12 Things We’d Probably Do If We Had a Perfect Marriage

Portrait Of Loving African American Couple In Countryside

I don’t have a perfect marriage. I have a good marriage. We work at it. We are intentional. I would even say we have a really good marriage – but, it’s not perfect.

It isn’t perfect, because our marriage – probably like yours – is a work in progress. And, the real reason we don’t have a perfect marriage is because there are two imperfect people in this marriage – just like in your marriage.

But through years of counseling and working with hundreds of marriages in distress, I have a few thoughts on what it would take to have the perfect marriage. I’m not saying we will ever get there. You won’t either. But, having a standard to push for, and then actually pushing for it, always seems to make me better than I am today.

Of course, it takes two people working for the same goal. Doesn’t it? Many of you know this all too well. It’s always sad to me when one person gives up on the challenge.

But, all I know to advise people to do is your part. I’m trying to do mine – some days are better than others. Cheryl is trying to do her part. (She does hers better than I do mine.) But, some days for her are better than others. Again, it’s a work in progress. Hopefully, two hearts will be joined together more and more into one heart if each of us strive to do our part.

But, what if I had a perfect marriage? What is the goal worth striving to achieve?

Here are 12 things we would probably do if we had a perfect marriage:

Neither of us would ever go to bed angry. – I’ve learned over the years if a couple goes to be angry, they wake up angrier. And, tension builds. Clearing the slate each day – being “okay” with each other as we go to sleep – helps us start each today together rather than apart. We may not agree on everything, but our hearts are heading in the same direction.

We would always consider each other’s interests ahead of our own. – The Bible says to do this, right? And, imagine the power for the marriage when both parties obey the command?

We would invest our best time, apart from our time with Christ, in each other. – The world demands a lot from us. Outside demands can pull us apart if we aren’t careful. If the marriage were perfect, we would never let anything come between us or steal our most precious time.

We would love Christ deeply and model His love for each other. – I’m a better person when I’m full of Christ’s presence. Cheryl is too. Jesus on the inside – working on my outside – changes who I am to the world – and Cheryl.

We would protect each other’s heart – above all things. This Proverb is so true. So profound. So life-giving – and if not adhered to – can be so damaging. When the heart is injured it impacts everything else in our life.

We would value one another more for who we are than what we do. – It’s easy to get caught up in what we do for each other does or doesn’t do. And, while this is important, and each spouse should pull their own weight, when this is the primary focus we often forget the value the other person has to us apart from those things.

We would always honor each other with our words. – In a perfect marriage, we would always strive to build each other up and encourage one another. We would remove negativity about each other from our conversations. The goal would be to use words to bless the other person, never to destroy.

We would listen to each other – genuinely. – So many problems in a marriage are simply communication problems – where one person isn’t really listening. We don’t ask questions to make sure we understand. We misread intent. We illustrate value to another person when we truly care what they have to say.

Our prayers would be more for each other than for ourself. – We all get caught up in what we want or need God to do for us. When we focus our prayers on our spouse, it’s amazing to see how God honors them. He seems to love humility.

We’d encourage each others dreams. – A perfect marriage would be made up of two cheerleaders – each cheering for the other person to succeed.

We would never take what we have together for granted. – It’s so easy to do, isn’t it? We fall into routines – even bad habits – and we forget the love we have for one another, the way the other spouse blesses our life, what we would be missing without them. We can get so distracted by life we fail to realize the value our spouse adds to our life.

We would remind each other often all the reasons we married. – Because, it’s good to hear again, isn’t it? We all like to know the person we married cares, they love us unconditionally, and – if they had to do it all over again – they would without reservation.

There’s my list. I’m sure there are many others – if we had a perfect marriage.

Which of these do you most need to incorporate into your marriage? Maybe if we – I – just worked on one of these at a time we’ have – I’d have – an even better marriage than we have today.

What would you add to my list?

