It just seems to me we should put that kind of effort into our current marriage.
So here is a short list of 20 things.
Obviously as you read the following list you will think of many more. For instance, Carol likes to sum up the list with just two words: Be Nice.
Those two words are often found in short supply in many marriages. One of my professors used to always reference the old country song line, “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.” How true that is. Marriage can look so good on the outside, but in reality the relationship is about to crash and burn.
The following list is in no particular order, however, #1 may be the most important. At any rate, it is huge and I practice it on a regular basis.
1. Talk favorably of your spouse all the time.
2. Once you say I do, you must do.
3. Your spouse comes before your children.
4. If you are keeping a secret, you are not being truthful.
5. Love the one you are with (Success in marriage goes down with each successive marriage. In your first marriage you have a 50% chance of success, your second marriage 33%, your third 25%).
6. Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help.
7. You must get away with your spouse.
8. You can destroy trust in your marriage with just one stupid decision.
9. Always work to be who you want to be married to (patient, kind, etc.)
10. Trust can be rebuilt, but it will take lots of intentionality, changes, and time.
11. Do not underestimate the importance of sex.
12. The grass is greener where it is watered more.
13. Your sex life reveals a lot about your marriage.
14. Marriage counseling is cheaper than divorce.
15. Read books on marriage together.
16. Do life together.
17. Losing at love doesn’t have to be.
18. It’s easier to walk out than it is to work on your marriage.
19. Courting will keep your marriage out of court.
20. Summary: Be Nice.
This is huge, so let’s take just a moment to think about how it can impact you.
Feeling under appreciated has led many to leave their jobs, their marriages, and their friends.
It has even led some to lose their loyalty to their country.
Let’s go back in history. In 1775 one of George Washington’s aggressive military leaders led an attack on Quebec. It was during a driving snowstorm in the middle of December. While the Canadians proved stubborn and a surrender was not forthcoming, the leader’s valor was praised by Washington. During the attack this leader also took a musketball in his leg.
However, the leader’s colleagues had a different opinion, despite the fact that he was also a hero in earlier battles. His accomplishments were ignored, and to add insult to injury, he was criticized for overspending (after all, he was an American). By 1779 he was to be dismissed for misuse of funds. However, Washington insisted he stay.
You know the man I am talking about. It was being under appreciated that eventually led him to turn on the American armies.
Benedict Arnold, perhaps the most infamous traitor of all time, may have gone down in history with an entirely different ending had he been properly recognized.
That’s where you come in. None of us will probably ever get all the praise we feel like we deserve. But you cannot allow that to poison your soul and lead you to walk away from what is valuable to you.
On the other hand, think of others. Perhaps there is someone in your own life who is feeling under appreciated.
Never underestimate the power of appreciation.
Who can you show appreciation to today?
As little kids we were taught, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Wow! Who thought that one up? And who passed that rhyme along? There is absolutely no truth in it, yet it gets repeated continually.
We all know it’s a lie. Words do hurt. We have been hurt by words. Right now you are recalling some hurtful words that were said to you.
Perhaps you are also recalling words that you said. It’s too late to take them back. Yes, you wish you could. But once they come out there is no taking back.
Plus they are rarely forgotten. Sadly, some we take all the way to the grave.
Many are said due to anger. We allow anger to take over and we let the words fly. Later we apologize, but the damage is done.
In 2 Samuel 16:5-14 David has lost the throne and is on his way out of town. One of his enemies, Shimei, berates him. His criticism of David goes over the top. There are some relational issues going on as Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin just like Saul. Saul is now dead, but Shimei is still loyal to Saul, not David.
Time moves on. In 1 Kings 2:8-10 David comes toward the end of his life and gives his son Solomon some final counsel. Here David recounts the hurtful words Shimei leveled against him years earlier.
Those words still hurt. David had not forgotten them.
He took those hurtful words all the way to the grave. That’s sad. Perhaps even in your own life, perhaps even in your marriage you have said some words that you can’t take back.
We have all said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s time to move on. From here on out you can do a couple of things.
1. Stop. You don’t have to immediately say what has come into your mind.
2. Think. Not everything has to be said. Some things are better left unsaid. That little zinger you want to let fly will add nothing to the relationship.
