We have just begun a new year. Many have set some ambitious goals. Turned over a new leaf. Added this and subtracted that. But as we go through the various lists, something appears to be missing. Play Time.
We have even taken it out of our educational system. Recess seems to be a thing of the past. Play time is no longer valued. It’s missing in my own life. Perhaps one reason is that I grew up with a dad who thought play was a curse word…almost. My dad was obsessed with work, efficiency, and production. But deep down in my dad’s soul was a yearning to play.
In fact, one memory of working for my dad stands out. It was the day the unthinkable happened. It was a cold morning one winter. Four of us were up on the building: my brother Mark, Mike, Scott, and me. Out of nowhere, dad climbs off the ladder and comes walking across the building. Familiar sight.
And then it happened. Dad stunned as with his first words. We should have been sitting down. He said, “Let’s go skiing.” Our jaws dropped. Dad never, never, never, had fused work with play.
Well, needless to say, that day will never be erased from my mind. That day the five of us hit the slopes. While I can’t remember what happened the next day at work, I promise you we were more creative, more productive, happier, less stressed, and no doubt, even had a better attitude.
Perhaps like me, you, too, struggle with play time. But what if play actually made you more productive, more creative, better at anticipating and making decisions? Wouldn’t that inspire you to play more?
Today everyone has heard of Google and Pixar. What you may not know is that they have intentionally incorporated play into the company’s culture. Maybe they have learned the value of play. Perhaps I need to stop working and go play.
Even Jesus had his disciples get into a boat and spend some time away.
What do you say we stop for a moment and schedule some play time?
I’d have to disagree with that sentiment. What is actually being said is that apologizing is hard. Submitting to the ideas of another is hard. Missing a must-see football game is hard.
So in reality if the other person is apologizing, submitting to my wishes, and giving up something for my benefit, then marriage is easy.
However, what appears to be making marriage hard is self-centeredness. Our next five letters attack that selfish mindset head-on.
I – Intimacy. Let’s break this word down as follows: Into-me-you-see. This is all about honesty as we talk about our feelings and heartfelt desires. Guys tend to struggle more with sharing their feelings than women, but healthy marriages are characterized by complete openness and honesty.
J- Joy. Recently I attended a play in Richmond with Carol. Typically, plays don’t make it on my radar–actually to be more accurate, plays never make it on my radar. So does that mean I was in a foul mood all night? Was there no joy because it wasn’t my choice of activities? Not at all. My joy came from being with her the entire evening.
K – Kindness. This alone may be the key to a great marriage. Kind marriages simply do not fall apart. Do something kind today for your spouse. I promise you that it will elevate your marriage. You simply cannot ignore this principle.
L – Love. The verb, not the feeling. This is all about intentional acts. I’ve heard couples say they don’t love each other any more. Amazing! I know they are talking about feelings. But feelings tend to follow action. So what they are really saying is I’ve quit doing intentional things that will lead to a more loving marriage.
M – Manners. So what actually happens when you don’t get your way? Do you pout? Does rudeness raise its ugly head? Do you retaliate in unseen and less obvious ways so you can score a win? That’s not a marriage. That’s a competition. God put a couple together to compliment one another, not to compete against each other.
These five principles tackle self-centeredness head on. These five are doable today. So do them today! That was easy!
Let’s continue looking at 26 principles to help your marriage go to another level. Of course, you will need to hang with me for all 26 letters of the alphabet since the letter Z represents a real game changer. Trust me on that one.
Today let’s look at a few more letters.
E – Eros. Perhaps you familiar with the word erotic. The words are similar. It’s a word for love with the focus in on the romantic, passionate side. Typically eros is high during the dating period and the early days of marriage. But then life kicks in, and eros begins to slide. It all happens so innocently. We quit saying nice things to and about each other, we allow our grooming habits slide, we make less eye contact, and we may even put on extra weight. All of these things have an affect on our eros.
F – Fun. Why do couples quit having fun together? When we were dating, fun was what it was all about. So schedule fun things, do fun things, and keep having fun together.
G – God. Marriage is more about Him than you. When God created Adam and Eve, He made them in His image. They were to mirror Him. Yet, way too often marriage becomes more about my needs and my wants.
H – Humor. You really can laugh your way to a better marriage. You can’t afford to quit laughing. Laughter is good for the soul and extremely good for your marriage. In Victor Frankl’s classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about surviving imprisonment during World War II. How did he survive? Humor. Never underestimate the power of humor. Bill Cosby said, If you can find humor in anything you can survive it.
Keep laughing, never forget God put you together, plan fun events, and keep the home fires burning!
Without a doubt a couple tends to put more time into planning a wedding than they do their marriage. Now I totally understand. In one sense they assume they are completely ready for what’s coming. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now I don’t want to add to the bad press that marriage gets. I only want to point out that we can do better.
However, that does not mean that marriage is destined to be hard and difficult. Could it be that too many of us make it more difficult than is necessary?
One exercise that I encourage and find helpful is to simply take the ABC’s and come up with 26 helpful principles that will add value to the marriage.
So here is a sample. But I would encourage you to come up with your own.
A – Attitude. We all know that our attitudes can change for the worse quickly, even over small things. Just getting cut off in traffic can ruin our whole day. It shouldn’t. Chose to maintain a positive attitude. You will be glad you did.
