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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

5 Ways to Build the Family You've Always Wanted

by Whitney Hopler 
Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Gary Chapman's book, "The Family You've Always Wanted: Five Ways You Can Make it Happen," (Northfield Publishing, 2008).  
If the family life you have now doesn't look like the healthy, nurturing family you've always wanted, don't despair. It's possible to create a better family, no matter what your background or current circumstances.

Here's how you can build the family you've always wanted:

1. Develop a heart for service. So much work needs to be done in a family -- from household chores like laundry, dishes, and paying bills to errands like grocery shopping and taking cars for oil changes. Make sure that every family member pitches in to help with a fair share of the work. Assign age-appropriate tasks to each of your children. Even very young children can help set the table for meals; older kids can do a wide range of chores like mowing the lawn or organizing closets.

If your family learns to serve each other, you'll learn to serve others outside your family, too. Such service pleases God and enlarges your hearts. Model service to your children by letting them see you engaged in service projects that make a positive difference in other people's lives. Give them opportunities to serve alongside you whenever possible. Affirm your children when they complete the work you've assigned them to do; your words will encourage them to keep serving.

2. Start relating intimately to your spouse. If an emotional wall has developed between you and your spouse, break it down by regularly acknowledging your failures, asking your spouse to forgive you, and forgiving your spouse whenever he or she hurts or offends you. Communicate well with each other, sharing your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly and listening carefully to what your spouse has to say.

Move beyond simply sharing information (such as when you plan to pick up a child or what you'd like to eat for dinner) and start sharing your deep desires and frustrations with each other. Develop intellectual intimacy by telling your thoughts, develop emotional intimacy by discussing your feelings, develop social intimacy by spending time together and discussing the time you've spent apart, develop spiritual intimacy by opening your souls to each other, and develop physical intimacy by sharing your bodies through sex.

3. Guide your children well. Keep in mind when training your children that they must feel loved in order for your training to work. If they feel loved by you, even poor attempts at training can produce good results. Discover each of your children's love languages -- how you can express love to them in ways they'll best understand. The main love languages are:

Words of affirmation,
Quality time,
Physical touch, receiving gifts, and
Acts of service. 

Look for clues to your children's love languages in how they express love to you, what they request of you most often, and what they complain about most often.

Make time to teach your kids creatively throughout every part of life you experience together. Pray with your kids often. Engage in conversations with them regularly, in which you discuss their thoughts and feelings and show a genuine interest in their lives. Encourage your children to take risks as God leads them and to learn from both their successes and failures. Speak encouraging words to your children often and write them encouraging notes or send them encouraging texts messages or e-mails.

When you need to correct them for misbehavior, aim to do so in a way that motivates them toward positive behavior. Choose your battles wisely. Correct only behavior that is truly destructive or detrimental to your children's development and let the rest go. Correct out of love instead of uncontrolled anger. Seek your children's wellbeing and choose discipline methods designed to benefit them.

Affirm your children for who they are, rather than just for what they do. Let your children know that you notice and appreciate their personal qualities, from how clever their minds are to how their decisions show strong moral character. Accentuate the positive to help your children overcome the many negative messages they sometimes receive from their peers and analyzing themselves.

Make time to show your children how to do the tasks you want them to perform instead of just telling them what to do. When they're trying to learn a new skill like reading or riding a bike, teach them how to deal with emotions like fear, anger, and disappointment and emphasize the importance of values such as courage, hard work, and honesty. Aim to be a healthy role model for them as you show them how to do something. Weave your actions in with your words and be consistent with your training to help your children learn best.

4. Help your children obey and honor you and your spouse. While making every effort to make sure your children feel loved, also make sure that your children experience the consequences of their behavior. Think and pray about what rules to set, and if your children are older, listen to their input about what rules should be set and why. When considering a particular rule, ask:
"Is this rule good for the child? Will it have some positive effect on this child's life?"

"Does this rule keep the child from danger or destruction?"
"Does this rule teach the child some positive character trait, such as honesty, hard work, kindness, or sharing?"
"Does this rule protect property?"
"Does this rule teach stewardship of possessions?"
"Does this rule teach the child responsibility?" and
"Does this rule teach good manners?"

Set consequences -- both good and bad -- for your children's behavior. Tie the consequences as closely as possible to the rules to which they relate. Give older children opportunities to help decide their own consequences for certain behaviors; that will make them more likely to accept the consequences when they break rules. Aim to be consistent, loving, and kind yet firm when disciplining your children.

