More on Marriage

Maybe it is because I am always talking to couples about their marriages, but I am continually looking for good advice to give people. One the the “straightest shooters” that I have found is Dr. Laura. While I do not agree with several things she says, she often has good material to think through. Today she posted about 13 topics to discuss in your marriage. I thought it was very informative and direct. So here it is:

1. Money. How do we spend it? What about savings? What about budgets? Who takes care of the money? When it comes to money, there are two types of people to varying extremes: those who like to spend and those who like to save. It’s extremely important to discuss finances and prenups (which I think are absolutely necessary in second marriages involving children so that the kids are protected).

2. How alike are you? People say “opposites attract,” but that only works for magnets, not for people. The more you have in common with your partner, the better. You need to discuss your backgrounds, religious beliefs, values, and dreams for the future. What are your views on loyalty, honesty, and dealing with anger? What behaviors are off-limits? You should talk about all these things and never assume they will change after you are married. If you want something about them to change and it doesn’t, don’t get married!

3. Communication skills. Many people come from families where they really don’t communicate. They don’t sit down calmly and honestly speak the truth. You and your partner need to be able to say to each other, “These are my expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, etc.,” and then ask if they are reasonable. If your partner says, “I would like to have more freedom, come and go as I please, and not have to call when I’m going to be late for dinner,” then you know it’s a good idea to call it quits.
It’s vital to assess how someone communicates before you get married. Some people use communication as a destructive tool to get what they want, and others use it to hurt their partner or justify themselves when they’ve lied or misbehaved.

4. Life outside of marriage. Which hobbies and activities are you going to do together and which are you going to do separately with friends? Am I not going to be able to ride my motorcycle because you don’t ride? Some people are so insecure, possessive, or demanding that they won’t let the other person have a life. Many women, in particular, don’t want their men to have guy time (which can be very disastrous).

5. Do you want to have kids? How many? What does discipline look like? Who’s going to take care of them? What happens if one of you has fertility issues? Are you open to adoption? Having two people cooperate to raise a child is a huge deal. Compatibility issues in how you parent can lead to big problems down the road. This is why it’s important to look at each other’s family dynamics. People develop a lot of neurotic tendencies from their childhoods that may never change, such as how loving or attentive they are. Observe how your fiancé/fiancée is with other people’s kids.

6. Employment. Do you travel a lot for your job? Do you plan to relocate often? Do you stay at the office late? Do you have any time for family? Certain jobs (trucking, medicine, law, military, etc.) require a lot of commitment. You have to analyze yourself and ask, “Do I want to marry somebody who isn’t going to be home at seven every night? Do I want my spouse to be just visiting when he/she walks in to the house?”

7. Sex! Find out what each other’s fantasies are. If their fantasies include small farm animals, you know to hit the eject button.

8. Daily life: Who’s going to be responsible for which household chores and bills? Are you actually going to raise your kids, or are you going to farm them out (so that when you’re old and decrepit, they farm you out)?

9. How committed are you to the relationship? With looks, health, abilities, kids, finances, and family, there are many changes, phases, and challenges in life. Are you committed in the relationship, or are you just a fair weather spouse? I would say that about 70 percent of divorces result because people are not committed to a relationship – when it’s not going good, they find another place to go.

10. Personal space. Everybody needs time to be alone with their hobbies and thoughts. A lot of women have trouble giving their husbands personal space. Guys are generally relieved when their wives want to go spend the day with their girlfriends: “That’s wonderful honey, are you sure you don’t want to go for the weekend?” = “Yes! No nagging for six hours!”

11. How are you going to keep the marriage exciting? What’s your idea of a good time together? Is it hanging out with a lot of people? Watching sports? A candlelight dinner? A walk in the park? Soaking in the tub together? After they get married, many people say, “My husband/wife doesn’t do anything.” Well, perhaps that’s because you guys never talked about what would be fun.

