

Unspoken expectations.

When the couple never lays out their expectations in the marriage one spouse or the other will be disappointed at some point. A lot of couples assume they are on the same page until a problem arises where they find out otherwise.

I have found this especially true with upcoming life ventures. Parenting, as an example. Couples naturally assume they will discipline the same way. They don’t.

The more you can communicate your expectations the better prepared you will be to face life as it comes to you – or as you are living it.

Unclear expectations.

When the couple thinks they’ve communicated expectations, but they didn’t use language the other one could understands there will be problems in the relationship. Everyone communicates differently. Expectations must be clear. And, many times they have to be tested before we understand them.

I have sat with couples who thought they made things clear – or thought the other spouse surely “read their mind”. It’s important to ask questions, such as, “What I hear you saying is _____. Did I understand correctly?”

Unmet expectations.

When the couple had clear expectations – everyone understood them – they’ve even been tested – but, one spouse isn’t holding up their end of the deal – there will be trouble in what was once paradise.

I borrowed from a cliche, because marriage isn’t necessarily always paradise. It certainly should be, however, a relationship where trust is unquestioned. Commitments made in a marriage should be kept at the highest level possible.

Unrealistic expectations.

Some couples have expectations which are impossible for the other spouse to meet. Our spouse is not our savior. They are not perfect. They can’t read our minds. They will make mistakes.

Great marriages major on grace and forgiveness, because we all need lots of it.

How are you doing with setting and keeping expectations in your marriage?

By the way, these 4 are true in other relationships also.

3 Ways to Find Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

Finding family balance in a busier than ever world – it’s tough.

It has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I get from other pastors and leaders. Frankly, I’m glad they are asking the question. I especially see this true among the newest generation of leaders.

Cheryl, the boys and I were talking not long ago. They wanted to know how we did it? How did we keep the balance between a busy life and a healthy family life?

They knew we were busy. We had lots of responsibilities.

I was on the local city council. Served for a time as vice-mayor. We owned a small business with many employees depending on us to keep a business going which could feed lots of families. (You don’t know stress until you feel the weight of making payroll for 35-40 people every week.) I was on dozens of community committees and was active in the church, where I served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Cheryl spent more time in the home than me during this season, but she also worked in our business. She served in the church. She was active leading in the schools where our boys attended – often serving as the president of the parent organization.

Yet my boys knew we rarely missed anything they were doing. Ball games. Practices. School events. Church events.

And, they felt we had lots of time for just us as a family. We ate dinner together most evenings. We threw and kicked lots of balls in our back and front yard. They felt we invested a lot of time in them.

They wanted to know how we did it – how we figured out the balance.

And, honestly, I have to admit – we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were figuring it out as we went. Plus, everything seems busier now. Travel ball. Travel dance. Social media. You know you’ve got to update your status often or your social media stats will suffer.

How do you do all you feel you have to do and still find balance?

Well, it may be harder today than 15 or so years ago, but I think the same principles we used then still apply.

Say no to some good things.

And, this is hard, isn’t it? Because you want your kids to have every opportunity they want. You want them to be exposed to lots of different things. You don’t want them to miss things their friends are doing. How can you say no?

But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decisions for your kids they aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. Of course, they want to do it all. They are kids, but you have to ask yourself – is this the wisest decision for them today, based on where they need to go someday?

One day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish for more time with them. Some moms, like Cheryl, will wish you could wash some dirty clothes or pick up some socks from the floor (yea, funny how that works). Some dads, like me, will miss coming home tired from work and still getting outside to play catch.

But, right now your kids need you. More now than ever. They need your influence. And, you develop influence with them over time – when you’re with them. So, which is the greater good — another sport – another activity – or more time with you?

You’ll have to decide, but I suggest you consider the word “no”. It’s a good word. And, I would say it’s vital to having a balanced family life.

We limited the number of activities we allowed our kids to do. They got to choose, but they couldn’t choose everything. And, we said no to outside social invitations many times so we could have family time together.

Say yes to intentionality.

When you’re home be home. Turn off the phones. Put down the laptop. Turn off the television. Be radical with your scheduled time with them. And, yes, my family went on my calendar – trumping other good things.

I know this is hard also. You’re tired – and the recliner and remote are your escape. I get it. You have one more email to answer. You need to check your Facebook or Instagram posts to see who has interacted with you.

I cover this more in the next one – but since time is limited you’ve got to make the most of it. Every moment must count. Every night is another opportunity. An opportunity which quickly disappears with a fast moving calendar. (If there is one thing I hear empty-nest parents say it is they got to this stage quicker than they thought they would. Time passes fast.)

And invest in your marriage too. Intentionally shut everything down often enough so you stay connected. Yes. It’s crazy. It takes time away from an already busy schedule. But , it’s life giving to the marriage and your sanity.

We weren’t perfect at this, but our boys knew they had our attention. One example, I didn’t play golf for years – even though I loved the game – because my boys never took an interest in it. I thought time was better spent with them. We didn’t turn on the television every night – and not for long periods on the nights we did.

Be creative with your time.

You’ve got to learn to use teachable moments. Learn to love the activities your child loves. Throw balls together. Learn to love dancing at home. Play with action characters. Build science projects together (oh I hated those – miss them now). Use bedtime and dinnertime and breakfast time – and car circles – and trips to the garbage dump – whatever you have, whatever it takes, use the time you have with your children well. Use it creatively.

There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. Intentional is the key word in the last sentence. You have to be intentional. And, it is hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Every. Single. Time.

We didn’t really do family devotion times in our home. It didn’t work as well for our boys. But, we talked about God’s Word, principles of life, values we should hold as followers of Christ – along the journey of life. Every time a ball was in the air I knew I had a captive audience with two eager soon-to-be men. And, I took advantage of the opportunity. I knew it would pass too soon.

You can find the balance<. It is hard. There's nothing more important.