Model what it looks like to honor parents by treating your own parents well if they're still alive. Visit and call them often; help care for their needs. Whether or not your own parents are still living, choose a lifestyle of generous service -- investing your life to honor God and bless other people -- and your children will be inspired by your example and motivated to do the same themselves.

5. Build a family where the husband loves and leads. A healthy husband is crucial to the health of a family, since God has planned for husbands to serve as the spiritual leaders of their homes. A healthy husband:

Views his wife as an equal partner and works well with her when making decisions
Communicates with his wife openly and in positive ways
Makes his relationship with his wife his top priority after God
Loves his wife unconditionally
Is committed to discovering and meeting his wife's needs, and
Seeks to model his spiritual and moral values.

A healthy father:
Is actively involved in his children's lives,
Makes time to be with his children often, engages in conversations with them regularly,
Plays with them often,
Teaches them his values,
Provides for and protects his children, and
Loves his children unconditionally.

Wives can motivate their husbands to grow by encouraging them and praising their efforts without expecting perfection. If wives share their desires in terms of requests rather than demands, husbands will respond better. Wives should give their husbands plenty of love and try to meet his basic needs -- including his strong sexual needs.

When they feel cared for, husbands will be motivated to act in loving ways themselves. Wives whose husbands get defensive also need to learn how to communicate in ways that don't strike at their husbands' self-esteem.

Published April 15, 2009.

Adapted from The Family You've Always Wanted: Five Ways You Can Make it Happen, copyright 2008 by Dr. Gary Chapman. Published by Northfield Publishing, Chicago, Ill.,    
Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the New York Times bestselling book The Five Love Languages. With over 30 years of counseling experience, he has the uncanny ability to hold a mirror up to human behavior, showing readers not just where they go wrong, but also how to grow and move forward. Dr. Chapman is the host of the weekly one-hour radio program, Building Relationships, and has been featured at the Pentagon and United Nations. He is a prolific conference speaker and makes his home with his wife in North Carolina.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You need a mentor

You need a mentor
by Rick Warren

Everyone has a reservoir of knowledge, skills, and experience they can share. A wise person will learn to
draw them out.

Rick Warren

Every pastor needs a mentor. No matter what stage you are in your ministry, you need someone to coach you.
All sorts of organizations use the mentoring process to make people better at what they do. In medicine, doctors mentor younger doctors. In music, musicians mentor other musicians. Why? It works. We learn best when we have people who can speak into our lives and ministry.
Proverbs 19:20 says, "Get all the advice you can and be wise the rest of your life." I will always need a coach – no matter how old I get or how successful I become. Lebron James is one of the best basketball players on the planet. He still needs a coach. You will never get to a point in your life you can say, "I've learned it all. I don't need anybody else to help me."
A mentor brings out the best in you in three areas: your roles, your goals, and your soul. Mentors give us perspective. They help us look at ourselves and our ministry from the outside. We don't always see what we're doing outside of our own perspective. We see from our own limited focus. We need somebody else in our life to say, "Have you thought about…? What about this? What about that?"
Saddleback would not be where it is today without men who've poured their lives into me – people who've made me look at my ministry in a different light. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisors they succeed." What God has done through Saddleback over the past 30 years hasn't happened because I'm smart. It's because I've had great mentors and advisors. They are people I've bounced ideas off of and gotten feedback from.
What do you look for in a mentor? Let me suggest three qualities.
  1. Someone who has the character and values you admire. You want to find a mentor who is the kind of person you want to be.

  2. Someone with the skills and experience you want. Look for another pastor who has the particular ministry skills you want to improve upon. Maybe it's preaching. Maybe it's leadership. Maybe it's a pastor who has successfully navigated through a building campaign. Find someone who is good at something you want to be good at.

  3. Someone you trust. If you don't trust your mentor, you're not going to learn anything from him. Just because a mentor has a lot of knowledge doesn't mean you'll click with him. To make a good mentoring experience, in time you'll need to be able to open up to the person you choose.


