Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines

Song of Solomon 2:15  Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. “Little foxes”, that threaten to spoil the vines. Small things, maybe pet sins, in our lives that we think are innocent and no real threat… to our marriage, our children, or our spiritual life.  Yet they actually hold the potential to ruin them.

I can remember as a teenage boy being given these words of wisdom from a spiritual leader in my life who said, “Take care of sin while it’s still small.”  And those words have stuck with me to this day, echoeing in the back of my mind as a constant reminder of the danger of those times I find it easiest to justify ‘small’ sins.

What is it for you?

In a marriage, it could be… a bad habit, a consuming hobby, a hidden addiction, a lack of effort or communication, an “innocent” relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  No man ever plans to leave his family, abandon his home, and be an adulterer, but it all has to start somewhere as small as a look, a compromise, a letting of the guard down, and before you know it, a snowball is being formed. One that seemed so innocent at first, but now threatens everything he holds dear.

In parenting, it could be… an inconsistency, a seemingly insignificant compromise, a discrepancy between a parents words and their actions.  Or it could be a “little fox” in the lives of our children that we fail to deal with while it’s still small.  Think about it:  Negative actions and character traits that kids end up having in adulthood are usually because they were allowed to develop in their childhood.  Whether it be dishonesty, theft, addiction, or lack of self-control, etc.  

They more than likely didn’t develop those traits as an adult.  They cultivated them when they were young, and they became little foxes in their lives.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to help our children learn to control their thoughts, tempers, words, and actions from a young age, because life-habits of permanent consequence are being formed.

I can clearly remember the words of my dad when I was a boy, saying, “Son, you can smoke as many cigarettes as you want, as long as you never smoke the first one.”  And he never had to explain himself because his point was clear – take care of sin before it takes care of you.  Because sin dealt with when it’s small is so much easier to overcome than sin dealt with when it’s tall.

In one’s spiritual life, it could be… a spiritual complacency, letting the basics slip, comparing ourselves among ourselves.  Oh, how easy it is to let the little disciplines of the spiritual life slip… because we’re busy serving or doing ministry.  We’re too busy being a Martha and helping others, that we don’t make any time to simply be a Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.  And before you know it we’re burning our spiritual candle from both ends, because we have allowed little foxes to begin spoiling our spiritual vines.

All of these things are easy to justify and dismiss in our lives yet still have the potential to be the little foxes. And before you know it, you’re looking back at a broken marriage, a wayward child, or a spiritually apathetic and backslid Christian.

It’s a threat for all of us.

Sometimes the foxes in our lives look so cute, fuzzy, and innocent that we think they are harmless, but in reality, they are a threat to the fruit that God desires for us to have in the different areas of our lives?  It could be a thought, a look, or a seemingly insignificant compromise.  But remember the end of the verse and the reason why the the foxes were being taken away… “for our vines have tender grapes.”

There is much fruit in your life, your marriage, your children, and your relationship with God that is at stake.  And these little foxes threaten to devour it.

These foxes are not only petty sins in our lives, but can also be a picture of our own self-deception. We can easily be fooled into thinking that which is not completely good is also not completely bad, when in reality, that is where the deception takes place.  And we never see it until it has already taken hold of us.  Yet it all began in our wrong thinking, as we started to justify and rationalize ‘small’ sins.  

We think we can handle it.  It’s not as big of a deal for us. Because even though it’s happened to others, it will never happen to us.  Our marriage will never be ruined.  Our kids will never be wayward.  Our spiritual life, or lack thereof, will never be exposed.

What we often deem “acceptable” can lead to potentially irreparable damage.  Small foxes that spoil the vines.

The question we need to ask ourself is this… Are we chasing out the little foxes in our lives, or are we feeding them?

Be honest with yourself… When is the last time you had to ‘amputate’ something out of your life because it was a small fox, a pet sin, that posed to threaten and even destroy the most important fruit that God has given you?  Maybe it was a person, a habit, a hobby, or even an app on your phone. But you knew that it was a small fox that had the potential to spoil your vines.

Most failures in life are not a blowout, but a slow leak, a slow fade.  And it’s not usually the big obvious sins, but the small ones, the “little” foxes, that will spoil our vines.

What small foxes do you need to deal with today in your own life or the lives of those you love?

3 Ways You & Your Spouse Can LOVE Happily Ever After

A lot of marriages exist instead of excel.  They simply survive when God intended them to thrive.  