12. Family. My advice: If you really, really, really can’t get along with his or her family, move 3,000 miles away.

13. Know your odds. Statistics show that couples who live together before they’re married are more likely to get divorced. Couples who have been previously married and divorced are also more likely to get divorced. Don’t learn the hard way by thinking “Well, we’re different.”

Grand Thoughts

My wife and I have Direct TV. This past weekend they were offering a “Free Starz Movie Pack” for the weekend. Michelle and I decided to DVR several movies for later viewing. One of the things that we recorded was the movie TROY. Finally, yesterday we started watching the movie and I was gripped by the opening narration. So here it is:

“Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity and so we ask ourselves: Will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved.”

Great Post About Pastor’s Wives

As a pastor, I found this article helpful and true. Most pastors and wives are not equipped for the mind field of ministry!

By Thom S. Rainer

I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to hear from pastors’ wives since much of my focus is on pastors. Our recent, informal survey simply asked the open-ended question: “What do you wish you had been told before you became a minister’s wife?”
Thank you to the pastors’ wives who were willing to give us such great feedback. And thanks to Chris Adams for doing the survey and to Amy Jordan for assembling the data.
The responses are in order of frequency. A representative comment follows each response.

1. I wish someone had told me just to be myself. “I am a people-pleaser by nature, so for me, not being prepared to handle being a pastor’s wife with my personality was a heavy burden to carry early in our ministry.”

2. I wish someone had prepared me to deal with criticism of my husband and me. “It was hard to deal with negative experiences, conflicts, or criticisms, especially in relation to my husband and our area of ministry. So I would harbor feelings of resentment when it came to ministry and my man.”

3. I wish someone had reminded me that my husband is human. “I wish someone had told me that my husband could not be God for me. I was disillusioned at first to find out that he indeed is just a man.”

4. I wish someone had told me that others were watching us (the glass house syndrome). “Even though they are watching us, we don’t need to be controlled by what they expect of us.”

5. I wish someone had told me there are some really mean people in the church. “I was really surprised. I had to learn not to pay too much attention to them or they would get me down.”

6. I wish someone had told me how much my husband needs me to build him up. “I need to be his cheerleader. Dealing with critics in the church is difficult. He needs to hear that I respect him now more than ever.”

7. I wish someone had told me that my schedule will never be normal again. “Your husband will be very busy. Expect that. But come alongside him in the areas of time management and organization.”

One pastor’s wife told us that her role was like getting a job for which she never applied. She wrote this funny script in her response:
Husband: “Honey, I got you a job today.”
Wife: “Really? Okay, but I wasn’t looking for a job. I have plenty to do here running the household and raising the kids. That was our plan, right? Me stay home with the kids so you could fully dedicate yourself to the ministry.”
Husband: “Yeah, yeah. But I really need you take this job for me.”
Wife: “Well, okay, just tell me what to do and when it needs to be done by, and I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
Husband: “Well, right now there are no specific responsibilities. Basically, it’s just doing anything at church that no one else steps up to do or wants to do.”
Wife: “Oh my, that is a tall order. Okay, I’ll do it. I guess we could use the extra money anyway. Things are always tight around here on a pastor’s salary.
Husband: “Well, actually honey, there is no salary . . .”

Being a Pastor’s Wife is a tough job. I know, I’m married to one:-)

Marriage Question

Dr. Laura has a video blog that she posts each weeks. This week’s post was about marriage. She is asked the question, “Should I stay or should I go?” You can watch it HERE

If you do not want to watch it, that’s okay. I want to give you the key piece of what she says. She challenges every married person to ask this question everyday for the next month and see what happens to your marriage.

The question to ask myself is this: “What can I do to make my spouse happy to be alive and married to me.”

Change

Recently I have been trying to make several changes in my life. I don’t mean the kind of changes you might think. I am trying to change things like my web browser from Internet Explorer over to Google Chrome. I am trying to change from Google Blog Reader over to Feedly. I have tried changing over to iTunes 11. I am continually trying to upgrade my software and make the necessary changes.

