Most of us probably approach the subject of wisdom from only one angle.
We simply want to know what to do next. Let’s call this particular wisdom. Perhaps you are looking to buy a new car and you want to make the right choice. Or it could be a career decision or any number of current decisions.
For starters there is popular wisdom. In many ways this is not wisdom at all, but if we have bought into the surrounding culture’s mentality, we think we are wise. I’m not sure you want to pray for this type of wisdom.
Many have unknowingly bought into the flavor of the day. But anyone can go along with the crowd. Absalom was all style and no substance, which incidentally makes many politicians, celebrities, and sport’s stars our modern-day heroes. But Absalom proved to be deceptive, and he hurt a lot of people.
With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper. Perhaps a good place to start is to read and reflect on the two chapters mentioned above. Here’s the bottom line: We can be wise and unwise at the same time. Full of wisdom and devoid of wisdom at the same time. Seems paradoxical, but a very real reality.
There are four main characters in those chapters, and they all possess wisdom. Not all wisdom is used wisely or for positive reasons. Some actually use their wisdom in order to manipulate others. Sad, but true.
That in itself calls for wisdom.
We’ll come back in the next post to discuss the types of wisdom you need to pray for. Until then read and reflect upon the two chapters mentioned above.
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?
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!
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.
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!
When the new iPad came out, called the iPad Air, it had a faster chip, was lighter, thinner, and narrower.
On the outside the wider bezels were narrowed because of advances in technology. The reason for the wider bezels was simply that it was too easy to unintentionally touch the edge of the screen and disrupt your work.
Apple was able to narrow the bezels because they were able to engineer the software to distinguish between intentional and unintentional touches.
Wow! What if we could reengineer all relationships with that type of software.
What if we could eliminate all misunderstandings from a relationship?
What if no feelings were hurt by unintentional acts?
What if there were no more silent treatments?
What if arguments which started due to a misunderstanding became a thing of the past?
What if we could eliminate phrases like:
“That’s not what I said.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I had no idea how I was coming across.”
Perhaps we could narrow the bezels in our own relationships if we reengineered out thinking, our habits, our tone of voice, our sensitivity, and our focus on ourselves.
Like the iPad Air, a life with less misunderstandings will lead to happier and more fulfilling relationships.
Conflict. Simple as that. We all love conflict. What has given conflict a bad rap is the amount of disrespect that tends to come with it.
My daughter Savannah took some sports classes in college and one of her assignments was to keep up with what was being talked about.
So she became an avid watcher of First Take. Two guys vehemently disagreeing, but at the same time, a total absence of disrespect. That is the secret sauce. And she absolutely loved the show.
The Bible offers this healthy, practical advice; Show proper respect to all people. 1 Peter 2:17 (NIV)
When you have conflict with disrespect you have drama. And while drama may be popular on TV, it doesn’t play well in real life.
So the next time you find yourself in the middle of a conflict acknowledge the value of the other person and act accordingly.
Actually you will enjoy it more. Conflict without disrespect. Try it!
Think about it. One of the chief concerns of the Federal Reserve is stable prices. Of course, I’m sure we all want stable prices. But we want even more.
We want stable….
And the list goes on. But what’s the secret to being blessed with stability? When building a house it is typical to brace walls until they are securely fastened to other walls. Otherwise they are susceptible to wind.
However, for us as individuals what is the secret to stability in our lives? What is it that makes us “blessable” regarding stability?
Let me suggest that it is related to your attitude towards the Bible.
Psalm 1:1-4 (NASB) “How blessed is the man….his delight is in the law of the LORD…He will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water…in whatever he does, he prospers…the wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.”
2013 may brings all sorts of storms and disruptions into your life. While the winds may blow into your life, decide right now as the New Year starts, that this year you will delight in the Word of God. You may be pleasantly surprised by the stability you experience in 2013.
After 29 years of marriage there are many things to be thankful for. Carol became my best friend just over thirty years ago, so I married her. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give to any couple. Marry your best friend!
As I look back there have been long walks, cross country vacations, hikes, eating out, lots of conversation, skiing, kids, five kids (which have been an absolute blast), house building projects, and more.
Of course, anytime you make a list off the top of your head you will undoubtedly leave something special out.
However, let me add one that often gets overlooked.
Not mine, but Carol’s.
We have five kids, but I always wanted just four. So after Savannah, our fourth child, I was done. Carol was not. She really wanted a fifth, but she recalls me being adamant about not having another one.
So what did she do? She could have nagged, badgered, and pestered me, but she didn’t. She prayed.
Gabe has quite a heritage. I am not saying we did not pray for our kids prior to their coming into this world. But Gabe was different. In fact, it brings to mind the story of Samuel in the Old Testament.
Hannah was a Jewish woman who desperately wanted to have a child but was unable. She was barren for years, but during that time she continued to pray and ask God for a child. She prevailed in prayer, God heard, and she had a boy named Samuel. (It’s a great story in 1 Samuel chapter 1).
I’m thankful that I have a wife who prevailed in prayer. I often wonder how many times Hannah thanked God for her boy Samuel. I even wonder how often Hannah’s husband thanked God for a praying wife.
Yes, there have been many incredible memories and great times over the years. Yet Gabe is a constant reminder that I have a praying wife.
That’s a lot to be thankful for. 29 years of marriage and counting. In fact, we have already planned our 30th wedding anniversary. Can’t wait!!