This One Song Can Dramatically Improve Your Marriage

Still In Love

She Believes in Me” written by Steve Gibb and sung by Kenny Rogers has the power to improve your marriage.

Wow! Is this is misleading statement designed as a catchy phrase to get you to read a blog post?

No!

I’m not saying I’d never do something like it, but I’m not this time. I promise!

And, granted, the song itself can’t improve your marriage. Listen to it a thousand times and your marriage may not be any better.

But, it’s the principle within the song, which if applied, I’d come close to guaranteeing it will work.

Years ago I used to share that song on marriage retreats I led. Contained within it is one secret – one principle – which can dramatically change, maybe even save, a marriage.

Here are the lyrics, in case you don’t remember them:

(The bold emphasis is to make my point.)

While she lays sleeping, I stay out late at night and play my songs
And sometimes all the nights can be so long
And it’s good when I finally make it home, all alone
While she lays dreaming, I try to get undressed without the light
And quietly she says how was your night?
And I come to her and say, it was all right, and I hold her tight

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, find a way…

While she lays waiting, I stumble to the kitchen for a bite
Then I see my old guitar in the night
Just waiting for me like a secret friend, and there’s no end
While she lays crying, I fumble with a melody or two
And I’m torn between the things that I should do
And she says to wake her up when I am through, 
God her love is true…

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, while she waits… while she waits for me for me!

End of song.

There it is. 

Did you catch it?

It’s pretty simple. I’ve written about the principle before HERE, but the principle is simple. Inside the heart of every man is a desire to be respected, especially by the one he loves. When a man feels a high level of respect – from anything or anyone, he will do just about anything to earn it again – so he goes “on trying faithfully“, as the song says.

I know. The woman needs respect too. I know also, if she’s not receiving the love she deserves, it will be much harder for her to respect. I get it – I really do. It may not even seem fair to suggest what I’m suggesting – respecting anyone who doesn’t deserve respect. It would almost be like telling someone to love someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved or forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

It’s radical talking. (Of course, Christians are called to love and forgive radically – just a reminder.)

I can’t help, however, pointing out something I’ve seen improve many marriages. When the woman makes even slight changes in how she respects – in the way she says things – the language she uses – the genuineness of her admiration – something changes in the man. Something good. He wants more of it.

And who knows, maybe on some special night, if his song is right, he’ll will find a way, while she waits, while she waits for him.

By the way, a note to my wife Cheryl: Thanks for believing in me – even when I don’t always believe in myself.

3 Inexpensive Ways to Develop as a Leader

power meeting from above

I was meeting with a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church – or at least he not discovered any. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.)

The church looks to him to lead and, wisely, he knows he needs to develop his leadership skills.

His question was simple.

Who invests in me?

He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church is in a recovery mode financially, so he doesn’t feel he can afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

(Side note – when I reached my new church we were in a very difficult financial condition. Budgets had been cut, but in my opinion – we had cut some things we shouldn’t have cut – such as marketing and staff development. But, I understand this is a natural reaction in difficult times – especially in the church. Churches notoriously will keep people on payroll who shouldn’t be and cut funding for items which would actually fuel growth. But, that’s another blog post.)

So, what could my pastor friend do? How can he develop as a leader inexpensively – maybe even free?

Here are 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group

There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 6 might even be a better number.

The group would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. You’ll have to spend time getting to know each other and developing trust, but it will be mutually beneficial. I have had such groups numerous times in my career. These groups are usually comprised of believers – although not professional ministers. In these meetings I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices – not theology.

Start a book club

Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid-level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective.

The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person to lead each session. They guide discussion on what they learned from the book in that chapter or section and open the group for discussion. With a good enough book – people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only – or even dictate a Christian book. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

Ask a community leader to mentor you

There are leaders in every community (usually multiple leaders) who are further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be leaders in the community from whom you can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management – and, I think my presence with them actually influences them for good. I have other spiritual mentors.

You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.

What you’re looking for is people skills – how to handle conflict – how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things hearing from other leaders’ experiences. Leadership development doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is to be intentional.

Do my suggestions trigger others you have?

Making Decisions versus Finding Solutions

easy hard

I once worked with a pastor on a leadership issue, which was causing harm to the church. The pastor wanted me to help him think through how to address the issue. It was a personnel issue – which are always the hardest.

