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Miles Apart: a Special ‘Valentine’s Day’ Message

14 Feb

SnoopyAndHeart_AbsenceQuote“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I’m with Schultz. Absence makes my heart say, “Hurry home, Babe!”

My husband and I are often miles apart.

He’s in another state or somewhere around the world. I can’t tell you how many birthdays, Valentine’s Days and anniversaries we’ve spent apart since we were married 40 years ago.

But one thing’s for sure,

I’d rather be miles apart than “miles apart.”

I know so many couples who are miles apart spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, physically. They’re under the same roof, but . . .

They’ve embraced different worldviews. They can’t agree. They don’t see eye to eye. Their hearts aren’t in the same place. They might not even share the same bed.

It’s so sad.

God made us all different, and He doesn’t want cloned spouses. But His plan is for couples to be “one.” Not only one in physical union, but together in the way they face the world, united in how they will bring up children, agreeing in how to use resources, etc.

Each partner might bring something unique into their union, but the goal is to be a stronger “one.”

My husband and I could not be more different in how we approach social events, how we disciplined the boys, how we spend or invest, how we worship. But together, our friendships, parenting, finances, and communion with God have grown. Our oneness is more beautiful than we ever were alone.

Humans struggle over unity (with anyone). We like our independence. But if God calls a couple to marriage, He also calls them to unity (Genesis 2:24-25), a reflection of the unity in the Godhead (John 17:11, 20-23).

God doesn’t want us to be “miles apart.”

Here are eight ways to promote more unity in your relationship:

  1. Pray together. Ask God to bless your relationship and create the “oneness” you desire.
  2. Seek God and imitate Christ. Remember, if you are both Christ-followers: the close each of you draws to the Lord, the closer you will be drawn toward each other.
  3. Study your spouse to understand his/her basic personality, temperament and gifts.
  4. Create undistracted time together to discuss mutual goals.
  5. Show genuine love to each other each day.
  6. Play together. Don’t make marriage just about dealing with all the “hard stuff.”
  7. Be honest. Discuss your and your spouse’s needs.
  8. Remember you are “one flesh.” Sometimes, plan for your partner’s sexual needs; other times, be spontaneous!

Are you “miles apart” from your spouse today? What can you do to shrink that distance and create more unity today?

– Dawn

 

 

 

Compassionate Candor

7 Feb

Sometimes candor, the quality of being totally frank, is helpful. Sometimes, it hurts.

I’m not sure what to think about this exchange!

“Soon after our last child left home for college,” the woman said, “my husband was resting next to me on the couch with his head in my lap. I carefully removed his glasses. ‘You know, honey,’ I said sweetly, ‘Without your glasses you look like the same handsome young man I married.’

“And my husband replied with a grin, ‘Honey, without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!” *

When we use candor, we are being open and honest with a person. But too often, the temptation is to become harsh or insensitive.CompassionateCandor

Paul tells us to become more like Jesus our conversations.

While the context of Ephesians 4:15 is the need to speak truth in doctrinal matters—that we must speak God’s truth rather than worldly philosophies, and do so lovingly—many counselors use this verse to remind Christ-followers how to speak to each other if they are to “grow up into every way into him . . . into Christ.”

Certainly, even without this verse, we know our speech is to be truthful, because truthfulness is part of God’s character. He is a God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 57:10). Jesus said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6).

But Ephesians 4:15 says our speech must also be loving. And that’s not surprising, because God is love  (1 John 4:8).

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons we do not speak with compassionate candor is our problem with pride.

  • We think we know it all.
  • We think we know more than others.
  • We think it’s our responsibility to set them straight.

Oh, how we need humility before we speak. Why?

1. Humility recognizes we have our own issues, our own struggles. That’s why Jesus encouraged people to consider their own problems before confronting others with the truth they may need to hear (Matthew 7:1-5). We’re not to judge others; God is the judge of human hearts. When we are mindful of (and even acknowledge) our own weaknesses and limitations, our hearer will be more receptive. This kind of authenticity also brings honor to the Lord.

And authenticity is a key word here. Pride and defensiveness will become evident in body language or tone of voice, even if our words sound “humble.”

2. Humility before speaking will communicate a Christ-like attitude. We are not to think of ourselves too highly, but to speak from a desire to serve others (see Romans 12:3 and Philippians 2:1-5).

3. Humility will allow us to listen first, choose our words carefully and not jump to any conclusions (James 1:19). Honesty must be accompanied by thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

4. Humility will allow us to be gracious, charitable, compassionate with our words. (Consider Luke 6:36-38.) The intention will not be to embarrass, but to help. [In the case of an erring believer, to goal is to restore! There is a proper way to speak truth in love, in that case (Matthew 18:15-17a).]

Humility is actually just part of speaking truth in love. Mary Kassian, author of Conversation Peace, said, regarding the kind of speech we need to share: “… tenderheartedness is just part of the equation, but you also have to add honesty in there, authenticity . . . humility and faithfulness.” **

Compassionate Candor is a matter of packaging truth for others in a way that will help and serve them and glorify God.

We must birth the truth in humility and wrap it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a love.

We practice this best in the home. How do we practice compassionate candor with a marriage partner? With our children?

Practicing Compassionate Candor:

1. Consider the most kind, diplomatic way to express a painful truth. Wrap it in love that the person will understand. Maybe you can even sandwich it between genuine praise and concern for the person’s perspective.

For example: “Sweetie, I appreciate your hard work in the yard this morning. Do you think you could put the tools away now? I know you don’t want all that stuff to get in the way or our neighbors seeing the pretty yard when they come home from work.”

