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Monday, May 28, 2012

I have a guest post over at the Hope at Home Blog as part of their Marriage Monday feature. Read it and find out the recent discovery my wife and I made about how much our phones and other "screens" can hinder intimacy in our marriage. It might be true for you too!

Here's a short sample of the post:
My wife and I were amazed to discover how often we immediately and instinctively grab for our phones during every free minute, seeking out that latest Instragram photo, Facebook post, tweet or next game move.  So we made a decision to be much more deliberate about being “hands-free” in our marriage.  We’ve realized that instead of holding, gazing on and engaging with our phones during our time together, we can actually do the same with each other. We are now much more aware of how many opportunities we have missed to connect with each other.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

If you have adopted children or are planning to adopt some day, I want to encourage you to attend Hope at  Home 2012, being held in Atlanta October 5-6.  This is a very different kind of adoption conference focused on equipping and refreshing parents in their calling to adopt or provide foster care.

Importantly, the conference includes encouragement for marriages as well, a somewhat unique emphasis among adoption conferences. We know that adopting and foster care can create some tremendous strain on marriages, and our belief is that a keeping your marriage strong is the best thing you can do for your children, adopted or not.  My wife and I, as well as Brad and Kate Aldrich from One Flesh Marriage will be speaking into marriages during the conference.

You can get more information on the many excellent breakout sessions here, and you can register or get more details about the conference here.

Please pass the information along to any adoptive families in your life!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My wife and I had the pleasure of leading a marriage small group in our church for the past 13 weeks. As small groups were forming in January I recruited purposefully among some of the many newly married couples in our church.  I was a little surprised but very thankful that several of them decided to sign on. 

As we prayed over each couple during our wrap up session this past Sunday night, I was struck by a genuine sense of the Lord’s delight in these couples, newly married or not, for choosing to invest time and effort in their marriages.  For each of them, being part of our group meant giving up every Sunday evening for almost four months, reading through 10-15 pages of written materials and doing some exercises, either jointly or separately. It was a significant commitment – a significant investment.

Compound Interest

I am no expert on stocks and finance, but I do know about compound interest.  The basic principle is that if you invest early and invest consistently there is a tremendous multiplication effect over time. For example, if you were to invest a single dollar every day for 20 years at a modest 3% interest rate, at the end of that time you would have over $10,000. 

The principle of a compounded return holds true for marriage as well.  Invest early! invest often! Reap the rewards!

It’s never too early (or too late) to invest in your marriage. Whether you are newly married or approaching 30 years, as me and my wife are, giving time and attention to your marriage always pays off in rich rewards over time. Consistent time and attention to your marriage is the best way to reap the long-term reward of a strong, healthy, satisfying and enduring relationship.


Another financial concept that relates to investing in your marriage is “dividends.” Simplistically, dividends are simply a payout to investors as a way of short-term rewards.

In addition to the long-term, compounding benefits of consistently investing in your marriage, there are definite short-term “payoffs” as well. Investing in things like date nights, frequent sexual encounters, romantic gestures and selfless giving will pay back with such dividends as intimacy, passion and a sense of well-being. 

So how are you investing in your marriage? Do you have some other suggestions for our readers? Let us know with a comment below!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sometimes my writing seems to create an open invitation for me to be tested concerning what I’ve written. I really try not to write about stuff I don’t practice in my own marriage, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Since completing my last series on “the power of being positive” I have to admit I’m being seriously challenged in this area. 

As you can probably tell from the fact that I have just set my own record for the longest time span without a post since starting this blog, life has been rather insane lately.  Between intense stress and travel for work, family commitments and a plethora of activities not related to my marriage ministry, I’m running at 150% of capacity. It has forced me to almost entirely neglect Journey to Surrender and my other marriage ministry endeavors. No writing or posting, very limited Facebook and Twitter activity, and my RSS reader backlog now stands above 500 posts!

All this combines to leave me extremely frustrated, and to the point, not very positive! I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, and the thing that most sinks my positivity meter is feeling forced into mediocrity by my circumstances. That’s happening in spades right now, and it makes me nuts! It also makes me pretty negative. It’s how I’m wired.