B – Books. I once heard someone say that they had never encountered a problem that they could not read their way out of. So read some good books on marriage. Before you have problems. Keep one on the night stand next to your bed.
C – Communication. Some have called this the KEY to a great marriage. The reason this is sometimes difficult is that men communicate facts and women communicate feelings. Those are very different. But the only way to understand your spouse is to communicate.
D – Dream. Together. Plan your next vacation. Have a bucket list of things you want to do together. Start planning next summer’s vacation today. Why wait? I love doing this with Carol. She is better at some things. I am better at others. I can plan schedules, driving distances to be covered, and where we need to stay. Carol fills in the details, those things I forget about. And she is better at packing cars and suitcases. Marriage is better together.
In my next post we will look at more of The ABC’s of Marriage.
Are you ready to write your own list?
This summer I will be officiating three weddings. During premarital counseling, the topic of love always surfaces. Is love simply a feeling, or is it an action — something you do? What does love look like? I Corinthians 13 gives a pretty good definition.
1. Love is patient.
2. Love is kind.
3. Love does not envy.
4. Love does not boast and is not proud.
5. Love is not rude.
6. Love is not easily angered.
7. Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
8. Love always looks for the good.
Sounds like some good stuff to blog about and live out.
So, How’s your love life?
A while back I lost my driver’s license. First time that has ever happened to me. No big deal, right? After all, how many times have I had to pull it out and show it to a police officer in the last two decades? None. Actually the only time I need to pull out my license is when I go up to Skyline Drive. And if I fly I need it. So I was not too worried or in a big hurry to go to DMV.
While driving home I get a call from Dick’s. Evidently I dropped my license in the store, and it was picked up and put in the safe. Finally someone figured I could probably use it. So now I won’t have to ruin a day with a painful visit to the DMV.
When I first lost my license I did not even notice. It could take weeks or months before I actually realize it is missing. Life is sometimes like that. Way too often I hear of another marriage breaking up. Wonder how long it took the couple to realize they had lost ‘it.’ Wonder if they remember when the wheels started coming off.
Think with me. What things are often lost but never found or recovered.
1. Integrity. You can build it over a lifetime and lose it in an instant.
2. Marriage. Fortunately my driver’s license was found and restored, but if it had not, a replacement could have been made. But too often in life things get lost, relationships start heading south, and there is no quick recovery. The pain may last for years and even intensify.
3. Devotion to Christ. Even Christ-followers have been known to lose their first love for their Savior (Revelation 2:4). Scary. Because not everything that gets lost gets found.
Check your wallet and make sure you have not lost something important.
As life moves forward at the speed of light I have found that the natural tendency is to say yes and add, add, and add some more. When football season arrives that has to get added in. That’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night. Then there is more reading and more meetings and more time developing people.
So my biggest challenge seems to be deciding what to say NO to. For me it looks like I will have to cut out some of the flow of information; just can’t read as much. Still sorting it out though.
Then there is the building project. Soon it will be something else.
But I believe deciding what not to do or do less of is going to be a BIG difference maker in my life.
One of the hardest things to say NO to is an idea while reading the Bible. My first thought is often ‘I need to study that passage a little more.’ Before I know it I have said yes and books are piled all over my desk. I must remind myself to say NO and put the books back and stay on task.
Steve Jobs was well known for saying that saying NO was perhaps the biggest secret to Apples’ success.
Now let’s be honest. How many of us really believe that saying NO could be such a key?
The hard part: not doing some good things. But even Jesus could not do everything. There were sick people He did not heal and there were people who wanted His time, yet He got in a boat and sailed away.
The fact is, we live in a quitter culture. People walk away from their jobs, their spouses, their new year’s resolutions, and their churches.
Near the end of the apostle Paul’s ministry some of his coworkers abandoned him. That absolutely amazes me. Just the thought of being able to serve alongside Paul fires me up. But people left him. My guess is, based on typical human reasoning, they had “good reasons” for leaving Paul high and dry. After all, they had “justifiable concerns” of Paul.
Over the years I have followed some pastors with incredible ministries. Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Perry Noble. Their stories are similar. They have all had good friends and coworkers abandon them, and of course, all left for “good reasons.” In every case it was the pastor’s fault.
So I’m sure it was the same for the apostle Paul.
Perhaps those who abandoned Paul were concerned that his prison sentence showed that God was not in his minstry.
Whatever their reasoning they left. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16 is asking God to greatly reward Onesiphorus who stood with him and encouraged him while he was lanquishing in prison. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...”
My guess is you will cross paths with someone this week who has been abandoned by someone. They are feeling incredible loneliness.
Stay alert and take the time to step in and encourage. You will be glad you did. And God may just happen to shine on you, and even your family.
The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense. The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.
Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer. Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.
Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure? We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game. He typically delivered.
But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives. Perhaps it’s a job interview. Some great employees are terrible at interview time. Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?
What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?
Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.
Pressure. You can’t escape it. It shows up repeatedly. And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.
So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?
1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.
2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.
3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.
4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.
Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?
The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.
Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of. It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.
While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.
Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it? God did. And He set the example for all of us.
At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities. Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.
Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.
To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun. Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them? No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture. We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.
Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church. One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”
In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.
Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll. I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker. You will be glad you did.
Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.
Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?
Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.
We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!