Ask good questions

Once you pick the right mentor, you'll need to make the most of the time you have with that person. Neither you nor your mentor have unlimited time. What can you do to maximize your time with your mentor? Ask questions.
Before you meet with your mentor, spend some time thinking about questions you want to ask. Think about what issues you're dealing with in your ministry. Think about what areas of your mentor's ministry you'd like to learn from. Be specific.
One of my mentors was a guy named Billy, who had a mentor himself. Billy went to a large church in Texas and put himself under the pastor. At the end of six months, Billy went to him and said, "I've watched your teaching for six months and I've never heard you preach a dud. God speaks through everything you teach. Every time you teach there's power, practical information, and good insight. I would like to know how you stay fresh. What's your secret?" The man told Billy, "About 35 to 40 years ago, I made a commitment to stay fresh, so I could feed other people. To do that, I read through the New Testament once a week."
Billy sat there dumbfounded, trying to think up an intelligent follow-up question to ask. "What translation do you read it in?" Billy asked. The Texas pastor said, "Usually in the original Greek." Billy later told me that he could have been with the guy for five or six years and never found out the secret to his freshness and spiritual depth if he hadn't asked the question.
Anyone – at any time – can be a mentor if you learn to ask questions. Everyone has a reservoir of knowledge, skills, and experience they can share. A wise person will learn to draw them out. If I were to sit down with you, I'd learn some things that would make me a better pastor. I'm sure of it. You've had experiences that I haven't had – and vice versa.
Be prepared with standard questions to ask every time you get around someone who's making an impact with their life. Questions like:

• How do you handle stress?
• What have been the greatest successes in your life?
• What were the causes of those successes?
• What were the greatest failures in your life?
• What would you do differently if you were starting over?
• What kind of books do you read?
• How do you manage your time?
• How do you manage your money?
• What have been the greatest lessons you've learned?
• What have been the greatest surprises in your life?
Successful people give off clues. Look for those clues. Pull them out and learn from them.
Welcome feedback
Getting feedback from mentors is also absolutely critical. If you don't get feedback, you're going to get off course. During all the Apollo trips to the moon, those spaceships had to do course corrections literally every second. The earth was turning, and the moon was turning. To make it, the astronauts had to constantly change the course of their ship. And the only way they could do that was to get feedback.
You need course corrections from time to time in ministry as well. To make those corrections, you'll need someone on the outside of your ministry to give you feedback. If you're not open to feedback from a mentor, you're not going to learn and you're not going to grow.
Pastor, you need a mentor in your ministry. Whether you're 35, 55, or 75, there is someone you can learn from. Find someone with character. Find someone with skills you desire. Find someone you trust.

Find a mentor.

Article by Rick Warren

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to Resolve the Four Kinds of Marital Conflict