What once started as exuberant, young love easily turns into nothing more than “old hat”, everyday life.  Two people, coexisting, living life together “till death do us part”.  Because well, that’s what they said they would do, and they’ll die doing it.  Even if for no other reason than just because it’s the right thing to do.

I can clearly remember as a boy the love my grandparents had for each other, especially as they aged and struggled with poor health. Their unwavering love and dedication to each other was greatly impactful on me. However, I can also remember how there were many times that they could hardly stand each other, as they got on each other’s nerves to no end with their petty squabbles about things that really didn’t matter. In fact, it was hard not to sit back and just chuckle inside at their childish pettiness at times over little ways that they would intentionally push each other’s buttons.  

My wife and I have been married for 16 years, and sometimes I catch us doing the exact same things, pushing each other’s buttons. And I have to remind myself of what I learned from my grandparent’s love, both the good and the bad.

While every marriage faces its struggles and challenges, God never intended for a husband and wife to experience a mundane existence of simply “living happily ever after.”  

The problem with the phrase “living happily ever after” is that it always seems to be the “living” part that gets in the way. Life has a natural way of taking its toll on us, and especially in our marriage.  

However, I think that God designed for us not so much to live happily ever after, but to love happily ever after.  God never established the institution of marriage to be something we just do, but rather something that we enjoy. Yet in many Christian marriages, where two people are just pushing their way through, joy is the last thing you’d be likely to find.    

However, what if every couple strove intentionally, not with each other, and not simply to fulfill their marital obligations, but strove intentionally to really, truly love one another the way God intended through marriage?  Could it be possible for them to “love happily ever after”?

Can couples that have been married for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years still be madly in love, and it even be obvious to others by the way they interact with each other?  I for one, believe that while “loving happily ever after” is a lost art in many marriages today, it’s still not only possible but promising for the best marriage we could ever hope to have.

So, how does it happen?  Here are 3 ways to consider how to be successful at loving happily ever after:

1) Make your spouse the apple of your eye   

For many, the apple of their eye can easily become a job, a hobby, a ministry, their children, or even another person other than their spouse.  However, your spouse needs to become so big to you, that they are the shiniest and most important apple of your eye. Second only to God, your spouse is to be the most important person in your life.  They are the one thing in your life that should get the best of your time, attention, and love.

I Corinthians 7:33-34  But he that is married careth for… how he may please his wife.  She that is married careth for how she may please her husband.

This can be carried out tangibly in how we talk to them, treat them, and prioritize them with our time.   

Sadly, one of the greatest marriage killers to ‘loving happily ever after’ is misplaced focus in marriage.  This often happens when the children become a greater priority than the marriage.  And as a result, once the kids are gone, spouses don’t even know each other anymore.  Let alone know how to successfully focus on and live with each other.  However, this cannot happen if we purposefully keep our spouse as the apple of our eye.  

This takes work.  It takes intentionality.  It takes pursuing your spouse like they are actually the most important person God has placed in your life – because they are.

2) Keep accounts small with each other 

Ephesians 4:26-27  Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  

When the buttons start getting pushed more frequently, it’s time that you have some of the tough, but necessary, conversations. Rather than just brushing those things under the rug, and hoping they’ll go away, put your big boy pants on, and address them.  

Successful communication is key to successful companionship in any marriage.  

But simply fail to keep your accounts small, and your problems will become big very quickly. However, if you always refuse to keep score through regular acts of forgiveness and openness, accounts stay small.

Proverbs 26:20 reminds us that… “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.”

In many marriages, the wood of annoyance, bitterness, and resentment builds to the point that it eventually erupts into a fiery inferno, leaving damage and destruction behind in its path.  This is never God’s will for your marriage.  And this would never happen if we learned to keep small accounts with each other.

The way that my wife and I personally keep small accounts in our marriage is simply what we call our open heart policy.

3) Never stop celebrating your love  

When God gave you your spouse, He gave you something special.  He gave you a gift that you were extremely excited about opening and enjoying both on your wedding day and for the rest of your life.  The good news is that God never intended for that to stop once you got married.  

Here are a few reminders of how to celebrate your love.