7 of the Biggest Misunderstandings Millennials have about My Baby Boomer Generation

Two People Having A Conversation

So much has been written about the Millennial generation. They may possibly be the most studied and documented generation – and, I thought this honor would go to my Baby-Boomer generation. Millennials have unique challenges. The world has been quite different during their lifetime. Fast change. New technologies. Increasing global tensions. 

I get to spend a lot of time with Millennials in my work as a pastor. I have two sons who are Millennials. Frankly, I love the generation. 

What is interesting to me when I talk to Millennials is some of the misunderstandings they have about my generation – specifically how my generation views their generation. 

Recently a young Millennial asked for some of my time to talk through where he felt God was leading him. He was so apologetic for “taking my time”. What he didn’t understand was how much his conversation fueled me for everything else I had to do that day. I loved it. I’ve had similar experiences many times.

The encounter caused me to reflect on other misunderstandings I’ve observed from Millennials about my generation. Feel free to add your own in the comments. 

7 of the biggest misunderstandings millennials have of my Baby-Boomer generation:

 

We really do enjoy helping you. Your inquisitive nature is not a burden to us. We don’t consider your questions to be dumb. We know we all have to learn somewhere. There is no higher compliment than to be asked for wisdom – or seen as knowing something worthy of your attention towards us. 

We wish we had asked more questions when we were your age. Yours is an inquisitive generation. You want to know. You’ve been used to having information – in fact, you can Google most your answers. We admire this about you and wish we had learned to ask questions earlier. Instead, we learned too many things the hard way – by experience – but we would have avoided some of those experiences if we could have. You inspire us to ask more questions. There are lots of things we can learn from you. (Thank you for this.)

We don’t think we know it all. At least most of us don’t. And, we are okay with it. Frankly, the older we get the more we realize we don’t know. And, it doesn’t seem to bother or frustrate us as it did when we were younger. 

We don’t always understand your impatience. Seriously, sometimes we don’t. We look at your life and you seem to be doing okay. So, when you are frustrated you don’t have everything yet – or aren’t where you want to be in your career – we don’t always “get it”. But, we know we were much like this when we were your age – and probably more impatient in our younger years. There was more of a sense of “work your way up” in our generation, but we often saw unfairness in who got to move up and how. 

We often understand what you’re feeling more than you think we do. You think because we are older, and aren’t experiencing some of the issues you’re experiencing, we don’t understand the frustrations you face. It is a new day – and the world is much different – but the things you experience today are some of the same issues we experienced – just without the texting or social media sharing possibilities for them. We struggled (and mostly still do) in relationships, careers, with our parents, trying to find our place, fears about our future – all of those things. 

We have a different perspective, but we aren’t as different as you think. We see life from a different viewpoint. We are further along in life. We have more experiences – more laughs, more heartaches, more disappointments, more failures – and, all of this makes us see the world a little differently. But, we aren’t as different as you might think. We have the same desires you have – for mutual respect, trusted relationships, workplace fairness and opportunity. We may disagree on how to get there – but we want the world to be a better place – as you do. The basic human wants and needs are often filled differently – but they remain much the same. 

We aren’t as crazy about all the tech advances either – when it comes to real relationships. Sure, we love the new gadgets – and appreciate you for helping us learn them (thankfully, I finally figured out the DVR) – but, we prefer real conversations with people we love than a text or phone call any day. Sure, we’ve taken advantage of the ease of social media to keep up with loved ones. We are guilty of emailing instead of walking down to your office. We fall into the trap of overworking and under-relating to people in our life. But, just like you, we value genuine relationships. We even like “hanging out”. And, hanging out with your generation – are some of our favorite times. 

Those are a few I’ve observed. Got any to add? 

5 Ways for a Christian to Rebuke or Correct a Friend

girl talk

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Wounds from a friend can be trusted… Proverbs 27:6

rebuke |riˈbyoōk|verb express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.

Years ago in high school, I had a friend tell me I was hanging out with the wrong people. It was hard to hear, but I listened to the advice and switched my sphere of influence. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, considering the different path my life took and the life of my former friends.