One of the staff members was considered a lousy team player by the rest of the staff. He was lazy, divisive, and disrespectful to the senior pastor. He really didn’t add a lot of value to the team – mostly because he had checked out years earlier. He wasn’t happy, but too comfortable in his position (and pay) to go elsewhere.

I was asked to help the church find a solution to the dilemma. 

Just based on what you know so far it seems like an easy decision to make. If I were simply encouraging them to do the right thing – he needs to go, because of the flippancy he’s shown towards his work and leadership.

But, life and leadership are seldom this easy – are they?

Of course, you could almost see it coming – he was extremely popular with the people in the church. They loved him. They loved his family. They had watched his children grow up and now the children were also very popular in the church. There was hardly a family not connected to them in some way. On Sundays – and Wednesdays – there was not a more well known or more respected staff member. (Churches notoriously struggle with this type personnel issue.) 

The problem was there are 7 days in a week – not just two.

The pastor and key leadership realized a change needs to occur. He had been counseled and threatened with his job numerous times – over a course of years, but he knew he was popular. He knew there could be huge ramifications by dismissing him and, therefore, he refused to change. He was, according to the pastor, even arrogant about his job security at times. The pastor, who had been at the church less time than the other staff member – and very much still gaining the trust of the church – felt he may never recover from letting him go.

It was a reminder of an important principle in leadership.

Making a decision is often easy, but the solution can often be hard to find.

As I analyzed the situation, I saw three options on the table. One, the senior pastor could fire this staff member – and live with the consequences. Two, the pastor could quit – life is short. This situation is making his life misearable and he could simply begin again elsewhere. Or, three, the pastor could simply learn to live with the problem. Perhaps in time he will have enough trust developed to do something about the problem. 

There – easy enough, isn’t it? I had done my job – provided a clear path for a decision to be made. Pastor, choose the one which seems best to you. Make a decision. You could even draw numbers out of a hat for one if you can’t decide. (One for fire, two for quit, and three for live with it.) 

But, again, finding the solution to a problem is much more difficult than picking numbers out of a hat. Answers may appear easy, but finding a solution is a more delicate process.

Finding the solution involves making hard decisions and dealing with hard consequences. It could be either of the three easy answers, but a solution is bigger than making a decision. To be a solution it would involve the follow through, clean-up, and the working of the situation for the ultimate good of the church. This is the hard, messy, difficult work of leadership. Sometimes we hope if we talk to enough people there will be some easy answer out there, which is also the solution. This is seldom the case.

There really were only three options, in my opinion, towards finding a solution – the three I mentioned. Oh, there are tons of scenarios within each one, but ultimately it will come to one of these three. And, I didn’t feel I could make the decision for this pastor. He would have to live with the consequences. So the solution would have to be his to own.

And, I think the pastor already knew what he had to do. The question was – would he make a decision (and doing nothing is making a decision) – or would he solve the problem.

Making decisions – Easy
Finding solutions – Much more difficult.

Great leaders don’t simply make decisions – they find solutions.


10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

Young couple unpacking cardboard boxes at new home.Moving house.

In a previous post, I wrote about the emotions of a pastor or leader’s spouse during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read the post HERE for this post to make complete sense.

The post resonated with several who are dealing with this issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how – how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what they are doing

Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate this fact.

Help them explore and pace themselves

Eventually, the spouse needs to find their own identity. It will take time. Allow them the freedom to do so, even if this means you have to keep the children or do other responsibilities some so they can.

Don’t lock them into your world

Don’t dictate their ministry. My wife and I are partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. And, it’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to your spouse

This is always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But your spouse will need you – more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let them grieve

They may mourn over the separation from friends. Especially if it was your job for which you moved, they may be more likely to miss the old house. They may complain at times the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate or the conveniences of the city are not as good. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious

It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Each of your roles will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home

When you finally get home 1 be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area

Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep your spouse informed

They will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t promote this emotion because you’ve excluded them from it. Make them feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize requires more patience, but during transition the spouse needs to be even more a part of your day they missed.

Be patient

It may take longer for your spouse to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. This is okay. Your spouse is not you. Don’t expect them to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself – be intentional!

Have you transitioned a position recently? What recommendations do you have for dealing with your spouse’s response?