Choking on My Own Words

As much as I hate to admit it, I am realizing that I’m not doing so great at the whole positive thing recently.  I thought it would be a good idea to remind myself by going back and re-reading my last few posts. Ouch!!

Here are but a few of the choice quotes from recent posts that stung the most:
  • “The first thing to realize about being positive is that it is a choice.  We all have lots of stuff that could drag us down into being negative; that’s just real life.” (full post )
  • “I have to place the burden of my happiness squarely on my own shoulders and own up to the fact that if I’m unhappy, I’m the one that has to do something about it.” (full post)
  • “I often hear it said that right thinking leads to right doing.  That's why it is so important to get your thinking screwed on straight” and “practice thankfulness daily.” (full post)
  • “One negative statement carries the same emotional weight as seven positive ones.  Whether the number is true or not, you can shift the atmosphere in your marriage with your words.” (full post)
  • “Little, frequent acts of kindness and love are the best way to ensure that passion and intimacy thrive.” (full post)

Honesty moment: I’m pretty much 0 for 5 on the above lately.  That whole “practice what you preach” thing? Well, not so much. And the fruit of it has been exactly what I predicted in my posts: a definite strain on the level of intimacy my wife and I usually enjoy.

Needing Power

I come at last to the real point of this post: I can’t do this on my own. 

When I try to live my life in my own strength, I often find that I fall short.  Short on time, short on patience, short on love and kindness, and yes, short on positivity. 

Yet I know that God has an infinite supply of all of these things. He is the ultimate source for all I need.  As the apostle Paul wrote:
"My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Do you sometimes struggle, like I do, to find the strength you need to do what you want to do and what you know you should do? Let me do for you what my darling wife does often for me in such a circumstance and point you to the power source: God’s presence.

Power in the Presence

The truth is that in all situations and circumstances the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit can carry us through.  When we learn to walk continuously in the presence of God, which Jesus died to give us access to, we can not only survive difficulties, we can actually thrive through them.

I’m not always able to keep this truth in focus.  I’m not always able to remember to “practice the presence” of God, as Brother Lawrence so famously termed it.  But I’m thankful that I have a wife who speaks truth into my life and points me to Jesus, even when I’m teaming with stress and negativity. 

It is so important for husbands and wives not to withdraw when things get tough, but instead to encourage each other in the Lord.  When circumstances start decreasing the intimacy in your marriage and draining your passion, that’s the very time to move toward each other, speaking the truth in love.

Do you sometimes need to remind your spouse of verses like this: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength?”  (Phil 4:13) Or this: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (Ps 105:4).

I will close with one of my favorite apostolic prayers.  It’s a great prayer to pray for a spouse who is struggling:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which raised Christ from the dead.
Ephesians 1:17-20

When circumstances start to hurt the intimacy in your marriage, it might just be time to find the strength and power you need through intimacy with God.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Today I discovered a great challenge for wives who are interested in transforming their marriages with a little positivity.  

I found out about it when Cheri Gregory, the author and speaker behind "The PURSE-onality Challenge," put my post "The Power of Positive: Speaking" on her Facebook page.  (Welcome to those who are here from that link!)

I'm a bit late with this, because the challenge is already at day 7 - it runs all of May - but I'm sure you can still benefit greatly from what will be going on the rest of the month!  

She describes the challenge as "31 days of replacing "baditude" with God's word and gratitude."

It goes  hand in glove with the series I just concluded on positivity, so I encourage you to hurry and go check it out!

FYI Here are the links to the prior posts in the series:
  1. The Power of Positive
  2. The Power of Positive: Thinking
  3. The Power of Positive: Speaking 
  4. The Power of Positive: Doing

This is the last of a four part series on the transforming power of positivity.  The series starts here.

Today we're talking about the actions that help create a positive atmosphere in your marriage.

Once you get the thinking and speaking parts of positivity down, your actions will tend to follow along without as much effort as it might otherwise be.   