  1. Celebrate by creating special moments – Enjoy life together!  Make memories that are unique to you.  Put the kids to bed early one night every week.  Go on those date nights.  Spend time doing the “nothingness” together, like looking at the stars at night, or taking a walk just because.  Make your marriage your greatest earthly relationship like God meant it to be.
  2. Celebrate what God has given to you through sexual intimacy – Make sex a priority!  Just like a great party heightens your senses, sometimes all at the same time, through the music, the food, and the fun, God intended your marriage to be one of the greatest ongoing parties of your lifetime.  This can involve as many of your senses as you desire, including and especially in the bedroom.  Great sexual intimacy requires that you and your spouse be intentional and open in this area of celebrating your marriage. Yes, marriage can be tough, including times of struggle and difficulty, but there also needs to be regular times of celebration.  Marriage is a party, sex is the celebration.  Celebrate regularly.
  3. Celebrate through working together as a team – Because teamwork makes the dream work!  Good marriages take work.  Great marriages take a lot of work.  It’s not easy being married to another sinner, but you’re both in the same boat, and you’re both married to an imperfect teammate.  And God has given you to each other to make one another better.  Are you learning from each other?  Are you allowing your spouse to point out areas of needed growth?  Are you teachable, coachable, and a team player?  Good teams celebrate their differences because it’s what makes them successful.  Good marriages do the same. 

As you consider these things, are you on track to “love happily ever after”?  Are you making your spouse the apple of your eye?… Are you keeping small accounts with each other?… Are you celebrating regularly?…

Or do you need to make some course corrections before ending up somewhere that neither of you wants to be?  If so, why not do something about it today?  It could mean the difference between just living happily ever after, or getting to experience loving happily ever after.  And there’s a Big Difference. 

Succeed at Nearly Every Relationship in Your Life with This One Word

Fail to do this, and you'll struggle with nearly every relationship

One thing that God created us all to have in life is relationships.

And some people seemingly thrive in nearly every relationship they have.

Others seem to struggle in nearly every relationship they have.

Not all that surprisingly, the people who thrive relationally also seem to be some of the happiest people you will ever meet.

And those who struggle, often times are not.

This comparison can at times be reflected in their spiritual well-being as well.

So what makes the difference?

What is it that separates those whose relationships are characterized by much striving, and those whose relationships are characterized by much thriving?

Is there a single, most common factor that determines the difference?

Is there a “secret sauce” to relationships that the first group of people knows or follows, but that the others do not?

Is there something identifiably different about how these two types of people approach relationships?

The simple answer is – YES!

There is One Key Component above all others that will make you the best family member, the best spouse, the best friend, or the best co-worker that the people in your life could ever have.

And would you like to know what it is?… Do you think you can you guess what it is?

Have you cheated yet by scrolling to the bottom to find out what it is? 🙂

If you want to have the happiest life, and the most successful relationships humanly possible, you must learn to do This One Thing.

Because if you fail to do this, you will struggle with every single relationship of your entire life.

So, are you ready for the answer?  Here it is…

FORGIVE

2 Corinthians 2:10-11  For your sakes FORGIVE I in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Your willingness to forgive is one of your greatest assets to having great relationships in your life. Because one of the greatest tools in Satan’s toolbox that he uses against us to destroy our relationships is unforgiveness.

Because he knows that unforgiveness plants bitterness, increases discord, and breeds division in our relationships.

And that is his ultimate goal in every relationship of your life – to ruin it.

There are only two things in your life & relationships that are guaranteed:

  1. You will get hurt by others. (So forgive.)
  2. Others will get hurt by you. (So apologize.)

Jesus said that offenses will come in our relationships, and the only thing that we can do is simply choose how we respond to the hurt. (Whether we are the one that needs to ask for forgiveness, or give it away.)

And the response we choose will ultimately determine the life we live.

Bitter or better.  Hurt or healed.  Victim or victor.

And the only response that wins every time is forgiveness.  

Not anger.  Not resentment.  Not revenge.  Just forgiveness.

Jesus said…  “It is impossible but that offenses will come:… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:1, 3-4)

These are not words that we like to hear or have an easy time practicing, but they are words of truth.

Why is forgiveness so hard?  Because: 

  • Forgiveness requires supernatural power – you can’t forgive without God’s help.
  • Forgiveness requires repetition – you’ll most likely have to forgive multiple times.
  • Forgiveness requires obedience – you are commanded to forgive, not given multiple options.

Learn to forgive, and you free yourself to live.

Learn to apologize, and you just might save a relationship.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Lewis Boese

FORGIVE –  Fail to do this, and you’ll struggle with nearly every relationship in your life.

