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Helping Married Couples Get Back to the Basics

Helping Married Couples Get Back to the Basics

Do you ever feel like the pace of life keeps ramping up? Like life just moves by faster and faster and you’re wondering how you’ll ever get to all the things on your to-do list?

When I feel this pressure of all those lists I create in my head (play Uno with my daughter, have a spiritual talk with my son, take care of the yard, spend time with my wife other than watching Netflix, etc.), I find myself trying to find hacks to get stuff done quicker.

  • Can I play a speed round of Uno and let my daughter feel like she has my full attention?
  • Can I Snapchat my son a PowerPoint of the deep spiritual truths he needs to know?
  • Should I buy a bigger chainsaw for the yard?
  • How do I watch Netflix at 2x speed? Oh wait, we’re not supposed to be watching Netflix.

The Problem With Shortcuts

Here’s the problem: every time I try to find shortcut answers for relationship issues, I end up with shortcut solutions that don’t stick. Or ones that make the situation even worse.

People aren’t problems that need to be solved. They’re people who need to be loved. And people deserve time. They deserve attention. They deserve more than being flippant.

I’ve learned that slowing down and getting back to the basics is always the best bet—especially when it comes to loving the important people in my life well.

The basics sound easy to act upon, but often they’re not. One thing that has helped me, however, is simply focusing on these three things:

  • Listen well.
  • Don’t be selfish.
  • Love like Jesus.

Starting Simply

Most of us have heard stories of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, who was famous for making his players get back to basics. He reinforced the simple things such as putting socks on correctly and tying shoes tightly.

Focusing on the basics was the foundations that helped his UCLA teams win a consecutive 10 national championships. For his accomplishments, Wooden is known as one of collegiate sports’ greatest coaches ever.

We probably all have an intuitive sense of what these basics are in our marriage and family relationships. The basics are simple, but they’re rarely easy.

What is Holding Us Back?

All too often, we experience pain in our own life that keeps us from being readily able (or willing) to do the basics well in our closest relationships.

Maybe you thought for a long time you’d been practicing the basics well in your marriage, but your spouse thought otherwise.  His or her comments back to you about your shortcomings in this area probably hurt.

When we experience hurt long enough, it makes us want to protect ourselves. In protecting ourselves, we often stop doing those loving basics that worked so well for us at one point.

How Counseling Helps

I’m a believer in counseling, therapy, coaching, mentoring, spiritual direction, and all the various forms of help that get us outside ourselves. These things allow us to take a more unbiased look at what’s going on in our life and relationships.

In doing so, these forms of help are always at their best when they bring us back to the basics—not when they come up with the next new wave of whatever seems hip. Keep that in mind if you’re counseling a couple, or seeking advice for your own marriage.

What I’ve found in counseling others and experiencing quality counseling myself is that it’s best to take a deep dive into understanding what’s blocking a relationship with a spouse, others and especially God.

A Program That Can Help

That’s one reason why we’re introducing a five-night personal growth intensive at WinShape Retreat called Prodigal Love. It’s led by experienced mental health professionals who have fine-tuned a process that’s proven to help people take their relationships to the next level.

The experience is grounded in an experiential group therapy process. It fosters change through action and helping individuals learn more about themselves. I’ve experienced the programming myself and it changed how I get back to the basics in my own life.

It’s always good to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What are the basics we are doing well in our marriage?” If we’re not doing them well, then it might be time to figure out why.

3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

“When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, His answer was to love God with all you are and to love others as well as you love yourself. Loving God in your individual life greatly impacts your married life.” – Married People: How your Church Can Build Marriages that Last

I’m married and I love Jesus. I also love this truth from the book from Ted Lowe and Doug Fields. It’s not something I’ve always understood, and it’s not something I’ve done perfectly in 16 years of marriage. It is, however, something I’ve come to see as completely and fully true.

For me to sincerely love my wife with the best kind of love, I’ve got to totally love my heavenly Father first.