That’s only one example. Thankfully there have been many other times a friend loved me enough to help me see the mistakes I was making. Usually I knew, but the rebuke challenged me to alter my ways. I’ve had to “return the favor” many times.

There are times when you have to rebuke a friend in order to be a true friend. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell another what he or she is doing wrong. You may be the only one who cares enough to point out what everyone else sees, but refuses to address.

If you choose to accept the assignment of rebuking or correcting a friend, you should be sure you are accurate in your assessment – as much as you can be without a conversation, you should pray through the proper timing of your approach, and you should address the person and not others to keep from spreading gossip. And, this should go without saying, but you should make sure they are actually a friend. If the relationship isn’t a close one – you may not be the right person to approach them. 

I’ve titled this post ways for a “Christian” to rebuke a friend. I believe these could apply to believers or non-believers. But, I did so because part of being in the family of God comes with certain expectations, such as love and forgiveness – which we are to extend to all our friends – whether or not they share our faith. 

When the time comes, here are 5 ways to rebuke or correct a friend:

Be purposeful.

A rebuke should not be vindictive in nature or driven by jealousy or selfish interests. The betterment of your friend should be your sole objective. If this is not the case, you may only be acting from your emotions – and things will not go well. You will likely not be received well by your friend. Check your motive first. This is where prayer beforehand comes in handy. 

Be loving.

As we should do with everything, correction of any kind should come in the context of a loving relationship. In fact, one standard might be to not rebuke people you don’t love. If done correctly a rebuke is a part of love. (If you don’t know how, THIS POST was written for a different purpose, but may offer some suggestions.) Part of maturing as a person is learning how to say hard things and still be kind doing so. 

Be truthful.

Don’t dance around or use subtleties when addressing the issue. State the problem as you see it. Keep in mind you may be wrong on some of your assumptions, so be prepared to listen as much as talk, but don’t leave them guessing what you mean either. 

Be helpful.

In addition to pointing out the problems you see, a loving response comes with some offers for resolution and a willingness to walk through any necessary recovery with the friend. Help them process where they are in life. Recommit your friendship to them. Follow up with them afterwards to make sure they know you care. 

Be redemptive.

Be willing to extend grace and forgive the friend for any wrong they have done – towards you, others, or themselves. Make sure he or she knows you are still in their corner. Don’t offer a rebuke or correct someone if you aren’t also willing to forgive or if you don’t ultimately want the best for them – regardless of how they respond.

Do you have a friend you can count on to rebuke or correct you if needed?

7 Ways to Help the Introverts on Your Team Better Engage in Meetings

power meeting from above

I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how. I try to remind them other people are different from me, even other introverts.

Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me authority, I’ll lead the meeting. No problem. That would never be comfortable for some introverts.

So, my best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would not be to consider the introverts, but to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins. If it’s “your” team this is done over time – getting to know the team. If the meeting involves people you don’t know or know well, it’s more difficult, but good leaders learn to study people – things such as the way they respond before the meeting, when they are introducing themselves, or their posture during the meeting.

But, I do understand the introvert question. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion – or it’s a meeting full of extreme extroverts.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Again, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics.

And, by the way, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond

This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to share some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions – ahead of time

Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing

When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot

If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted

If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. Then, prepare to be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control

Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert. Before you have the meeting, if they are willing, give introverts an assignment where they are responsible for sharing.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas

Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships when the Relationship has been Injured

family prayer

Do you have any injured relationships in your life?

Broken hearts, hurt feelings, or grudges from the past are common among relationships. At some point we all have relationships, which have gone from bad to worst.

In fact, sometimes the people we have to be around, by default – blood relatives, in-laws, or co-workers – are people we wouldn’t choose to be around unless we had to be.

It’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.)

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most – or who always seems to say the wrong thing – or who is, honestly, even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

You can’t control other people’s response – only yours, but how should you act in those injured relationships?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are 6 tips for healthier, happier relationships:

Bite your tongue

When you are tempted to snap back – don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26) Memorize and learn to pray Psalm 141:3. (Look it up. It’s the first step towards learning it.)