Oh, but figure it out, and you have opened the door to a lifetime of relational success – in your family, in your marriage, in your church, on your job, etc.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

Ephesians 4:31-32  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

If you’ve hurt someone, it’s time to apologize.  If you’ve been hurt by someone, it’s time to forgive.

Which relationship in your life needs this one word the most today?  FORGIVE

Marriage & The Invisible Suitcase

And how its contents are affecting you and your family

Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where the response that spewed out of you was far from desirable. In fact, it even made you wonder, “Where in the world did that just come from?”

And it didn’t take long for you to answer your own question, as you were able to mentally look at yourself in the mirror and see your parents and their responses and actions oozing out through your own.

You know, those things they did that you said you’d never repeat, yet you actually find yourself inadvertently responding in the exact same way.  Maybe in the area of criticism, anger, impatience or resentment.  Or maybe it’s simply a certain phrase, gesture, or quirk.

What you didn’t realize…

Think for a moment about the marriage you’ve been given and the marriage that you’ve ultimately created between you and your spouse.  When you stood together at that wedding altar with nothing but love and bliss and made those lifelong vows to each other, what neither of you realized at that moment was that both of you were carrying an invisible suitcase with you into your marriage that day.

This was a suitcase that neither of you could see, yet it’s contents were very real.  So real, that you would spend the rest of your married life unpacking them.  

You were vowing to love each other through all of the contents that you would later unpack in the months and years to come… for better or for worse.  Things that would affect your communication, the way you respond to hurt, your tone of voice in an argument, and even the way you relate to each other in the bedroom.

Someone’s been filling your suitcase…

All of us learn how to live life by having seen how our parents lived it.  They may have done a lot of things right, and they certainly did at least a couple of things wrong.  And every day of your childhood, they were planting seeds and packing things into this invisible suitcase that you would carry with you into the rest of your life, affecting every area of your life, yet all the while, unbeknownst to you (yes, I really did just use that archaic word).

You are a product of your parents, like it or not. But that doesn’t mean that you are destined to repeat their mistakes.  In fact, one of the greatest ways to learn anything in life is from the mistakes of others.  And if we don’t, well the saying holds true, that “history repeats itself”, even in family life.

The good news…

The good news is that the contents of your suitcase don’t determine the destiny of your life. The seeds that were planted into you during childhood are just that – seeds. Yes, they influence the shaping of your future, but they don’t determine it.  You get to do that.  Seeds only grow if they are watered and nurtured, but don’t have to grow unless you let them.

You see, while your parents shape the person that you become, it’s not ultimately your parents that determine the person that you are:

  • Because even a child who has “perfect” parents can allow sinful seeds and choices to ruin their future.
  • And just as much, a child who is raised in terrible dysfunction can actually turn out to be a very functional adult if they simply make different choices.

Marriage starts at birth…

I recently heard this statement that has stuck with me… “Marriage starts at birth.”  And it’s so very true.  None of us can escape the influences that have surrounded us and shaped us from the time we started this thing called life.  But each of us have the choice as to which ones we will allow to define us.

Just because your parents didn’t do certain things that they should have doesn’t mean that you can’t do them. (show physical affection, say “I love you”, give praise for doing things right, etc.)

And just because your parents did certain things that they shouldn’t have doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat them. (losing their temper, being physically or verbally abusive, failing to show up, etc.)

If we’ve been watering seeds of our past by making excuses like, “It’s just who I am,” or “That’s just how I was raised”, it’s time to stop making excuses and start taking responsibility by unpacking our suitcase of the bad, and start packing it with the good.  

It’s time to start packing the right things that we want to pass on to our children.  Because one day we’re going to hand them these suitcases that we have packed by our own choices.

Yes, we are the products of our past to a certain degree, but only to the degree that we choose to be, for either the good or the bad.  In your invisible suitcase… Keep the good. Get rid of the bad. Add some positive contributions of your own.  Then pass it on with pride to the next generation.

12 Things You Should WANT Your Kids to Catch You Doing Together

I came home for lunch recently and was met with these words from my 13 year old daughter, “I saw that mushy text you sent to mom earlier today”…  And it really didn’t bother me that she had seen it.  It was actually encouraging.

As parents, I’m sure you’d agree that there are definitely some things we probably don’t want our kids to ever catch us doing together 😉 .