2. But don’t think in terms of a formula: If I say this and this, he will do that and that. Just be genuine and speak the truth in love, but remember, your “packaging” of the truth may look different from situation to situation.

Kassian said, “People communicate in different ways, and so sometimes that’s just a matter of understanding , or sometimes understanding someone’s communication pattern. . . .” **

It often helps to ask questions for greater understanding before sharing your “truth” statement; but be careful to be wise and loving even in asking questions.

“You want to be very careful not to use loaded questions,” Kassian said, “or questions where you’re not asking a question but you’re passing judgement.” **

3. Don’t manipulate. Again, check your heart first. Are you humble? What’s your purpose?

4. Be alert to times your family members practice compassionate candor and praise it.

5. Be encouraging every day. Be sure you are practicing approval, genuine praise and gratitude so family members will be more open to the interaction of more difficult conversations.

Think about how you speak the truth in your home. Would a bit more humility encourage compassionate candor?

* Humor adapted from CybersaltDigest, 4-8-13

** From “Using Your Words to Heal,” https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/using-your-words-heal/

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Marriage: No Regrets

31 Oct

There are some marriage choices that definitely lead to the lament: “I wish I hadn’t done that.” But everyone has some ideas how to avoid regret even the humorists!ChooseWhatYouWantMarriageToBecome

Want to please your wife?

Bring her chocolate. Hug her in the kitchen. Surprise her with a gift card to a jewelry store. Encourage her talents. Compliment her cooking (or, if she doesn’t cook, her choice of a good restaurant). Leave a love note on her pillow. Shop with her – yes, shop with her! Send her flowers for no reason at all. Hold her hand at the mall. Etc. … etc. … etc.

Want to please your husband?

Make happy-hubby choices about three things he loves: Sex, Food and Entertainment.

Isn’t it obvious how different men and women can be? We’re just wired differently. What’s not so apparent is how to enjoy those differences.

One thing I’m sure of:  our choices toward our spouses can affect the relationship. (Note: This post is specifically for married couples, but some principles apply to any relationship.)

Life is so short … and so are our marriages. Even if we celebrate 50, 60 or more years together, the minutes of marriage tick  away so quickly. We need to choose what we want our marriage to become.

I made some “priority choices” early on regarding my marriage, so I don’t have a lot of regret. You may have made similar choices.

Here are my priority choices:

1) The Priorities of Oneness and Mission.

My husband and I are one flesh (Mark 10:8; Ephesians 5:31); there is no room for others-intimacy in our relationship. (Not even from the TV or movie screen!) We want to keep our marriage pure in our “oneness.”

Whether a couple has a formal mission statement for their marriage or just some clear, specific guidelines, this is so important. For example, my husband and I decided before marriage to be sure Jesus is at the center of our home. And the wonderful thing is, the closer we’ve gotten to Jesus as individuals, the closer we’ve been drawn to each other.

2) The Priorities of Love and Forgiveness.

Love makes any relationship blossom. Love in marriage (Colossians 3:18-19; John 13:34) includes selflessness, sacrifice and a servant’s heart as well as consistent, joyful sexual love (Proverbs 5:18-19).

And couples should learn to say, “I was wrong, please forgive me” early in their relationship (Ephesians 4:32). Every husband and wife learns to adapt to each other’s quirks, but realistically, partners will fail each other many times. Kindness and forgiveness are essential, like oil keeping the relationship running smoothly.

3) The Priorities of Acceptance and Respect.

Our husbands have so many critics in the midst of competition and comparisons in the workplace. I want to be sure I’m always my husband’s best cheerleader (1 Thessalonians 5:11), building him up not tearing him down (nagging, complaining, manipulating, etc.)

Respect should be mutual, but it is especially important for the wife to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33). Just as we may not appreciate a policeman’s attitude but we respect his authority; the wife is to respect the husband’s position as the head of the home.

4) The Priorities of Time and Focus.

In this busy world, women tend to spread themselves too thin, and sometimes, it’s the husband who gets left out. I always tried to remember that someday my children would be grown and leaving the nest but “Papa Bird” would still be around. All along the way, I cultivated our relationship. I didn’t want to end up a stranger to him.

Have you ever been in the same room with your spouse, and you forget he’s there? We can get so busy with “our stuff,” but doesn’t it make sense that the one we love deserves our focus at least occasionally? Focus also includes learning what makes your husband “tick” so you can initiate conversations where he’ll want to participate!

5) The Priorities of Joy and Contentment.

A wife has the joy of creating a “happy haven” for herself and her family. Some say the “Proverbs 31 Woman” (31:10-31) is an out of this world creature no one on earth can live like her. I say she’s a good starting point! God will show us exactly what is needed to make our particular home a refuge and place of joy for our family. (It might look different, woman to woman!)

When fires swept through Southern California a few years back, one of the families in our church lost everything. But when the ashes lay on the ground, this husband and wife still had each other and their strong faith in Christ. If you lose everything, what do you still have? All we really need is food and clothing – everything else is “fluff” (Matthew 6:31-33). The Bible instructs us, “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

We can train ourselves to be content (even grateful) in any circumstance (Philippians 4:11-13). My husband and I have shared our love and life in a beautiful brick home we owned … and a borrowed trailer behind a church gym … and on the road living in others’ homes. Marriage isn’t about location and “stuff;” it’s about love and selflessness.

Don’t misunderstand. Our marriage isn’t perfect. No one’s is perfect. But we will all have far fewer regrets if we have some priority choices for marriage and home.

What priorities have helped you create your marriage? What priorities could you add that might cut back on future regrets?

– Dawn

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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