Extend grace

Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes

Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too – by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience

Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t this what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility

When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break through in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them

The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer the One whose yoke is easy the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships. Trust me.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Change Your World

fireworks

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

12 Challenges for the New Year Which Can Make Your Life Better

Challenge

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? (But, at this point I’m writing another post – which I may – so let me get on with the point of this one.)

I wonder if the term itself is a problem. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal – almost intimidating – doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life – whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge – but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples – maybe some challenges for you to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them – just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them – or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness – He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life away – that this would happen or that would happen – but when you begin to find contentment – TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell – there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back – grieve – get help if needed. If it’s regret – reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past – deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt – it stinks – and you wish it hadn’t happened – but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free – you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go – could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People – even the best people – will never perform to all of your standards – and is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality – and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year – admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us – though we have less – to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

Young woman telling a secret to a man

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

10 Life Lessons and Reminders from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

wonderful life bank scare

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. I have probably seen it thirty times or more.

I read recently, the movie was not a success the first few years after it’s release. No one could sit through the hard part to get to the happy ending. Aren’t we like this with life sometimes?

A couple years ago Cheryl and I saw it on the big screen. One of our local, historic theaters, shared the film for Christmas. There was something even more wonderful about “It’s a Wonderful Life” in this setting.

I took time to reflect on the moment. I was reminded how many life lessons this movie provides.

Here are 10 life lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

It’s not just about us. Other lives matter. We are better, richer, because of other people.

When we hurt, we hurt others. When we are in pain, we tend to feel we are suffering alone, but this is never the case. When someone we love hurts – we hurt.

We can’t hide our pain from people we love. They know. They may not know how to help or even how to express their concern – at least not in a way we will receive it – but they know – and care.

We need community. We really do need people in our life. We never realize this more than when we are in need. (I can’t imagine my life personally without the church.)

There is power in cooperation. We can do great things when we work together. I love this quote by Aimee Semple McPherson, “With God, I can do great things! But with God and you, and the people who you can interest, by the grace of God, we’re gonna change the world!” So true.

We seldom know the impact we have on others. Or, the good we are doing. I think God may protect us from foolish pride this way – thinking it is all about us. But, when we care – when we love others – when we strive to make a difference – we make a bigger splash on humanity than we could ever measure.

Character speaks louder than cash. Every. Single. Time. I’d rather have my integrity than a stuffed wallet any day. And, I’d rather have friends I can trust – and strive to be like – than friends who can buy my lunch.

“All you can take with you is that which you have given away”. (Peter Bailey) There are so many Biblical principles in this movie – this is one of them. Storing up treasures where moth and rust cannot destroy – it really does make for a wonderful life.

No man is a failure who has friends.” (Clarence) You can’t watch the movie and not wonder if you’d have friends come through for you as George Bailey did. I’m reminded the best way to have a friend is to be one. It worked for George – and it still works today.

Our life matters. Your life matters. (“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence.) God makes no mistake with His creation. He has a purpose for every soul, in which He breathes life.

What did I miss?

5 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Pastors and Ministers at Christmas and in the New Year

Yes or no buttons

I posted something similar several years ago, but decided the subject needed mentioning again. One of my goals in ministry is to help protect the ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to be serving in a healthy church, which encourages my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helps. We have a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even have several retired ministers in our church who can help fill in when needed.

With the Christmas season here – and really thinking into the new year – I thought I would share a few things you can do and a few things not to do to support the ministers you probably love.  The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray for them during the holidays (and always) – This is an especially stressful time for everyone – and it may be one of their most stressful times of the year. 
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them – that you see them as regular people who like to have fun. 
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.
  • Encourage them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Show them disappointment when they can’t make your event. Don’t take it personal – it probably isn’t. It may simply be practical – they can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try. 
  • Make them feel guilty when they aren’t where you want them to be . They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And, some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. 
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human. 
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?