But there are some things that they definitely should catch us and our spouse doing together, even if we don’t know it.  Things that could be pretty impactful on them if they were to catch us in the very act.

So, here’s a list of 12 things you for you to consider that you should want your kids to catch you doing together:

  1. Praying together
  2. Holding hands just because
  3. Complimenting one another
  4. Putting the other person’s desires first
  5. Intercepting love notes or texts between each other
  6. Discussing family decisions together
  7. Flirting with one another
  8. Praising one another
  9. Refusing to argue with one another by agreeing to disagree
  10. Hugging in the hallway
  11. Kissing in the kitchen
  12. Being randomly generous and kind to each other or someone else in need

These are probably just a few of many.  But they’re a great start to get your mind thinking.  Do you agree?  Are these things you’d want your kids to catch you doing together as well?  If so, please share.

How many of these 12 are you doing? Which one is your favorite? What are some others that you would add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 Easy Ways to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Marriage

Rules you and your spouse need to be on the same page about

We’ve all heard the stories, and sadly, many of them are true…  A husband leaves his wife and kids because of an old fling he got reacquainted with through Facebook.  Or a wife innocently responds to a message from an old boyfriend, only for it to rekindle an old flame and lead to much more than she ever intended.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the many couples we see sitting in the restaurant, together… but yet a million miles apart, as they both set their affections upon the glowing screen in front of them rather than upon each other.  They’re drifting far apart, and they don’t even know it.

While it’s terribly easy for us to say that we would never allow that to happen to us, I’m sure that the people it happens to thought the exact same thing as well… prior to it actually happening to them. 

In our marriages, it is vitally important to have some social media and texting rules between spouses.  And by doing so, not only will you have a better marriage, you’ll avoid a number of potentially devastating dangers that lie in the bottom of Satan’s toolbox.

Here are 5 rules I’d encourage you and your spouse to get on the same page about:

1. Obvious and open accounts. If you’re on social media, there’s no room for a lack of clarity when it comes to your marriage.  Clearly identify that you’re married, and unashamed of it. Allow each other full access to passwords and all accounts.  No hidden apps or accounts allowed. Trying to hide the fact that you are married or are in a serious relationship on your social media accounts should a be a huge red flag for any couple, just like it would be for you to take off your wedding ring in order to give someone a false impression that your available.

2. No “casual” encounters with previous or new opposite sex relationships. Marriage deserves your utmost priority to protect your relationship. This requires that there be clear boundaries. Recently, Vice President Mike Pence, came under fire for a rule he holds to in his marriage, that he will not eat alone with anyone of the opposite sex other than his wife. However, that’s not absurdity (as some would have us to believe), that’s just a wise practice for any married person who chooses to draw some lines of protection in their marriage.

Just like one look at another person can turn into two, and inadvertently snowball to much more, so can an “innocent” run in with and old fling via social media. It’s happened to so many good people, so don’t think you’re above becoming a statistic.

Which is worse?… Potentially hurting the feelings of someone who’s not even in your life anymore, or potentially opening a door that could cause untold devastation to the most important relationship in your life?  Don’t be afraid to draw a line and stick to it. 

3. Avoid confrontation or conflict via text. Texting is the king of miscommunication. Thankful we now have emojis to help a little bit with that, but they certainly don’t solve this massive problem. If you have to fight, do it in person.  If you need to share your feelings, do it in a way that your feelings can be seen, verbally expressed, and fully understood.  Agree not to fight or argue via text.

4. No social media or texting with others when you are trying to spend dedicated time together. If you’re on a date with your spouse, then don’t be on a date with your phone.  If you’re having a face to face conversation together, don’t be trying to carry on a silent text conversation with someone else at the same time (I’ll be the first to admit guilt on this one). Give you spouse the decency and respect that they deserve – the best of your time, attention, and affection.  

5. A mutually understood transparency policy.  I would encourage you to ban secrets from your marriage (emotional, relational, financial, and sexual), because transparency is vital in the marriage relationship.  God created your spouse to be the one person in life with which you have absolutely nothing to hide.  This would rightly include your social media accounts and text history.

You’ve seen the videos of teenagers and grown adults in relationships, trying to hide their phones from their partner. And it’s made out to be a huge joke.  However, that’s nonsense in any committed relationship, including, and especially marriage. Marriage has no room for secrecy. If you find yourself nervous when your spouse picks up your phone, or refuse to give them full access to anything on it, anytime they want, then you are in a potentially dangerous position, and you may not even realize it. 