Here are some of the ways I think you too could take steps to Love God First:

1. Understand What God Thinks of You

To truly understand God, it’s important that we can correctly answer the question, “What does God think of me?” If your answer is “disappointed, angry, or ashamed” then think again. This wrong thinking will bleed over into your other relationships, most directly your marriage relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a perfect example of how our Father God responds to our own sin and mistakes. We actually don’t get what we deserve, and instead receive a love from God that surpasses anything we could earn. Love God First, means understanding how much God Loves You.

2. Reflect a Deepening Relationship With God in Your Schedule

My family knows that when I head out to the porch with my journal, Bible, and a cup of coffee that I’m doing more than drinking coffee on the porch. If you want a relationship with Christ that is a priority, then you’ve got to actually put Him first.

If you’re a morning person, then when you seek God will probably be in the morning. Maybe you have a clearer head at night; then the evening becomes the time you learn and grow by reading God’s Word.

The time of day isn’t as significant as making time for the study. If I want my wife and family to know where my priorities lie, then they need to see that it’s actually a priority with my time.

3. Talk Openly About What God is Doing in Your Life

My relationship with Jesus, and my love for Him naturally leads into a deeper relationship with my wife. It happens because this relationship with God, always gives me things to talk with my wife about.

I get to speak of the story God is weaving in my times with Him. I get to tell of the work God is doing in my life. And I get to tell of the areas God is changing in my life.

If you ever struggle to talk to the one you’ve chosen to love the rest of your life, then just share what God is showing you. It’s the private conversations your spouse will appreciate the most.

What are some ways that you love God first?

Jonathan Cliff is a huge advocate for the family and church working together to see everyone experience Christ in rich and new ways. He and his family life in Athens, Georgia. He regularly blogs at www.jonathancliff.com and is found on twitter at @jonathancliff.

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

This is an encouragement to those who are limping in leadership. I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences.

Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss where we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially when God called me into ministry.

I entered ministry limping.

The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.

They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.

If this is your story if you have a limp and you’re in leadership, I have a few suggestions. Here are five ways to lead well when you have a limp:

1. Don’t hide your limp

There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’ve lost their way or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward.

You don’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t true, either. Your story is your story.

2. It may be God’’s way of keeping you humble

Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past. I can’t change it or hide it, at least for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.

3. Don’’t be a martyr

No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’t wallow in your misery forever.

It’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up. Recognize it’s true and deal with it. It’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.

4. Allow it to strengthen you

You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again—and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it.

There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things.” But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.

5. Be empathetic

There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.

Keep limping across the finish line. Don’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.

Ron Edmondson is a husband, dad, pastor, church planter and church growth/organizational leadership consultant in Lexington, KY. Check out Ron’s blog for great leadership advice.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

How To Manage Conflict And Stay Married In Ministry

How To Manage Conflict And Stay Married In Ministry

Every relationship — even a good one — has conflict. If you don’t know how to deal with it, how to resolve it, how to manage it, you can kill your relationship.

The Bible says conflict is caused by selfishness. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” (GNT). I am basically a selfish person. I think of me before I think of anybody else. And you do, too. I want what I want and you want what you want, and when these competing desires collide, that’s called conflict.

The night before I got married, my father-in-law sat down with us and said, “There are five areas where marriages usually have conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication.”

My father-in-law was a prophet. In our marriage we’ve gone five for five! We’ve hit every single one of them.

Some of you are in major pain right now. You are frustrated. You feel stuck in your relationship because you have argued about certain issues over and over with no resolution, much less reconciliation. You don’t know what to do.

If you’re going to pull together when conflict pulls you apart, you need to follow these five instructions.

1. Call on God for help

Pray about it. Before you go to the other person and talk to them about the problem, discuss it with God.

I challenge you to practice what I call venting vertically. Many people are skilled at venting horizontally, but venting vertically is when you go to God.

Conflict often occurs when we expect other people to meet needs that only God himself can meet in our lives.

One day you stood in front of a bunch of people and you said, “I do.” What you were really saying was, “I expect.”

You weren’t thinking about what you intended to do and the promises you were going to keep. You were thinking, “Good! All my needs are going to be met now! This person is the answer to my dreams and is going to fulfill me in every way.” There is no person alive who could possibly meet all your needs. Only God can do that.