Kathy Collard Miller, D. Larry Miller
ROMANS 12:17--21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but over­come evil with good.
Conflict often makes our beloved seem like an enemy. We can easily begin to think, "It's me against you!" when we're supposed to be on the same side. Yet when we start picking a fight with our spouse and, in effect, try to take vengeance by getting our own way, we're certainly not trusting God to fulfill his promise to work in someone's life. If we're supposed to give food and water to our enemy, then let's resolve our conflicts with our best friend--our mate! Here's how to identify the four main kinds of conflict and what to do about them:  
1. Faults and Weaknesses. Everyone has faults. Faults aren't sins. Faults could be based in the weaknesses of your spouse's personality. A person who seems to talk too much is a gregarious kind of person. You may judge that she talks too much, but that's because you may not talk much at all. She is most likely thinking you don't talk enough. This is not a conflict about sin; rather, it is a lack of com­passion and understanding about who God created your spouse to be.
If your conflict comes from trying to change your spouse, remember that only God can change someone. It isn't your job. Don't allow conflict to separate you emotionally because of his fault or weakness. At the same time, you can gently point out how too much talking prevents both of you from contributing to the conversation. Speaking "peaceably" means invit­ing a dialogue--not haranguing your spouse for what you perceive is wrong. Ask God to make any changes that he wants. Believe it or not, he might not plan to change that person at this time, and you can relax and eliminate the conflict knowing that he has his perfect timing.
2. Unintended Emotional Injury. When someone hurts your feelings and he didn't intend to (although we might think he did), we can easily fall into the trap of blaming and taking it personally. Each person thinks he is right.
It's important to express your hurt by saying something like, "I know you didn't intend to hurt me, but I felt . . . [and share your feelings]." Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. He loves you, and most of the time, what you think is meant to hurt you isn't intended that way. It was most likely a misunderstanding, or he inadvertently touched on something that is a wound within you, possibly even from childhood.
Acknowledging the underlying causes of why this "triggers" you is essen­tial. Most often, things from our childhood are at the root. For instance, a wife was neglected by her father, and so any slight by her husband takes her back emotionally (without her knowing it) to those longings of want­ing her daddy to love her. Because of this trigger, she will need to take responsibility for her own reaction. The person who inadvertently hurt his or her spouse can remember this: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out" (Proverbs 20:5). God wants you to compassionately invite your spouse to address her hurt and possibly her wound from the past.
The "offending" spouse will need to walk "peaceably" by not reacting in kind with anger or hurt. By keeping your cool, you will cover the situation with a calming balm. Proverbs 15:1 urges us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
3. Preferences. During your courtship, you most likely appreciated the differences that completed you as a couple. If one of you is outgoing and friendly, the other person is most likely more reserved. You liked how your spouse made friends easily so that you didn't have to put out so much effort. But now that difference has made him or her into an enemy. You may feel that he is so friendly with everyone else that he ignores you.
Living peaceably means recognizing that a preference isn't sinful. Just because you think one way doesn't mean your spouse's opposite thinking is wrong--it's just different. Different isn't wrong. Your conflict is based in thinking that there's only one way to think about something or do some­thing. But look at Proverbs 27:14: "If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse." If because you're an early riser you think it's pretty close to a sin to sleep in late, the Bible says you're cursing your friend. Some things just aren't in a sin category.
If your spouse thinks strongly about something, then it may be even more of a conflict if you feel that you're going to be forced to abide by your spouse's preferences. That's why you need to try to feel his passion or pref­erence. That doesn't mean you need to change your preference, just under­stand how much it means to him. You may both choose to do your "own thing" separately if one person doesn't enjoy the desired activity, but leave room for both of you to do what you want at some point. Or take turns. If your conflict is about where to go on vacation, decide that one year you will go to the lake and the next year you will go to the mountains. Or find a place that has both a lake and a mountain.
If you feel that your own preferences aren't ever honored, first look at the word ever. Is that really true? Or is your spouse giving in on some things thinking she is pleasing you, except that particular thing isn't that impor­tant to you so you don't give her credit for her effort? But when you say "You never let me" or "We don't ever," your spouse may point out some­thing that she thought she was doing for you but you hadn't noticed because it's not your important preference. This is why it's important to communicate what's valuable to you. And if your spouse tells you you're not really hearing what she says, listen! Really listen and try to feel her passion. Understand that just as your activity is important to you, so also is her activity to her.
4. Sin. When your spouse sins, he can certainly seem like the enemy. Yet Romans 12:17--21 tells us we have a choice whether to live peaceably with our enemy. That doesn't mean overlooking his sin or doing nothing about it, but it does mean having an attitude of good that isn't overcome by evil. And most of the time in conflict, evil means being angry. Being angry means that you're trying to be in control instead of allowing God to be, and that won't get you the result you want. Yes, you'll still need to call your spouse's attention to the sin. If it's horrible and terribly painful, like adultery, and your spouse refuses to remove himself from the sin, then you may need to separate legally. But most of the time, we're dealing with sin that is griev­ous but not liable to end the marriage. What then can we do?
God calls us to righteousness if we are the offended party. This is not a self-righteous, I'm-better-than-you attitude, but a humble heart like the one 1 Peter 3:8--9 describes: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Compassion means thinking, "I could do something like that, and even if I haven't, I've done something equally bad or pretty close." Sin is sin. Regardless of the degree of sin that we have committed, we've all fallen short. We all stand on equal ground before a holy God who has forgiven us. In those moments, Galatians 6:1--2 is a good reminder: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (NKJV). We could have done the same thing if we were tempted in the same way.
Compassion also means forgiving our mate, but forgiving doesn't mean we're saying the sin didn't happen or that he or she shouldn't suffer the consequences of sin. But it means releasing our anger and our need to take revenge. Then set up a plan for accountability and strength for your spouse to turn from the sin so that the two of you can be reconciled.
How Others See It
Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Agree on a follow-up plan. "If I notice something again, how do you want me to help you? What do you want me to do?" This way you become a team member to deal with the problem and not a police officer. You might want to talk to him about bringing other resources to the problem as well, such as friends to hold him accountable. The important issue is that you are together as a team to fight the reoccurrence.
Becky and Roger Tirabassi give seven motivators for forgiving others:  
To forgive someone benefits you.
To forgive doesn't mean you allow the person to continue to hurt you in the same way.
Most people don't intentionally try to hurt you.
God wants us to forgive others.
It won't be long before you will need to be forgiven.
Forgiveness becomes easier when you look for similar behavior in your life.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision!
source: CWalk
This article originally posted on November 5, 2007.
Excerpted from
What's in the Bible for Couples © 2007 by Kathy Collard Miller, D. Larry Miller, and Larry Richards, Ph.D.