The devil is not a rookie at the game of deceit and division.  He’s had quite a bit of experience, and he knows pretty well what he’s doing.  The specific tools he uses may change from one generation to the next, but the toolbox itself is still made up of the same three components – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  Social media is just one more of many tools he can use to accomplish his purpose.  

For some, these may simply be good reminders and refreshers.  For others, these things may serve as a glaring red flag in your marriage.  Either way… Don’t be naive.  Don’t overlook these easy ways to protect your relationship.  Don’t let the devil stand a chance in your marriage.  Your marriage is far too valuable.

Which of these 5 rules do you currently practice in your marriage?

5 Ways to Show Your Kids You’re in Love with Their Mother

It has been rightly said that “one of the greatest gifts a father can give to his children is to love their mother.”  And I couldn’t agree more!

The success of your children’s future marriages will in large part depend upon the example of yours.

So with that thought in mind, here are 5 practical ways to show your kids that you are madly in love with their mother:

Respect Her

I Peter 3:7  …husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife…

Men, if we want our children to have utmost respect for their mother, we must start by having utmost respect for our wife.  Find creative ways to honor your wife in front of your children.  Speak highly of her, because your view of her will be reflected in your children.

Praise Her

Proverbs 31:28  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Learn to practice praising your wife… after a good meal, or… after a bad meal.  Praise her when she’s up; praise her when she’s down.  Praise her in public; praise her in private.  Believe me, your kids will notice and take note of how they are to treat their future spouse someday.

Touch Her

Proverbs 5:18  Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice in the wife of thy youth.

Physical touch speaks volumes to small watching eyes. Hold hands in the store. Put your arm around her while sitting in church.  Kiss her when she brings dinner to the table. Hug her in the kitchen for no reason.  Little eyes are paying close attention and taking mental notes for themselves someday.  And although they may say, “that’s gross” what that really translates into is “that makes me feel loved and secure.

Spoil Her

Ephesians 5:28  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

God is pretty clear that once a man makes the marriage commitment to his wife, he is to care for her and treat her as his own flesh.  Men, this simply means that there is nothing that we should be doing for ourselves that we aren’t equally doing for our wives, and even more so.  If anyone in the family gets the best, it ought to be mom.  If anyone in the family gets spoiled with the nicest things, it ought to be mom.  Our children need to see their mother as the queen of the family who is treated as such.

Prioritize Her

Ephesians 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.

Christ gave His Church His utmost priority.  And in doing so, he set the example for us as husbands to follow toward our wives.  Show your children that you prioritize her by spending time alone together, taking her out on dates, and allowing nothing less than respect for her in your home.  Whatever you do, don’t ever apologize for letting your children know that mom comes first.

If you want your kids to adore their own spouse someday, resolve conflicts quickly, be considerate and affectionate, and sacrificially serve them, ask yourself, am I doing those things for my spouse right now?

Proverbs 23:26  My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. 

These five things aren’t rocket-science, but they can make a huge difference in the tone of your family life and the relationship you have with your wife.  And ultimately, they become a great gift to your children, both now, and forever.

In which of these 5 ways do you need to most improve?

4 Areas You and Your Wife Need to Be on the Same Page

Every marriage has understood rules that are followed that can either make or break a relationship.

In looking back on the past 15 years of our marriage, there are some simple things we’ve done that I think can be credited to our marital success.  These are things that have been seemingly unspoken rules that we follow in our relationship.

However, although we’ve never verbally established these practices, I believe that they are well worth every couple taking the time to discuss together and establish if they’re lacking in their relationship.

Here are four areas you and your wife should be on the same page:

1. Touching throughout the day

I suppose it started when we first got married, that every time we drove together in the car, prayed together at the dinner table, or walked together through a store, we would hold hands.  Since that time, we continue to make it a regular practice that when we’re together, we make physical touch a frequent and familiar part of our daily routine.

2. Spending money wisely

Although one of us is naturally the “spender” and the other the “saver”, we’ve had very few fights over the years about money.

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5 Things Your Wife Needs Most

When my wife and I first got married, I was convinced that I knew how to be a great husband.  However, it didn’t take long to see that I still had a lot to learn about caring for this beautiful lady I had chosen to be my wife.