3. Multiply. Research suggests that one negative can undo twenty positives. Do you realize now the power of hurtful words?
4. Ask. Is it helpful? Will this help the situation or exasperate it? Am I saying this while I am still upset and angry?
5. Proceed. If it is helpful and you have control over your emotions you will do a much better job communicating.
Just remember, if you fail to do these things your words may very well hurt…all the way to the grave!
A little girl starts out having princess birthday parties. She dresses up. She starts looking around and asking Am I pretty enough?
Then she becomes a teenager and asks Am I thin enough? In college she wonders Am I smart enough? When she moves along in her career she asks Am I successful enough? She gets married and her thoughts are Am I good enough? With the first child comes Am I providing enough?
The questions, the doubts, and the scarcity mindset flood our insecure minds. We jump on Facebook and Instagram and count up the number of likes. Do I have enough likes? Probably not. In fact, enough never is quite enough. So we continue to live in shame, insecurity, and self doubt.
What if there was some truth in the idea that we will never measure up? What if that was, in some ways, good news?
One of the more fascinating passages in the Bible is in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Fascinating because this particular passage is right in the middle of several chapters of genealogies. Most skip these. After all they don’t tend to hold our attention very well.
There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (NLT)
Just two verses. But notice his attitude. He knew he was lacking and that was a good thing. It was that feeling of not being enough that drove Him to the Lord to ask for God’s blessing on his life. God has enough; actually, He has plenty. When I was a little boy I went to my dad because he had more than I did.
Before we get to Jabez, we have to read through forty-three other names. Why is Jabez given two verses? The writer of the book of Chronicles puts an emphasis on prayer in the book. Could it be that he stopped at Jabez because Jabez put an emphasis on prayer in his own life?
As a believer, one of the healthiest attitudes we can have is one of scarcity, which in turn leads us to an attitude of abundance because we have been driven to God in prayer. God’s abundant grace is available to those who pray. Our focus is taken off of ourselves and put on the Lord. That’s healthy.
Apparently Jabez’s life didn’t start out so well. We are not given the details and it really doesn’t matter. The family may have had very little, or perhaps his mother was a single mom, or maybe his mother died in childbirth.
Just as the writer of Chronicles did not focus on Jabez’ background, so it also doesn’t matter where you find yourself at this particular stage in your life. Perhaps you are living in an era of scarcity. Don’t let that discourage you. Let it drive you to prayer so that God can change your attitude to one of abundance.
That is what happened for Jabez. He began to ask God to bless him, enlarge his territory, and provide protection so that his life would never go back to a point where he was living without God’s help.
Let’s break this passage into three parts, which will lead to three action items–three things you need to do.
Oh, that you would bless me…
1. Pray every day for God’s abundance. It may be that you need more patience. Maybe it’s more kindness. We could all use a little more self control. I don’t know what you need to pray for, but when God invades your life and abundance is noticed, God is glorified.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8 (ESV)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (NLT)
God is able to produce abundance in your life. So ask for it.
…expand my territory!
2. Get ready for more. If you are praying for ten more clients, are you ready to service ten more clients? Maybe you aren’t ready, so God hasn’t answered your prayer yet.
Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!
3. Stay dependent. Once God blesses you, there will be the temptation to believe you did it through your personality, your talents, your giftedness, or your training. Don’t fall into that trap.
Listen to Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
Let go of your scarcity attitude and replace it with an attitude of abundance.
Is there a cure for the common cold? Well, not exactly. But we all wish there was. And there are some things you can do to prevent from getting one. If you don’t do those things, you are likely to get a cold. When do colds tend to hit you? At the worst possible time.
While Carol and I were in Rome, just before we were to come home, I came down with the dreaded common cold. Thankfully it was not as bad as it could have been and did not interfere with the things we wanted to do. However, I still wanted to be prepared in case it got bad, so I went to a local pharmacy and picked up some nasal spray. Fortunately, they had one bottle written in English so I knew what I was getting.
When I’m at home, my game plan for curing the common cold is to not get one in the first place.
Not long ago my son Gabe came down with a cold. Now, everyone in our house knows I get paranoid when someone gets a cold. Actually, they would say that paranoid is an understatement.
