Thursday, January 27, 2011

When You Have a Great One-Liner

by Janine Petry

I don't have a problem with respect — it's showing respect to my husband that I can't quite get the hang of.

Showing disrespect has become a modern marriage pastime. We laugh as our favorite on-screen wives make fools out of their husbands, and before long we're talking like these leading ladies.

Here are some ways we show disprespect:

  • Witty one-liners are clever ways to get the last word. Example: "You can tell me how hard work is after you birth three children."
  • Sarcasm uses mocking words to strike at him personally. Example: "That's your best idea yet; got any more?"
  • Misplaced laughter ridicules him, whether or not he's around. Example: "He actually thinks those look good together."
  • Demeaning reminders imply a lack of trust. Example: "So are we actually going to see you on time today?"

I've come to understand that the phrase "Women need love and men need respect" is more than just a slogan — it's Scripture (Ephesians 5:33). So I try to use encouraging words to show my husband respect. The opportunities are endless, and my words have the potential to empower my husband to be more of the man God wants him to be. When I'm sincere and he accepts my words, our marriage is strengthened.

Here's how I've been making the transition from casual disrespect to intentional respect: I start with prayer, asking God to change my heart and my attitude. I also listen carefully to my words. Finally, I replace rudeness with words that exhibit honor for the husband God gave me.

These alternatives show respect:

  • Ask questions: Give him a chance to express himself. Example: "What made work so difficult today?"
  • Keep it simple: Make clear statements about issues. Example: "I'm not sure that's going to work. Are there any other options?"
  • Encourage: Choose words that highlight his individuality. Example: "I love that he's daring enough to wear that."
  • Tell the truth: Express concerns and affirm positive changes. Example: "It's been really hard for us when you're late; I appreciate you making the effort to get home earlier."

I show respect to my husband because God brought up the subject. It's His way of leading me into a marriage that is blessed as it reflects the loving relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. Marriage has a purpose far greater than my husband's and my relationship. Our unity expressed in love and respect is nothing short of God's witness to the world of His great love.

Janine Petry is a wife, a homeschooling mom and a frequent contributor to Thriving Family

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Room to Grow

I recently found myself engrossed in an episode of "Hoarders." If you are not familiar with this show, "Hoarders" lets you see in great detail the struggles of people who ... well, hoard. Up close and personal, viewers witness what happens to people's lives, families, health and spiritual well-being when they are beset by one basic problem: the inability to let go of stuff. Whether it is memorabilia, toys, electronics, appliances, clothes or whatever, the basic issue is the same: The person just cannot let it go.

While "Hoarders" deals with material things, the show mirrors a similar challenge that is all too common in marriage: the inability to let go of the old and the broken, even when those things now hurt the relationship.

We all go through life looking forward to the new, to the promise of tomorrow. But as we embrace the new, we don't as often recognize the need for the parallel process of letting go of the old. Relationships, activities, practices — our lives are filled with things that may only be meant to last for a short season. As King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: ... a time to keep and a time to throw away" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,6).

When a season is over — when its value has come and gone — we should let it go. This cycle is built into life by God.

Trading the good for the best

Endings are never easy, of course, even if they are necessary. And sometimes those endings are painful. But in the same way a rosebush needs pruning for a gardener to get beautiful flowers, married couples must also decide what needs to be cut away.

Think about that idea for a moment. A gardener prunes a rosebush for three reasons: First, a bush may produce more buds than it can sustain and feed. So, the gardener prunes the good ones, and keeps only the best ones so they can fully mature. Second, there are diseased branches that simply refuse to get well. Third, dead branches occupy space that the healthy ones need in order to grow. If all three types of pruning are done regularly and well, then the rosebush thrives.

Imagine if couples were to approach their marriages with a gardener's mind-set — if they trimmed away good things to let the better things thrive and if they said goodbye to the activities that took resources and space from their relationship. The process might be painful at first, but the courage and determination to embrace those necessary endings would ultimately give their marriage a new and more fulfilling beginning.

The courage to embrace tomorrow

For a variety of reasons, such as guilt or fear of the unknown, couples hang on to things whose season has passed, things that really should be cut away. You may recognize some of these things from your own life:

  • A church or small group, which served you well in a particular season of your marriage, is no longer doing so. Its legitimate season is past, and it may in fact be toxic for your relationship. Guilt and fear keep you from finding and investing in a group that is appropriate for this time of life.
  • Your lives are simply too overextended. Sports, clubs, ministry opportunities, arts, social functions — if too many outside activities are extracting energy from your lives, the quality time that you need as a couple doesn't happen.
  • A group of friends that was once important to you is going a different direction in life, with different values than you wish to build in your marriage. Spending time and energy there is keeping you from investing in the friends who are heading in the same direction as you.
  • You spend time on a hobby that, while entertaining, might be keeping you from pursuing something that will enrich your marriage.
  • You've tried helping an extended family member, but he continues on the wrong path, taking advantage of your kindness and causing your marriage unnecessary grief. Every time you interact with him, your own marriage suffers because you are not emotionally available for your spouse in the aftermath.

I am not saying that couples should just throw away all of the activities and relationships that are not benefiting them in some way. That would be selfish, and Christians are called to commitment and service. But this must be accompanied by discernment and wisdom.

As we journey through life with our spouse, we need to wisely choose where we spend our time, energy and money, having the strength to say goodbye to what does not fit. If we are going to enjoy a truly thriving marriage, we need to recognize what season we are in, and prune accordingly.

Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist and the author or co-author of over 20 books, with a total of 4 million copies in print. His most recent book is Necessary Endings.

This article first appeared in the January/February, 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Henry Cloud. Used by permission.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflecting God's Faithfulness

by Kurt Bruner

"But you promised!"