Now that we’ve been married for over 15 years, I can honestly say that a good amount of our growth can be credited to the fact that we’ve learned that the other spouse’s needs are quite often different than our own. We’ve found that when we fail to realize what our spouse needs most, it can lead to unnecessary friction, frustration, and even resentment in our hearts towards one another.

As men, we are wired with different needs than your wife.  While there could be many things included in this list of what women need, here are five of the top things I’ve learned that my wife needs most.

1. Sleep.

While the average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function at peak performance, women are naturally drawn towards needing more sleep than men. Many days, my wife will go to sleep before me, and also wake up after me the next morning, and guess what… it’s okay.

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Why I Recently Had to Apologize to My 14 Year Old Son

When a parent should apologize to their child

Have you ever had one of those moments in your marriage where a fuse burns out, and you’re left with an unexpected situation on your hands of two people who just simply don’t see eye to eye?

Thankfully, this kind of occurrence is rare in our marriage, but nonetheless, on this day recently, it still occurred.

You see, there had been a meltdown in communication about a small detail of our family’s day, and that one small miscommunication snowballed into many other problems and emotions that followed.  And when it was all said and done, my wife and I found ourselves in the living room of our house, throwing insults at each other in an uncommon explosion of built up emotions.

In the course of that conversation, my wife told me something that I completely disagreed with, and I responded by forcefully saying, “Go away, I don’t even want to see you or talk to you right now. Just go away.”

While I knew that I was in no right frame of mind to keep talking at that moment, I also knew that the way that I had just handled myself was very foolish, selfish, and even disrespectful towards my wife.

To compound the problem, here are a couple of other details of the situation that day to consider:

  1. While this was happening in our living room, we currently had invited company over for lunch, and they were in the kitchen sitting at our table eating without us. (and sadly, probably overhearing us at the same time… Have you ever tried to yell at someone with a strong whisper? It doesn’t work out too well.)
  2. My wife was in a wheelchair do to a recent foot surgery she had, and so had very limited mobility to ‘go away’, even if she wanted to.
  3. As soon as I said those words, I turned around to see my 14 year old son sitting on the living room recliner behind me as I was having this heated conversation with my wife.

While all three of those things complicated our problem that day, the one that bothered me most was the fact that I had just disrespected my wife, and my son’s mother, right in front of his eyes and ears.

I’m sure you can understand my situation… For the last 14 years I have been intentionally teaching and training this boy of the importance of respecting girls and women in every circumstance, and had even recently corrected him for disrespecting his sister.  And in the heat of that moment, I had just undercut everything I had ever taught him… by my own bad example.

Needless to say, my heart immediately sank. I knew that I had blown it, and I had blown it bad.

In the hours that followed, I wrestled with what to do, both in response to my wife and to my son (not to mention our company still sitting in the other room).  I really felt like even though my reaction was wrong, I was still in the right.  But I quickly realized that none of that really mattered.

I knew that there was only one right thing to do – man up, swallow my pride, and ask for forgiveness.  And that’s exactly what I did. After calling my son into the kitchen later that day, I apologized to him in front of his mother for the disrespectful way that I had handled myself and treated her.  I explained to him that I was wrong. I was ashamed. I was sorry.  And that there was no excuse for my actions.

While I don’t know if my son will ever forget that day and what happened, what I do hope and pray that he never forgets is that a real man is able to admit when he’s wrong, make things right, and ask for forgiveness.

I’m the one who set the wrong example, and hopefully, I’m also the one who set it right.

Do you ever find yourself hesitant to apologize when you know you’re in the wrong?  Remember, your kids are watching you, and counting on you to get this right.

So… when should a parent apologize to their child?…

“When you’re in the wrong, and your child knows you’re in the wrong, you can’t afford to make the wrong decision.  Apologize.”

Who do you need to apologize to in your family?

Mom & Dad, You Need A Break!

Ideas for how to implement down time into your schedule

Parenting is one the most rigorous jobs on the planet… just ask any mom with young kids.

It can flat wear you out.

In order to be at our best for our little angels, sometimes it simply means getting some time away from them and their golden halos.

We all need some time to recharge, refresh, and then get back into the game revitalized for the mission. But how do we do it? 