Still, I want to encourage you to be purposeful in the way you treat one another. Little, frequent acts of kindness and love are the best way to ensure that passion and intimacy thrive. Watch and learn the things that bless your spouse the most:
  • Periodically send a positive, loving or encouraging text or Facebook message, especially if you know your spouse is facing some stress during their day.
  • Pray together and/or let your spouse know you are praying for them and what you are praying.
  • Buy him or her their favorite treat the next time you are at the store “just because.”
  • Give your husband or wife a back rub or a foot massage (without expecting one in return).
Remember, it’s better to do lots of little things consistently than to only do “big” things occasionally. 

I’ll conclude my thoughts on positive actions with this, also from my post on The Culture of Your Marriage
A surrendered marriage is all about serving one another. When we have a culture of gladly serving and meeting our spouse’s needs, it makes the atmosphere satisfying, safe and enjoyable. The key here is “with gladness.” No one wants to be served reluctantly. Think about the last time you had a waiter that clearly did not enjoy waiting tables. Compare that experience to the last time you had one of those waiters that obviously loves what they do. It makes for an altogether different dining experience. Mediocre food with fantastic services is better than great food and an unpleasant waiter.
It's action time!  I've offered a lot of suggestions on how you can infuse your marriage with positivity. Here are the links to the prior posts in the series:
  1. The Power of Positive
  2. The Power of Positive: Thinking
  3. The Power of Positive: Speaking
There is a lot here, I know.  So don’t try to tackle everything at once. You'll likely just flounder in frustration.

As you reflect on this series, pick one thing to do differently to be more positive in your marriage.  For the next week, focus on being more consistent at that one thing, and watch how the atmosphere begins to shift. 

Take the challenge. Let us know what one positive thing you are going to focus on this week.  And come back in a week and tell us if you noticed any changes in the atmosphere of your marriage. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

This is part three of a four part series on the transforming power of positivity.  The series starts here.

Today we're talking about the transforming power of positive words.

You’ve probably heard it said that one negative statement carries the same emotional weight as seven positive ones.  Whether the number is true or not, you can shift the atmosphere in your marriage with your words.  Your words have the power to bring life and light into dark circumstances.  Even when things are fine, what you say can create forward momentum in your marriage. 

So make it a habit to speak ten positive, affirming and kind statements for every negative one. Better yet, go for 50-to-1!  As we discussed in our marriage small group recently, watch the passion level in your marriage grow as a result.  Remember that thinking it isn’t enough.  You need to say it out loud.

Here are some tips for speaking positively from my post “The Power of Your Words.”
  • Be Consistent – Do your best not to give mixed messages. Remember that it takes a whole bunch of positive statements to every negative one just to stay even.The point is to get and stay WAY ahead.
  • Be Constant –. Develop life-word habits. Commit to complimenting your spouse every day, but be genuine. And never get beyond confessing your love out loud to one another.
  • Be Deliberate – You have to be purposeful about speaking truth and life. It’s easy to let your conversations drift only to the functional and mundane.
  • Be An Eavesdropper – Pray for wisdom and revelation of what heaven is saying about your spouse, about your circumstances and about your marriage. Agree with that. Out loud.
  • Be A Treasure Hunter – We generally don’t have to work very hard to find negative stuff, but that isn’t what we want to agree with. Look for the good stuff, and amplify that with your words.
When it comes to affecting the Culture of Your Marriage what you say matters greatly! 

So be watchful over your words, your tone, and your body language when you communicate. The words matter, but so does how you express them.

Make it a habit to speak into the things you want to see rather than the things you see that you don’t like. Having a culture of honor means speaking respectfully at all times.  It means freely expressing admiration for each other.  It means each valuing the other for who God sees them to be. 

Do you have some other tips on how you use words to create a positive atmosphere in your own marriage?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This is part two of a four part series on the transforming power of positivity.  The series starts here.

Today we're talking about the power your thoughts have in creating a positive atmosphere in your marriage.

What you think and believe about your marriage and your spouse is so important, because what you actually believe (as opposed to what you think you believe) has a way of working itself out into your words and actions.  

Start With The Mind

There's a reason I chose to start with the impact of positive thinking.