Anger is a warning light that says, “I’m expecting somebody to meet my needs.” When I have a need for you to be on time and you’re late, or when I have a need for you to notice me and you don’t, I get angry. God says, “Why don’t you try talking to me about it first?” Instead of expecting your mate to meet all your needs, God wants you to look to him.

2. Confess your part of the conflict

Before you start attacking and blaming, you need to do a frank evaluation and ask yourself, “How much of this conflict is my fault?”

When you’re wrong, admit it. And when you’re right, shut up!

Jesus said this . . .

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT)

Everybody has blind spots. Jesus says, “Before you start getting the sawdust speck out of your partner’s eye, why don’t you get the telephone pole out of yours?” Using exaggeration, he is saying to check yourself out first.

Marriage is a lifelong process of overcoming your differences. Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception. But the fact is, it’s not incompatibility. It’s selfishness and an unwillingness to change.

3. Convene a peace conference

Conflict does not resolve itself. It must be dealt with intentionally . . . deliberately. Conflict gets worse when you leave it alone. Hearts grow hardened and positions get solidified, and bridges get broken beyond repair. So you have to intentionally deal with the conflict.

The Bible is very specific about this. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (The Message).

It is impossible to worship with bitterness in your heart and unresolved conflict with others.

Postponed conflict only gets worse.

4. Consider your mate’s perspective

The secret of resolving conflict is understanding where the other person is coming from. The better you understand somebody, the less conflict you’re going to have, because you know how to deal with him or her.

How do you learn to understand someone? Listen. Listen more than you talk. Some of us get so anxious to make our point, to tell our side, to defend ourselves; we don’t even stop to listen to what the other person is saying or their point of view. It’s like the old cliché: “We must seek to understand before seeking to be understood.”

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).

When you’re angry, you’re preoccupied with yourself. But when you’re like Christ, you look to each other’s interest and not merely your own.

5. Concentrate on reconciliation, not resolution

There’s a very important difference. Reconciliation means to re-establish the relationship. Resolution means to resolve every issue by coming to agreement on everything.

You’ll discover there are some things you’re never going to agree on. I don’t care if you both love the Lord and are both dramatically in love with each other – there are some things you’re never going to agree on simply because God has wired us differently.

You’re not going to agree with everything your mate believes or thinks. But you can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s called wisdom. It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship.

Sometimes you need to seek professional help, and that’s okay. In fact, talking to a counselor is a healthy and positive choice to make. And you always need to talk to God and to each other.

Many marriage conflicts would be solved overnight if both the husband and wife would kneel before Jesus Christ and say, “We humble ourselves and humbly ask you to make this thing work. We submit our egos to you and our hurts to you. Jesus Christ, do what only you can do.”

Republished with permission. Read the original article here.

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

Spending time with God is the most significant contributor to the intimacy we share in our marriage.

1. Time with God Gives Me a Wider Perspective

When I don’’t see the forest, the trees definitely get in the way. What are some of the trees you ask? I’’ve been guilty of coveting my neighbor’s house for one. I remember a time when moving to a bigger house was all I thought about.

Sadly, the house I was living in was the answer to the previous obsession I had to get out of renting! When I don’t take time to talk to the Lord, my perceived “have-nots” really bother me. This attitude, no matter how I try to disguise it, eventually gets around to my husband’’s attention.

When I allow God, to speak to me, I have greater love for my husband, John, less anxiety about our future and I’’m easier to live with!

2. When I Make Space For God, I’’m Less Needy On My Husband

It’’s not hard for me to find “legitimate” reasons to complain, feel afraid, be insecure, hopeless etc. My “needy mode” is unattractive and makes me unfairly demanding to John. He isn’t perfect, but he is wonderful!

In contrast, when I cry out to God during hard times of worry and or depression, it’s less threatening for me to take them to John. I can be more transparent and honest with him because I’’ve prayed first and understand that he isn’t my only source for solution. It also brings our worlds together.