After all, I have to speak every Sunday and I want to be at my best. Plus, I just don’t like colds.
So in my typical fanatical fashion, I questioned everyone to check up on how often they were washing their hands. And I monitored what they were touching. I don’t even touch door knobs when this kind of thing hits our house!
To top it off, Gabe was banned from using my iPad. Yes, I go a little over the top. But, hey, I don’t get very many colds.
Sadly, most of us are not very fanatical about things that contaminate our marriages, our health, or our finances.
We could sit down and come up with a long list of things that destroy us and our relationships or our physical health.
Things like sugar, but who wants to cut down on sugar? And no one is touting it as a great food source.
I can’t believe how many marriages have been affected by an unhealthy overdose of sports. For many, sports is contaminating their relationships.
My spiritual walk with God can be contaminated by busyness, overcommitment, bad attitudes, and irresponsibility.
We could go on, but you get the point. Go radical on contamination. We allow way too many things into our lives that should not be allowed.
And don’t forget that even good things can contaminate. It could be a person, a food group, or a thing.
The bottom line is this: Are you taking contamination seriously?
While there I was impressed with Tommy and LaDel’s marriage. The culture actually helped them build some healthy rhythms into their marriage.
They lived in Eldoret, Kenya which is just above the equator. Sunrise and sunset are about the same time year around, 7am and 7pm.
A typical day included Tommy and me getting up around 5am, having our quiet time and then he attempting to teach me Swahili.
After breakfast we headed out to either frame up church buildings or hold various meetings. Then we would call it a day and have dinner. After dinner that was it. I mean there were no distractions. No TV (this was the early 80’s in a third world country), no outdoor activities (not the safest thing to do) and nowhere to go. When the sun went down everything was locked up. They had iron gates to get onto their property and another iron gate at the front door.
But this allowed them to build in some deliberate practices into their marriage. For instance, after dinner they would typically sit on the couch and talk. Also, there was some minimal British TV (definitely not my style of humor) which they had adapted to. When there is none, even bad TV is watchable, I guess.
They also planned 2-3 day getaways. Once again, even in a culture with almost zero distractions, they were deliberate.
For the rest of us, you would think that all the deliberation that was evident during our dating time would carry over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Think of all the distractions we have here in the States. We have hundreds of TV channels, Gold’s Gym, Starbucks, Sunday afternoon football, sporting events for our kids, cleaning house, and yard work.
These distractions lead to drift. The only way to overcome the drift is to be aware of the distractions and be more deliberate in your marriage.
Every marriage is different. Some have little kids, some have grown kids. Sometimes both spouses work. Schedules get complicated. Priorities shift. And drift happens.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Today you are deliberate. That’s the scary part. Too many are ready to pat themselves on the back for thinking ahead and planning a great evening. But this is just one day.
Tomorrow and every day after that the distractions will once again begin to pile up. Marriages will drift.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Are Aware of Distractions
Do Deliberate Things
You can be deliberate. The question is… Are you?
Now that is all fine and good. And I’m not suggesting you don’t celebrate the day. Just don’t get caught up in the moment of the day. What I mean is you can’t create a life time of romance around the big days.
One of the sad realities of marriage is that romance dwindles simply due to natural drift. We simply don’t think about it. Until a big day arrives. Then we make some reservations at a restaurant and order some flowers.
If marriage was that easy we could all take a one week cruise to the Caribbean and be done for the year. Which all points to daily romance, not monthly or yearly romance.
Romance is built everyday.
Romance is in the every day things. Romance is…
Running to the store to pick up some lettuce.
Sitting around chit chatting.
Listening to my spouse’s viewpoint.
Sending a text that encourages.
Cooking a favorite dish.
Watching a TV show together.
Hiking in the mountains.
Planning your next trip.
Sharing feelings with one another.
All of the above actually cost nothing. Yet Valentine’s Day is THE day to buy flowers and go out to dinner. But if you are not careful, your investment on that one day can go south in a hurry, if you ignore what romance is really built on: Daily things.
What have you done today to build a romance filled marriage?