Here is the one truth I know for sure – change, no matter what the form, is hard.

I know that is no great new revelation but I need to be reminded of it often. You see, almost every Sunday I mention in my sermon that “we need to change.” It is usually something like; “we need to change our thinking” or “we need to change our attitude” or “we need to change our actions.” While I believe each is true, I need to be reminded that each is very hard.

When I have been using a program for 2-3 years and become familiar with it, I am resistant to change, even if the new program or upgrade is better. So often I have to be forced into using a new product. Then I go through this same process of anger and regret and then acceptance and then excitement and finally familiarity. I think the real problem of change is not the end goal but the first step of anger and regret.

It is very easy to talk about life change in Church, but it is very hard for a life to be changed, even in Church. Maybe, especially in Church.

Growth Plan

Here was a simple question that helped change my life over the last few years: “What is your growth plan?”

I was asked that in a job interview and I had to be honest, I really didn’t have one. Don’t get me wrong I believe in continued growth. I read, I pray, I listen, I write and do all of the right things to grow, but I had no specific plan to make it happen. I just acted and hoped for the best. Since that time I have slowly developed a plan that is working for me. I thought I would share it with you and maybe it will spark your mind.

1. I read 4 chapters out of the bible (minimum) 5 days a week. I know it doesn’t sound like much but I am almost through the Bible for the second time in 4 years.

2. I have a goal to listen to 120 sermons this year and try to take notes. Let’s break that down – That is 10 sermons a month or 2-3 sermons a week. With Podcasts and iPods this is easier than ever. Honestly, I start a lot of sermons and never finish them and end up deleting them. I know – not all sermons are well done – yes, even mine:-)

3. I have a blog list that I read daily. I used Google Reader to subscribe to blogs and they are eliminating that in July so now I use Feedly. It brings all the blogs I read into one place. Each day I get some great material from a dozen sites or more to read and grow. Here is what I like about blogs – they are current and quick. Books take years to write and publish. Magazines take months to write and publish. I get new blogs everyday from some of the best pastors and leaders in the world.

4. I read at least 6 books a year. That is one every two months. I know that doesn’t sound like much but it works for me. I am getting to where I rarely read anything that is not more than 5 years old. New books are exciting but many are short-lived in their popularity. I like books that have endured and make me think beyond today. They are a nice compliment to the immediacy of a blog.

5. I teach and I preach at least 48 times a year. That is a total of 96 lessons a year. Nothing – and by that I mean nothing – will grow your faith and understanding like teaching. Seriously. If you are only feeding yourself you are missing a huge opportunity to grow.

My plan it simple but it is helping me to grow as a Christian. So now I ask you, “What is your growth plan?”

What can you add to my list that is helpful?