How many times, as parents, have we heard those words? Our memory of our promises often isn't as acute as our kids' memories, and they can be deeply disappointed when we forget. All children crave promise keeping from the significant adults in their lives. They want to trust that we will do what we say.

I'm glad God doesn't forget His promises. He keeps His Word. When He makes a promise, He will deliver. Faithfulness, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is a biblical word describing those who keep their promises. It does not mean "full of faith," but rather "worthy of faith." Faithfulness says, "I will keep my word. I will not fail you. I won't quit on you." Faithfulness is the glue that keeps our actions adhering to our promises.

The faithfulness of God is foundational to our faith: If we can't trust what He says in the Bible, we have no reason to believe. If He doesn't keep His Word, then our salvation is shaky and our hope is empty. But if God does fulfill His promises, then our faith is meaningful and our eternal destiny is secure.

Faithfulness is foundational to a happy, God-honoring home as well. Promising ice cream and then forgetting, threatening punishment and not following through, or singing "I Love You, Lord" in church and forgetting Him through the week all affect our children and can undermine trust. Children who have to deal with continual broken promises may find it difficult to trust the significant people in their lives — including God.

Practice faithfulness, though, and you will provide stability, security and confidence for your children. You will reflect God to them. And you will instill in them the importance of being true to their word.

When your children develop faithful hearts, they will stay in a close walk with God; they will also find more success in their schoolwork, their friendships, their marriage and their career.

Remember: Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit, empowered by God. So pray for it. Model it. Teach it. Celebrate it.

On this page, you will find age-appropriate activities and discussions to help you do just that.

Key Points

  • God is faithful; He keeps His promises.

  • Faithfulness says, "I will keep my word. I won't fail you."

  • Faithfulness is essential for a happy home and godly living.

Family Memory Verse

Proverbs 3:3
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."

Scripture Study

For a more in-depth look at faithfulness, read these Bible passages:

  • Numbers 23:19

  • Deuteronomy 7:9

  • 1 Corinthians 1:9

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

  • Hebrews 10:23

  • 1 John 1:9

Copyright © 2010 by Kurt Bruner. Used by permission.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Humor in Marriage

by Les Parrott, Leslie Parrott

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." - E.E. Cummings

"Do you two need a tissue?" a voice gently whispered from behind us. We were sitting in a quiet theater watching a somber play when — at the saddest moment — something struck us as funny. Hysterically funny.

At just that moment, Les found a withered old banana in his coat pocket. Who knows how long it had lived there. He set this surprising discovery on my knee. Caught off guard by the incongruity of the banana and the play, I developed one of the worst cases of the giggles I've ever had. Les quickly caught the same disease. We tried desperately to stifle our laughter, but, as we bowed our heads to hide our faces, we couldn't keep our shoulders from shuddering. An older woman behind us, thinking we were moved by what was happening on stage, offered us a tissue for our tears, which made us want to laugh all the more. When Les accepted her kind offer, I really lost it and had to leave the theater.

Just another day in the marriage of Les and Leslie? Not quite, but we do laugh a lot together. The tiniest of things can sometimes set us off — a slight inflection or a knowing glance, for example. We can quote a funny line from a movie or sitcom for weeks. Better still are the unplanned faux pas in front of others that bring embarrassment. We have the same funny bone and can't keep from using it. No wonder we enjoy our marriage.

Laughter bonds people. Any good friend will tell you that laughter is the shortest distance between two people — especially in marriage. But one never knows what's funny to others. In a survey of over fourteen thousand Psychology Today readers who rated thirty jokes, the findings were unequivocal. "Every single joke," it was reported, "had a substantial number of fans who rated it 'very funny,' while another group dismissed it as 'not at all funny.'" Apparently, our funny bones are located in different places. Some laugh uproariously at the slapstick of Larry, Moe, and Curly-Joe, while others enjoy the more cerebral humor of Woody Allen.

Wherever you are on this continuum of humor, one thing is certain: Laughter, on a daily basis, is like taking a vitamin for your marriage. And it is a healthy habit all loving couples enjoy.

From The Love List, published by Zondervan. Copyright © 2002, Les and Leslie Parrott. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stupid Small in 2011

It's a New Year (Thank the Good Lord!) and this naturally causes us to reflect.  Even if you're not so into New Year's Resolutions, it seems like those first few bars of Auld Lang Syne, cause one to think back (with regret or nostalgia) of the year gone by.  You just can't help but think of what you would like to do differently in the New Year or what things you really hope to see.  When the clock strikes 12 and you're standing there with your glass of bubbly, the inner optimist finds expression in that New Year's kiss.

As you look at your goals for 2011 and if you make any New Year's Resolutions, I think a major key is to not over complicate things.  I came across a blog today that said it so well, that I won't try to reiterate it.  I'll just share it with you:

Here's a taste:

Repeat after me: “The way to scary-good is through stupid-small.”

It sounds silly, but it’s true.

Being silly also helps you from being afraid of it.

Stupid-small is the way to go.

When my wife and I were at our lowest point together, we applied this idea without even knowing it.

We both knew we wanted something better, but it seemed so far off. So we started small. We cleared some things off our calendars, we went to counseling, we talked and spent time together.

We didn’t achieve a better marriage overnight, but we began the journey – and that’s the point.

We did it – so can you.

We are also planning for what will unfold in 2011 – step one was to start stupid small.

You will want to read the rest!!  Visit Simple Marriage!
God bless you and your marriage in 2011!
"It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung....Go back, he thought. No good at all. Go sideways? Impossible. Go forward? Only thing to do! ON WE GO! So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and pitter." (The Hobbit)