But will there be passion, sparks, and sizzle? Or will you get in the car and head out with an empty gas tank. And I am not talking about the gas you buy. I am talking about the gas you provide. You just took that the wrong way. Alright, go ahead and laugh, but if you will hang with me I want to help you. Will your spouse’s tank be full or running on fumes?
During the winter months the gas in my lawnmowers can get a little old and not run so well. That means I need to put fresh fuel in on a regular basis.
Perhaps the fuel in your marriage has gotten a little stale. Or worse, you haven’t put any fuel in at all recently.
No worries. Here are six things you can do to get up and running at a higher level. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Acceptance – when you first started dating, being around someone who accepted you for who you were was huge. Let your spouse know that they are still the ONE.
Attention – do you remember when you dated how much attention you gave one another? It made you feel special. Take some time and give your spouse some extra attention.
Affection – this came easy when you dated and were first married. You couldn’t keep your hands off him or her. Now you rarely touch. Ouch! That hurts whether you realize it or not. Get back to some hugs, kisses, and #^&@*!
Affirmation – this is a daily habit you simply cannot afford to miss. If you have to write it down. Write yourself a note. When was the last time you affirmed your spouse? Time to refuel.
Assistance – no one wants to feel like they are doing everything alone. Look around. The list is endless. Helping with your kids homework, taking out the trash, picking up the trash off the floor, vacuuming, washing the car, or loading the dishwasher.
Activities – all work and no play doesn’t cut it in life or in marriage. Do some things together. Find something you both like to do. Carol and I are planning to go get some chicken eggs in a couple of days. Not to eat, but to hatch. But the key here is that we are going to go together.
Six things. You have one week to Valentine’s Day. Don’t show up with an empty tank. Put some fresh gas in the tank and your marital engine will be roaring!
Wouldn’t it be nice if our character was like that? What if we could develop courage and never think about it again?
What if we could learn to love really well and then put that one to rest?
We know that is not how life works. On the other hand, are we daily pursuing the development of our character? It’s actually harder than you think. On the other hand it’s not, in that we have daily opportunities to build upon our character.
Let’s take a look at several aspects of our character.
Courage: every day we are faced with choices between convenience and courage. Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us the spirit of fear. 1 Timothy 1:6.
Discipline: this is doing today so you can have what you want tomorrow. Just like the boxer trains for the next match so we must do things today with tomorrow in sight. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).
Delayed Gratification: sometimes we just have to work for something or wait on God’s timing. Jesus faced this in His own ministry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3 ESV).
Contentment: being thankful for what we have is always a challenge while we are on the journey to attaining or accomplishing more. But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)
Perseverance: the test of your character is what it takes to stop you. This phrase has been repeated countless times. The apostle Paul was able to come to the end of his life saying, I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
Love: this is not to be understood as a noun. It is a verb! That means it takes work just like all the other aspects of character. This one goes right up at the top. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Realize you will never be done. You can’t work on one and then go to the next one. No. You must work at spinning all the plates at the same time. Daily you will have opportunities to continue construction on your character.
How’s the building coming?
But what if we could do some simple things?
That alone would send many marriages to a whole new level.
There really isn’t anything new under the sun. In business it may be more face to face meetings, phone calls, or emails.
In my marriage here is a list of some of my deliberate acts. After you read them write out your own. I am assuming that you have some. If not you need to start ASAP or you will not have a relationship!
1. Take out the trash.
2. Empty the dishwasher.
3. Clean all the toilets.
4. Run menial errands that Carol doesn’t want to do.
5. Go to Sams (because she doesn’t want to).
6. Go to Walmart (same reason as above).
7. Sit and talk.
8. Pick up some of my clutter.
9. Read together in bed.
10. Help with the chickens when it is 10 degrees outside.
11. Do projects around the house together.
12. Do things that are inconvenient for her.
13. Drive her places, like Kohl’s, just to be with her and keep her from doing it alone.
14. Tell her when I’ll be home.
There is nothing major in the above list. Yet they definitely enhance our marriage. As I said, it is not complicated. And still people struggle in their relationships.
It’s time to write out your own list. If you find yourself struggling after you get to number 3, you may have a lot of homework in your future. Your list may be vastly different, because you are not like me and your spouse is not like Carol.
Deliberate acts. Your relationships cannot survive without them!