I tell John and remind myself, “he is the most perfect imperfect man I know!” I give him room to be fallible and affirm to him that I love him anyway.

3. Time With The Lord Gives Us “Better” Conversations

It’’s so rewarding when we use the times together to discuss things we’’ve been learning from the Lord. Our “quiet time” styles are very different, but the results are usually stimulating and provide energetic dialogue.

We end up talking about things that matter to us, often expanding our viewpoints beyond the current circumstances. It makes praying together easy and very natural. Most of the time we feel so drawn to each other that all we want to do is connect!

Debbie Woodall met her husband, John Woodall, at Bible college. They married in 1975 and now have four married children and 12 grand children. Debbie works as a freelance artist and enjoys encouraging couples in their marriages and individual walks with God.

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Yep. We go to counseling—marriage counseling.

I spent 10 years in the dating world searching for and imagining my perfect husband. My husband spent three years married to someone else before he married me. We are both pushing nearly a decade in occupational ministry, are new parents with baby two on the way, and are navigating life’s changing seasons almost daily.

Needless to say, we each bring our own history, weak spots, and relational dynamics to our marriage.

I used to be surprised by people’s reaction when I told them my husband and I go to counseling. We’ve been leaders in our church and community for many years. Perhaps “counseling” doesn’t fit people’s mold for us.

“Really? Why? What’s wrong?”  they’d say, with concerned intonations.

The truth is, nothing. Nothing is wrong.

We Don’t Go To Counseling Because We Have A Weak Marriage

We go to counseling to build a strong marriage.

So there we are in a counseling session. We sit awkwardly holding hands on faded floral couches with our McDonald’s drive-through coffees. The vertical blinds in the room are tilted just enough to let the daylight in, but not enough to expose our identity. Like counseling is something to be secret or shameful.

Counseling should not be shameful. It should be celebrated and cheered for.

When someone is engaged in counseling, it means they’re engaged in their life. It means they want to make progress toward wise, meaningful life-decisions and health.

Why are we embarrassed to need counsel or coaching? Are we ashamed to be seeking support? Ashamed that we want healthier relationships?

What does that look like?  We sit down and talk with someone much wiser than us when it comes to marriage relationships about how to have a strong, healthy relationship.

Through Counseling We Get To:

  • understand how our past impacts our present
  • learn the other’s needs in ways we don’t normally have tools to talk about
  • get an outside perspective to help us see beyond ourselves
  • dream about our future and what we hope our marriage and family will look like years down the road
  • explore what emotional intelligence looks like in our relationship—it’s worth more than money, let me assure you

Do you know what the best part of counseling has been? Someone leading us through how to have those important, meaningful conversations on our own, day-to-day.

What we have learned in counseling hasn’t stayed there. It’s given us tangible tools to build a strong marriage.

Counseling is Not One-Size Fits All

I’ll be the first to admit not all counsellors are the same. They’re not one-size-fits-all. Each one brings a unique approach, education, and skill set to the table. There are even life coaches that support you in achieving future goals and ambitions.

One counsellor might not be very helpful… but that doesn’t mean allcounsellors are not helpful.  The next one could lead to a major breakthrough.

I have also been to a counsellor when everything was not ok.  And there’s no shame in that either.

Because there are just times when we need more help and guidance than coffee with a good friend can offer.

We All Need Counseling

Frankly, life’s too short to live in pain when help is out there. And good counseling still costs less than stress-leave, sick-leave, or divorce.

In North America, why does it seem more acceptable to pay for physical health with a gym membership but not for mental and emotional health with a counseling session? Either way, the responsibility is still on you and I.

Showing up at the gym without exercising doesn’t make us any healthier than buying an apple and watching it rot. And it’s the same with counseling, we have to show up and engage.

At the end of the day, I think we all need counseling. Because we’re all human. We’ve all been hurt or broken or confused by someone or something. And there is hope. I just wish it was more socially acceptable.

So, let’s let go of the shame of counseling and celebrate the pursuit of healthy, meaningful relationships and lives.

What about you? What do you think about counseling?

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