Remembering Those Who Serve

Most of my readers know by now that I live in a military town. Our church is full of modern-day heros who have sacrificed to keep us free as a nation. I’ve written 10 Reasons I Love Our Military Families previously. Today is a day to remember all that took place, honor the fallen. Hundreds of fire, police and medical personnel, along with hundreds from our nation and others died on 9/11. I heard today that 90 countries were represented in the deaths on 9/11.

In a military community, the remembrance takes on a deeper meaning, because that day changed how many in our community have lived these last 10 years. In our church alone, we have several widows, several parents who have lost children, and hundreds of families who have spent more time separated more than together, because of the events of 9/11. There have been 603 lives lost this far into the war on terror from our community.

This week, as we remembered the events of 911, three of our brave soldiers were interviewed. Here’s is the short interview we shared today.

Please pray for our military and families and for our nation! Please continue to remember those who serve, our military, as well as our police, fire and emergency personnel. Thanks for all you do!

10 Reasons I Love Our Military Families

I am honored to live in a military town. All my life I have known soldiers. Some of my best friends and family have been military-related. Our church has a large military population. I have heard people talk about the burden of military families on a church, because every three years they have to be replaced. The family in this picture was in our community group, but left our church for a reassignment. Cheryl and I could not love a family anymore than we love them and we’ve loved staying in touch with them.

I have always felt our church was stronger because of our military families, for as long as they might stay.  Therefore, as we celebrate military families, here are 10 Reasons why I love the military families in our church:

  • They are some of the most dedicated people I know
  • They bring experiences with them from around the world
  • They have great work ethics
  • They are expectant of great things from God
  • They are appreciative of any ministry
  • They make wonderful volunteers
  • They build friendships for life
  • They are sacrificial givers
  • They raise awesome families
  • They are brave soldiers, protecting my right to do what I do

God bless our military and God bless America!

(I previously posted this over 2 years ago, but thought it appropriate to re-post, slightly edited, in honor of this weekend.)

7 Ways for a Wife to Encourage a Husband

I previously wrote 7 Ways to Encourage Your Wife. Several wives (and some husbands) asked for the counterpart. How do you encourage your husband? Fair enough.

I have been guilty of assuming men are simple to encourage, so I had actually written previous posts

If a wife wants to encourage a husband

and

A secret a husband keeps but needs you to know

each involving just one thing to do. You should probably read those posts first, but to keep with the women’s post…

Here are 7 ways to encourage your husband:

Give him a break from sharing details or emotions – Unless the situation demands it or he wants to share them, let him share the basic facts and information in a non-emotional way. It may be all he knows, has observed or remembers. Give him times when “That’s nice” is enough for an answer.

Brag on him – Especially to your friends… Let them know your guy is the greatest! Be sincere, but do it often and make sure he hears you.

Appreciate his interests - If he likes golf…learn a little about the game…enough to encourage him on a good day. If it’s fishing, cars, or football…well…you get the idea… (Bonus points: Give him hobby time – Most men love knowing they have your permission to enjoy a hobby, without wondering if they should be doing something else.)

Understand his work – A man is often more defined by what he does than anything else in his life. Know enough about his work to recognize his accomplishments.

Be available to him – And occasionally without a lot of effort on his part… Remember…you asked…or at least some of you did. :)

Assure him you’re okay…and he’s okay – On this one, I have to be honest…many times we are left wondering if everything is okay. We can’t read emotions as well as you do, but we know when you’re NOT okay. You can encourage him by assuring him nothing is wrong, even if you can’t process at the time how you feel or “what’s wrong”.

Let him fix something – This is not just with his hands…unless he can do that sort of thing…(I can’t) but with his mind. He’s wired as a fixer. Give him an actual problem to solve…and let him solve it without your help.

I almost said “let him eat steak”, but decided some men may prefer ice cream…so I’ll let you decide that one… You know your husband better than I do! :)

Men, what would you add to my list? What are some ways your wife can encourage you?

Do You Need to Take the WHAT Test?

W H A T

I’ve often written this with three steps, but I’ve found something is more memorable if it has an easy to remember formula.

If you are trying to complete a difficult assignment…

When you aren’t certain all parties are as committed as they need to be…

When you are trying to rebuild your trust in a relationship…

Before you commit to a partnership…

At the beginning of an important venture…

Take the WHAT Test

Where Where do you want to go? Seriously talk through the end goal. What do you want to accomplish? Define a win! Make sure this part is very clear up front.

How – How will you get there? What’s the plan? Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge? What are the necessary steps involved?

Agreement – Are you in complete agreement with the previous two? This is critical. Don’t neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without this step. Are you sure that you are sure?

Tenacity – Are you willing to pay the price to see it through? Most great ideas fail…not because they weren’t great ideas…but because no one had the tenacity to see them through. Decide on the front in that all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.

WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can pass the “What Test”.

There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is that strategically thinking through these steps will help protect and build or rebuild the relationship; plus keep all parties from being disappointed.

Does it help you to script things like this to help you remember and apply them?