T-shirt

I was reading through my files looking for a sermon illustration and I run across a story I had typed in and have never really used. I swear to you that this is another true story.
One time I was on a journey back from my parents house and my family stopped at a large shopping mall that has a play area inside of it. It was only about ten in the morning and I was surprised to see so many in the mall already. Many of the shops had not yet opened and most of the people were there to let their kids play in the soft foam area designated for them. There were several people of Asian descent there, a few seemed like they knew each other. There was also a group of seemingly middle class looking people standing around talking while the children played. They would occasionally shout, “Get down,” and “Be Nice” to the children as they enjoyed the time together. One little girl was being taken care of by a lady in her mid 30’s with nice hair and an average build. She was not the mother of the little girl because when the two finally left together she said, “Let me take you home to your mother.” I am guessing she was a babysitter for the day that was trying to talk to her friends and let the little girl play at the same time.
All pretty normal stuff so far, right? Well, the interesting thing for me was the fact that the little girl, probably 5 years old or so, was wearing a unique T-shirt. She had black braided hair, blue jeans, red socks and a white T-shirt with some writing on it. The writing was in black permanent marker and obviously written by an adult or older sibling. What the shirt said was, “Ask Tim Johnson why he hates my mom?” I swear to you that it is true. Here is a little girl playing in the mall and wearing a shirt that asks an enormous question. I wonder – Who is Tim Johnson? The Father? A Husband? A Boss? A Lawyer? Who is he? And why would this little girl think he hates her mom? Has there been abuse? Is he addicted to something? Did he blow all the money at a Casino? Is he getting a divorce? Is he having an affair? Thousands of questions run through your mind. I wanted to ask the little girl or her guardian for the day what it was all about. I’d really like to talk to her mom and maybe Tim Johnson. Was this real? Was it a sick joke? But I sit back and watched and never said a word.
Since that day I have thought about the incident a great deal. I would really like to meet the person who made that shirt. I mean they cut right through all the small talk and get right to the heart of the matter. Why does he hate my mom? No niceties exchanged just a straightforward question. And I imagine the mom has asked that question and Tim Johnson would not give a straight answer. So, lets put the world on alert and maybe we’ll finally get to the bottom of this she says in her heart. I admire this person’s ingenuity and the courage of the little girl to wear it. I have been thinking of making some of my own t-shirts with some big questions on them. Maybe then I will get some honest answers. Then I start thinking, “but what if someone else started writing their questions about me on a shirt?” How would I like to be Tim Johnson? Embarrassed? Angered? Humiliated? Could I ignore it?
It probably would not be a great world if we handled all of our conflicts through t-shirt questions. I will stick to the funny shirts I wear and hiding behind my small talk. As for Tim Johnson – you can run, but you can’t hide.

Purge

I spent last night in the bathroom with a virus. Got to work late today and I am weak and tired. I did still manage to get things done, but it took more effort. My only reflection from the night is very simple for all of us to understand. I started feeling sick at midnight and it took me till 4:00 am to finally get sick. Those 4 hours were miserable and as much as I hate it, it felt good to finally purge all the junk out of me.
What is true physically is also true spiritually. There are times when we just need to get it all out there. We need to admit our guilt to God and others. We need to open up about our sins and struggles to God and to someone else.
If you are struggling under an enormous weight of sin. Maybe you should just purge. It will be awful when you do it, and it may leave you weak and vulnerable – but you will feel better in the long run.

Marriage Analogy

I was in a meeting today that was a sort of counseling session for a man who is having marital troubles. I was explaining to him how to get things back on track and an analogy came to me that I have never used before. I told him that having a great marriage is like a football game. (Yeah, surprised me too.) Now I don’t mean that it involves tackling or helmets or million dollar budgets. What I mean and explained to him was simple. In football, like all sports, the goal is to win. In order to win you have to score. In order to score you have to get first downs. In order to get first downs you need to move the ball a little over three yards a play. So – in order to win a football game all you need to do is focus on a three yard gain every play. It’s that simple.
The problem is that all of us want to do nothing for two or three plays and then have one huge play to get the ball in the end-zone. It rarely works. We do not speak to our wife for five days and then take her out on an expensive date. We rarely complement our husbands or show him respect and then we have sex one night. Maybe it gets even bigger and we spend very little time together as a couple and then we take a huge vacation once a year. Or we neglect one another and then do a marriage encounter weekend once a year. I have never seen a couple with a great marriage who did an occasional activity together.
The couples who have great marriages are those who spend time together everyday. They take time to eat together most, if not all, nights. They do little things for each other like say kind words, help cleaning house, touching and thousands of other things. In other words, they are constantly moving the ball three yards.
Now, there will be plays when we get knocked down and lose a yard and we will have to work extra hard on the next play. Also, there will be plays where we gain nine yards and things are better than we imagined. The goal is still the same, keep moving the ball at least a little every play.
Maybe the analogy fits or maybe it doesn’t. Hopefully it will keep you trying to move forward today.