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

man woman talking 2

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I might hear, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

I like to encourage pastors and other leader to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The person who moved to a new opportunity has found their center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. It takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging them daily. Even on days things aren’t going well – they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do – but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or, at least, seem to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition. 

In a future post, I’ll share some specific thoughts on helping your spouse find their center of gravity in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

The Dad Challenge: The Nurturing Father

iStock_000004677667XSmall

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s got sick, they didn’t want me, they wanted Cheryl.

The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. The phrase literally means we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  

Sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay a huge responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life.

On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life.

Wow, this is a sobering statement, but it’s true!

If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from others – often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband he may or may not be able to give.

I haven’t even mentioned the impact of an absentee or abusive father. Some reading this know this impact well – including the writer of this post (me).

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model of an earthly father, they may see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba” – which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God, which allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark – but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

How’s this for a Dad Challenge? I love investing in other men. We are in this together! I want to encourage you today! But, we have great work to do, men. Let’s do it to the glory of God!

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Ask yourself – what changes do I need to make to be a more nurturing dad?

3 Suggestions for When God Tries to Speak to You

Here Are My Prayers

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9

Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?

Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t recognize the voice of God.

Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport Mom would let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity. My calendar is fuller than ever.

Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!

How about you?

Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.

I love the advice of Samuel’s mentor – Eli. I believe his instructions could be helpful for us.

Here are 3 ways Eli encouraged Samuel to hear from God:

He told Samuel to be still.

Samuel laid down, in the stillness of the night, and waited for God to speak. Many times we can’t hear from God because we are – frankly – too busy. God tends to speak with a quiet whisper to listening, trusting ears. “Let them who have ears hear” – Jesus might say.

Consider your past week – when would you have had time to hear from God had He tries to speak in a whisper?

He encouraged Samuel to listen expectantly.

Samuel left Eli knowing he was waiting – and he knew Whom he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice. I think many times we would be surprised should God choose to speak. We almost don’t expect Him to anymore.

Ask yourself – have you given up your belief God can, should He choose, answer your request? Are you praying in faith?

Perhaps most important, Eli mentored Samuel to obey God’s word.

It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you – this is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.

Be honest, are you living in obedience to God today – as much as you know how? Should God ask you to do something contrary to what you want to do – are you in a season where you would obey?

God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. In fact, if you are a believer, I’d be surprised if He’s not. My question for you – are you in a position to hear?

Stop, wait, listen – and obey the word of God today!

7 Suggestions When the Team is Stalled and Struggling for a Win

A man calling for help to repair a stalled car

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. It could be a pastor, a ministry or non-profit leader, or a businessperson.

I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like this many times. Every team experiences times of decline. They are often seasons.

What you do next – when these seasons come – almost always determines how long they last and how well you recover.

First, I should say, every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Don’t take principles or suggestions – even these I’m sharing here – and think they are like a magic pill.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few suggestions to shape your current thoughts.

What do you do when your team is stalled or struggling for a win?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it

Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem.

(I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” This would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Perhaps you should email it to them.)

Recast vision

People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You would think they know – and they might – but, all of us need reminding periodically. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first.

If you already do – and most teams do – now is the time to tell it. Again. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you – we know it – we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.) The why behind what you’re doing should always be the fuel for what we do.

Evaluate

Times we’ve stalled are also good opportunities to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working out on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. But, I have learned often the answers are in the room if we ask the right questions. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change

You need to try something new. Growth never happens without change. Perhaps you need several somethings new. We tend to hold on even more to our traditions and what has worked in the past in times of stalling, but now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working – which is the point of the post.

Take another risk – as scary as it is. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential

There are usually areas which are working and areas which are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try.

Again, outside perspectives can sometimes work here too. You don’t even always have to pay for this. We’ve often asked people to come in and evaluate our Sunday services, for example. They attend other churches. They are friends. They don’t charge us.

Often these are things the team is known for or things which are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is usually the best place to spur more momentum quickly. Maybe you need to build upon something you’ve taken for granted. In church revitalization I use the term “rediscover – don’t reinvent”. Therefore, build upon the things which are working currently.

Celebrate small wins

When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it. A really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.

Encourage one another

As a final thought, remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Consequently, allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?