Friday, 13 January 2012

Are You Listening?

“Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…”
James 1s:19

I recently received a Family Life Moment with You blog. The topic was one that I am quite familiar with and one that I have probably addressed in a previous blog, that being the need for husbands and wives to be better listeners.

A portion of the blog went something like this:

Many of us (especially us men) are rightly accused of not listening very well. We rarely stop and take time to focus our attention--to really hear--what our spouse is trying to tell us. Instead, we quickly say things like, "That’s dumb, honey. You shouldn’t feel that way. You’re blowing this all out of proportion." Those are statements that come from not really seeking to listen and understand where our wife or husband is coming from.

During serious conversations or conflicts, you need to stop and listen, ask questions or paraphrase what your spouse is saying in order to understand what he or she really means. Asking a good question can often be like an emotional crowbar to dislodge how somebody really feels.

Listening is another way of saying, "You’re important to me, and I love you."

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This above is a valuable message for husbands and wives but God had something more personal in mind for me. Over the past few weeks I have heard and/or read no less than three sermons/articles on the importance of listening to God. After each message I have had to say to myself, “Self, this is an area of your spiritual life which you have neglected.” I’d like to say that I have made great progress in this area – I’d like to but I can’t. My rationale for not listening to God is quite simple. I usually have a limited amount of time for my quiet time. Somehow I can’t see myself saying to God “Okay God I have three minutes before I need to be out the door - do you have anything you want to tell me?”

Then the last line of this quote from Family Life hit me between the eyes – “Listening is another way of saying, ‘You’re important to me and I love you.” Ooouch! Have you ever noticed that it seems that God does not always play fair when He wants to get your attention?

Assuming that God is not into texting or tweeting I’d better carve out some time to listen to Him.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Trust - A Foundational Building Block

Paul Tripp
It wouldn’t take anyone long to discover that I am a huge Paul Tripp fan. The following came from his recent blog. ( Paul asks us to look at ourselves and our marriage to determine whether or not we are building a relationship of trust.

1) Is there more unity, understanding, and love in your marriage now than there has ever been?
2) Do you both do what you promise in the time that you have promised?
3) Are you attentive to what your spouse sees as important?
4) Do you make excuses for failures to do what you’ve promised, or are you ready to confess?
5) Do you listen well to your spouse and act on what you’ve heard?
6) Do you follow through with mutually agreed-upon plans?
7) Do you work together on planning and scheduling priorities, or do you demand that the other do it your way?
8) Do you share with your spouse your thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, and concerns, or is it easier for you to be quiet or to share with someone else?
9) Is there any evidence that you’ve withdrawn from the other in protective distance?
10) Would your spouse say that you’re good for your word and faithful to your promises?
11) Do you carry wrongs around with you, or do you trust one another to confront and confess?
12) Do you ever wonder what the other is doing when not with you?
13) Are you conscious of editing your words and withholding your feelings because you can’t trust your spouse to deal with them properly?
14) Is your marriage partner the best friend in your life or has your dream of this kind of companionship evaporated?
15) Is your sexual relationship mutually satisfying, or is it hard for you to give yourself physically to your spouse?
16) Do you say things to other people about your spouse that you’ve not communicated to him or her?
17) Do you look forward to sharing times together, and when you have these times are they peaceful and enjoyable?
18) Are there problems between you that remain unsolved because you don’t have the bond of trust necessary to work together on a solution?
19) Are you comfortable with the vulnerability that a good marriage involves?
20) Do you ever wonder if you made a mistake in marrying the person who is your spouse?
21) Do you ever fear that you’re being manipulated or taken advantage of in any way?
22) Do you ever wonder if your spouse cares for him- or herself more than for you?

Is trust solid in your marriage? As you commit yourself to build a sturdy bond of trust, remember you don’t do that work alone or in your own strength. The One, who defines what trust is and does, is with you and offers you every grace you need to build relationships that picture his grace and point to his glory.

Monday, 9 January 2012

It's Time to Lighten Up

Susan Yates, contributor to “MomLIfe Today” a FamilyLife blog for moms seemed like great advice.

Are you having fun in your marriage?

It sounds like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? After all, most of us got married because we liked being with each other and we had fun.

But now, many of us don’t even think about fun. We are just trying to get through the day—cleaning up the next poopy diaper, finding money to pay that unexpected bill, figuring out how to be at two different ballgames at once … Who has time for fun in marriage, anyway?
My husband, John, and I have a little farm in the hills of Virginia. When we bought the farm years ago we inherited a delicious red raspberry patch which produced the most delicious red raspberries twice a year in July and October. Every season the kids and I would carefully weed out the honeysuckle and prepare the soil to ensure a good crop. And it did. We picked baskets of them and ate raspberry pancakes, raspberries on ice cream, raspberry muffins—raspberries in and on everything we could think of! It was great fun.

But as the kids got involved in more activities and life got busier, I just didn’t have the time to put into keeping the honeysuckle weeds out of my raspberry patch. I was sincere—I wanted a good crop. But too many other commitments took up my time. Slowly and subtly the honeysuckle took over and began to strangle out my raspberries. Finally the day came when we had to mow down the patch. What a sad, sad day.

As I thought about my raspberries I thought about my marriage. How easy it was to think, I’ll work on my marriage when life calms down. But the reality is that life doesn’t calm down. It just gets busier, more complicated. There are simply too many good options in today’s world for us and for our kids.

Our tendency is to put our marriage on hold—in fact, to neglect it—thinking, One day we’ll have time for us. But we’ll never have time. We have to make time, or the marriage may end up like my raspberries.

Oh how we need to recapture fun in our relationship. We need to laugh together. We need to try something together which we’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: Go for a hike in a new place … attend a lecture … take a dance class … go sailing or canoeing … light candles and take turns reading a silly book out loud … find a field and make love in a pasture.

I pray every week that John and I will laugh more together. I pray that for my children and their mates. When my sons were young I prayed that God would bring them wives who would make them laugh. (He did!) Now I pray that God would give all of us friends who would make us laugh.

Life is hard. We need to lighten up. We need to restore a little silliness in our relationships.

So here’s a challenge: On your calendar, set aside two hours in the next week for time alone with your spouse. Write it in ink, not pencil. Plan to do something crazy and fun.

Of course you don’t have time for this. But you can’t afford not to.