Friday, 1 February 2013

Holes in the Wall

Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.
Proverbs 4:26

I thought the following Moments with You by Dennis Rainey, President of Family Life, was worth forwarding on.  When I meet with couples who have children and that is most of them,  I often talk about the affect the parents relationship has on the children.  I have said that one of the greatest gifts parents could possibly give their children is to let them witness a God glorifying marriage.  A marriage that has God at the center would by necessity include those qualities necessary to build a strong character into the children who are a product of that marriage.

The Great Wall of China is one of the great wonders of the world, a true masterpiece of engineering. It's the only man-made structure that can be seen from outer space. Five to six horses could trot side by side on top of it. I've walked along it myself, and it is awesome to see this massive structure snake its way through the mountains.

The wall was built, of course, to protect China from invasion. Watchtowers and various battlements dot its construction at frequent intervals. But in the first hundred years after the wall was completed, enemies managed to invade the country three times, breaching the security of this enormous, rock-solid defense. How?

They didn't go over it. They didn't go through it. They didn't need to knock it down. Because while China was building this impenetrable defense system, it was apparently neglecting to build character into its children's lives.

All the invaders had to do was bribe the gatekeepers.

I think of that story whenever I hear parents talk of the dreams and goals they have for their children. Many parents today are vitally concerned with the education their kids receive and the skills they develop. They spend hours shuttling them to school and to various extracurricular activities, looking forward to the day when they will earn scholarships and enter the working world, establishing themselves in successful and lucrative careers. But none of these accomplishments are worth anything without the character to back them up.

It's our children's CQ, not their IQ--their "character quotient," not their intelligence--that will secure their futures and enable them to stand strong in battle.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Short End of the Stick

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

The following posting of Dennis Rainey’s blog Moments to You brings great wisdom as it pertains to expectations.  I suspect that when we got married we had some preconceived notion of what it might be like to be married but we probably wouldn’t have said “I expect my husband/wife to do ___________”  To me an expectation almost becomes synonymous with “you owe me”.  This type of thinking leads us down a dangerous path of disappointment.  The following advice will serve us well:

We all come into marriage with a full yardstick of expectations--what love looks like, what our roles will be, what we'll do on weekends, where we'll go for Christmas. But over the years, that yardstick starts getting snapped off an inch or two at a time, until we're left holding something a whole lot shorter than what we brought with us.

This leads to what I call the Unmet Expectation Syndrome. And every time it happens, the natural reaction is to go from disappointment to hurt to anger and finally to punishment--making your spouse pay for not living up to your expectations.

Here are four better ways to deal with these unmet expectations:

Love and forgive. Because you vowed before God to remain committed to each other, you must both own up to your failures and responsibilities. Your marriage will never outgrow its need for massive doses of forgiveness.
  1. Communicate and seek to understand each other. Expectations must be managed, and the best way to do that is to keep the communication lines open. Clarify your needs and expectations. Don't leave each other guessing.
  2. Develop God's perspective. Your spouse will never be able to meet the needs in your life that can only be met by God alone. Let Him be your sufficiency.
  3. Don't throw away the yardstick. Don't give up on your dreams. Even though expectations sometimes tend to be out of step with reality, God doesn't want you to live with just a few inches of the yardstick. Keep high hopes and expectations in your marriage, work toward them in a healthy way, and give thanks to God as He fulfills your true and deepest desires . . . both through Him and through each other.
The other problem with expectations is that we take it for granted when our spouse does what we expect and therefore never think to offer an expression of appreciation.  Make a list of all the things your spouse does and begin thanking him/her for each specific thing they do.  IF this seems too overwhelming try one “thank you” a week.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Taming the Dragon

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

In his blog Moments with You, Family Life President Dennis Rainey offered the following:

It can lie. It can gossip. It can slander. It can also murmur and complain. It can manipulate and flatter. It can tear down. It can paint itself in nice words, even while cutting someone to ribbons.

My friend Joe Stowell calls it "the dragon in our dentures." Our tongue. It can truly be deadly.

On the other hand, when that "dragon" is under the power of the Holy Spirit, when we are daily training it to be submitted to Christ’s control and available for His use and purposes, He can transform it into an instrument that delivers encouragement.

Dennis then went on to recount how he approached someone at church and paid the individual a huge compliment, to which the recipient was understandably pleased.

Just as the tongue can wreak great havoc it can also be used for calming someone who is experiencing great difficulty or encouraging someone who needs a lift or supporting someone who needs to feel as though they are not alone.

I suspect that in marriages that are struggling the tongue has been a major culprit and where marriages are thriving it is a reasonable guess that the tongue has been used to express appreciation, encouragement and/or support.

It is my sad perception that there are many marriages that occupy the “land in between”.  These marriages are neither struggling nor are they thriving.  In these instances the tongue can play a major role.  In these marriages one of the partners might think of something that is up-lifting to say to their spouse but they don’t.  The husband may think his wife is looking particularly attractive but says nothing.  The wife might regard her husband’s decision as being particularly astute but fails to mention it.

There could be a simple rule we could each adopt as we approach a new year.

If something good comes to mind say it immediately.  If something bad comes to mind, hold your tongue.

This rule should be applied in all relationships beginning with our spouse, children, neighbors, etc.  It was just yesterday that my wife recounted how pleasant a check out person had been but neglected to tell her.  I suggested that the next time she was in that store that she should by all means compliment the person but also to go the extra mile and tell her boss.