When there aren’t words to say…

I did the funeral for an 18 year old young man once. (In fact, I’ve done a few too many funerals for children when the parents are still living.) For this boy, I went to school with his mother and his father is a dear, personal friend. He was supposed to start college the following Monday, but tragically died in a car accident on the prior Sunday night. He was a well-loved, funny, popular boy and the funeral home was packed with people paying their respects. As you can imagine, there were hundreds of students wrestling to understand why this happened to their friend.

In times like these, there usually are no words that can fully bring comfort to the family. They are hurting. They are hurting with a pain whose depths most of us can never imagine. I frequently get asked, “What should I say to the family?”

When there aren’t words to say…

Say nothing if there’s nothing to say…just be there…

Tell them you’re sorry…but don’t try to make explanations…

Give them a hug…and hold them until they let go…

Cry with them…and assure them you care…

Pray for them…and do this continually after you leave their presence…

When there aren’t words to say…

Just be a friend…

When was the last time you were in a situation where there was simply nothing to say? 

Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?

Suicide sucks!

I realize this is a heavy issue for this blog, but seriously…I have had to sit with people several times after a loved one committed suicide. A clouded or confused mind may see suicide as the only way out, although it is never the right option, but it is never easy reconcile for the people left behind. I believe one of my dearest pastor friends died of a broken heart after his son committed suicide. Sadly, suicide appears to be on the rise. Our local paper reported this week (see article HERE) that our state has been awarded $1.4 million to aid in suicide prevention.

Suicide sucks!

This post is not aimed for those who have ever considered suicide…

If you are at all thinking of taking your life…STOP and call for help NOW!!!

This post is for those who are victims of knowing someone who has taken his or her life…

One of the things I hear after a suicide breaks my heart. Families are often left wondering what happened to their loved one. Well-meaning people often repeat something they’ve heard before…that friends and family members who commit suicide are destined to be separated from Jesus the rest of their lives. They assume that suicide is the unforgivable sin. I’ve encountered people who struggle for years with the thoughts that their loved one died apart from Jesus. The only problem with that assumption is that I can’t prove it in the Bible.

Yes, suicide is a sin.

Murder is a sin…taking a life is a sin…suicide is a sin…

Please don’t resort to that…There is always a better way…

If you are at all thinking of taking your life…STOP and call for help NOW!!!

But, suicide is NOT the unforgivable sin.

The grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient even for this sin…

I’m fully convinced there will be brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Heaven, who were experiencing terrible trials…who felt trapped or helpless…who made a bad decision…who took their life…but fully believed that Jesus was the only answer for salvation.

Jesus describes the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:22-32. It says nothing about suicide.

I know this is a delicate issue. You might read THIS POST or THIS POST I found which addresses this issue in better detail.

I’m praying for those struggling with this issue as I post this…

Next Steps in a Marriage after an Affair

I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week. It’s a word we are afraid of, one that can destroy, and certainly one that will break a heart. Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they deny it.

The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought that word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together and actually strengthened following an affair, I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, here are some steps to take:

Expect numbness - For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. That’s okay.

Decide where you want to go with the marriage – Do you want to make it work or not? This is something both of you must decide. You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do. (This may take a week or a month or more, but if you want to save the marriage, you have to make that decision.)

Get counseling quick – This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. If you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.

Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan - This will be a difficult, long process, but the results are worth it.

Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you - This is a work of grace, but it is necessary to restore the marriage.

Build safeguards into your life – You will need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. What went wrong? Where were the holes?

Invest in other marriages – Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way.

This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage. I’m praying for those who read this that it won’t mean that for yours.

Feel free to comment with tips, stories, resources, or suggestions of your own.

What would you add to my list?

Top 5 Obstacles to Having a Great Marriage

One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages. In my work with marriages, I’ve identified 5 of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes just understanding what obstacles exist and that they are common to most marriages can helps us better learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger “one flesh”.

The 5 major obstacles I have seen are:

Lack of Biblical knowledge about marriage – There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver’s license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don’t really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

Differences in Men and Women – Men and women are designed differently by God; not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

Communication Styles – Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it’s received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

Outside influences – Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:

  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Devil

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

Differing Goals/Objectives – Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that’s part of God’s overall design to make two people one.
Some of the major differences include:

  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler; Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It’s to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God’s plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also that God didn’t promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, “This is a profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

Are Your Children a Bridge or a Wedge in Your Marriage?

Are your children a bridge or a wedge in your marriage?

Wedge:

Many parents allow children to be a wedge between them. They have separate discipline policies, differing goals for the children, and different methods of communicating with the children. They talk negatively to the children about the other parent and force the children to take sides between the parents. Some parents use the children as a tool to get even with the other parent. Other parents use the children as an excuse for a bad marriage.

Bridge:

Cheryl and I used our children to bridge our relationship. Obviously couples talk about children naturally, so we used that time to dream together, plan for our parenting, and escape for our personal time. Our two boys became a glue that continually brought us back together. We never gave our boys an answer on major issues until we talked about it together first. We refused to let our boys pit one of us against the other. We didn’t always agree at first, but our boys didn’t know it at the time and it forced us to come together on a decision, which in turn helped strengthen our marriage.

Are your children a bridge or a wedge in your marriage?