The battle for your marriage starts in the mind! 

From my post, “What Do You Think,” here a few tips on practicing positivity in your thinking.
  • Practice thankfulness daily. Every day consider at least one thing you are thankful for about your spouse or your marriage. Bonus points if you tell your spouse! Philippians 4:6-7 exhorts us to not be anxious, but to pray with thanksgiving as a means to having the peace of Christ rule our minds and hearts.
  • Guard your thoughts. What are you feeding your mind with? Do you let TV, movies and gossip news form the basis of what you believe about marriage? Or are you purposeful in gaining a solid understanding of God’s design for marriage? There’s lots of stuff about that in this blog – explore!
  • Pray for your spouse and your marriage. Commit to pray daily for your spouse and your marriage. And I don’t mean the “Lord, please make him/her do ______.” I mean pray that they will be strengthened, for their spiritual life, for them to walk in their destiny in Christ and for blessing. If you don’t know what or how to pray, the prayers found in Ephesians 1:17-23, Ephesians 3:16-21 and in Colossians 1:9-12 are fantastic for praying for your spouse.
  • Watch what you say to your spouse and about your spouse and your marriage. I won't say much here, because that's our next topic: The Power of Positive: Speaking.  I'll just say that truth, positive and encouraging truth, when spoken out loud has a way of being reinforced in your mind. When you say it, it becomes more true for you.
I often hear it said that right thinking leads to right doing.  That's why it is so important to get your thinking screwed on straight.  That's why I talk so much about seeing your marriage through the right lens.  For me that lens is the Bridal Paradigm; the understanding that marriage is designed to reflect the love relationship between Christ and the church. The more I begin to comprehend it, the more it transforms my own marriage.

Are there an other ways you've found that help you practice positive thinking?   

Next up:  The Power of Positive Speaking

Friday, May 4, 2012

During our marriage small group lesson on “Passion” last week, we had a great discussion about how important it is to be positive if you want to keep passion alive in your marriage. 

Positivity can have a huge impact on the atmosphere of your marriage!  It’s almost impossible for passion and intimacy to coexist with negativity. Think about it. Negative words, thoughts and actions are like pouring cold water on the flames of passion in your marriage. A barrage of negativity will also make intimacy difficult, whether you are talking about physical, emotional or spiritual intimacy. 

I think that sometimes we fail to see how significantly our negativity (or positivity) affects our spouse and the atmosphere of our marriage.

Over the course of the next three posts I’m going to cover ways in which you can infuse your marriage with a positive vibe that is completely infectious. Why not see if you can infect your spouse!?!

It’s Up To You!

The first thing to realize about being positive is that it is a choice. Before I talk specifically about thinking, speaking and doing positive things to affirm and strengthen your marriage, let's talk about the importance of being intentional and purposeful.

We all have lots of stuff that could drag us down into being negative; that’s just real life.  But we also have a choice how we react to our circumstances.  Maybe you’ve even fallen into the habit of blaming your spouse for the unhappiness in your life that is the cause of your negativity.  If you missed my post “Own Your Own Happiness,”   go read it.  And be sure to also watch the TED Talk  at the end on the power of positivity. 

Don’t make the mistake of waiting for “things” to get better before working on being positive.  Make the choice to think, speak and act in a positive manner and see how much better these “things” seem.

The power of positive is positively transformational!  Shiela Gregoire said the following in a a recent post, “What’s Your Attitude,” and it really resonated with me: 
Gratitude can transform a marriage. When we focus on what we’re angry with our husbands about, and all the things that they aren’t doing, then our marriage will be lousy. When we focus instead on what we love about our husbands, that is what we will tend to think about, and our attitudes will change.
Choosing to be positive is not about faking it.  It’s about being deliberate to focus on and amplify the good stuff and mute the bad.  There is truth in the adage “you become what you behold.” Whatever you focus on becomes a more significant part of you.  So why not focus on the good stuff? 

What about you?  Can you think of a time in your own marriage where a deliberate choice to be positive turned things around?

Next up:  Think Positive!

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