Well, it doesn’t happen by accident, so here are some intentional ideas that you can put to work in your family to make sure you get a needed break every now and then:

  1. Schedule It… It’s often true that what gets scheduled gets done.  So put time away on your weekly calendar, even if its just for a few hours.  If you’d like to see how my wife and I have incorporated time away on a weekly basis, I’d encourage you to check out my Free Intentional Family Game Plan.
  2. Do a ‘Kid Swap’… This is as simple as finding another family with kids of similar ages who would agree to watching your kids on a night while you go out, and you returning the favor for them on a different night while they go out.  Your kids will love the time with their friends, and you’ll save yourself the cost of a babysitter. Chances are, there are other couples out there with kids just like you who are needing to have some down time as well.  
  3. Hire a babysitter… I’d guess that there are some responsible and charactered teens or college students in your church that would love to make a few extra buck on a regular basis, while at the same time having a positive influence on your kids.  Years ago, we set up an ongoing scheduled night with a teenager when they would plan to watch our kids so we could go out, and it worked out great for both us and them.  
  4. Put the kids to bed early… (or maybe just ‘on time’) With school back in full swing, your kids need to be getting to bed earlier anyway.  So set aside some quality time at the end of the day for you and your spouse to connect.  I’m not referring to time spent side by side on the couch scrolling through your phones, but enjoyable time intentionally spent together.
  5. ‘Mom’s Only’… Dad’s, let’s admit it, mom usually needs the time away from the kids more than we do, especially if she stays at home with them all day.  Take initiative and give her permission to go out by herself or with her friends ‘kid-free’ from time to time.  Maybe even give her a few bucks to make her time away even more enjoyable.  Happy wife, happy life, right? Lol.
  6. Quit making excuses… Let’s face it, if we don’t make it happen, it won’t, and we’ll continue living day to day on the last thread that’s about to snap.  So stop coming up with excuses for why you can never get away to spend time alone.  Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to take some time for yourself.

Parenting by nature is one of the most selfless jobs in the world that can simply drain your tank to empty fast.  So you need to spend some time refueling yourself every now and then.

Also, don’t hesitate to offer to take someone else’s kids when you see that they need a break.  We’ve had friends do that for us, and it’s been a huge blessing.  You could be someone else’s blessing by doing the same, whether it be for your pastor, a friend, or anyone else.

Feel free to share these ideas. What are some ideas that you’ve found successful to finding time to get away and take a break from your little angels?  I’d love to hear yours! 

My Wife Corrected Me… And She Was Right

The importance of an "open-heart" policy in your marriage

Since the day we were married, my wife and I have had an “open heart” policy – a mutual understanding that we are each allowed to speak honestly and openly into the heart and life of the other when we have a concern or an issue.

Wife Corrected Me

Sometimes it may be some sort of constructive criticism. Other times it could be to clear up misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or to address family conflict.

These conversations are not always enjoyable, but, like any couple, we have found that in order to maintain growth and continued improvement in our marriage, they are often necessary.

Recently my wife lovingly corrected me, and while I cringed to hear what she had to say, I couldn’t help but agree with her after she shared her heart, because she was completely right.

Her concern?… That it always seemed that I was “working” on my day off.

No, I wasn’t going in to the office, and I wasn’t even doing work-related stuff, but I was filling up my day off with my own tasks and to-do’s.  Unfortunately to the point that to my family, I might as well have been at work.

She felt that it was my day off for me, but not my day off for my family… Ouch!

SO… WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

My wife graciously expressed her desire for my day off to be more about prioritizing time spent with her and the kids by doing things that mattered to them, more than prioritizing getting my to-do list done. And I have to admit, I was guilty as charged.

I’m a to-do list kind of guy every day of the week, and so without even fully realizing it, I had slipped into the bad habit of getting tunnel-visioned and doing the same thing on my day off – focusing on myself and the list of things I needed to get done.

Sadly, my day off wasn’t feeling like a day off for my family.

“Remember, your day off doesn’t just belong to you, it belongs to your family as well.”

I needed to be reminded of some things:

  • Playing together in the yard is more important than making sure the yard gets mowed.
  • Making “small adventure” memories as a family will be far more lasting than making sure all my small errands get run.
  • Taking time to prioritize what my family wants to do before prioritizing what I need to get done is something I’ll not one day regret.

I often have to be reminded of this valuable principle… “Don’t sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent.”

There will always be “urgent” things that seem to demand our attention – the grass will always need mowed, the errands will always need ran, and the to-do list will always be full.  So we can’t let those things steal from us the most important things in life before they’re gone.

While all of those “urgent” things will still need to be done, it’s important that our family always knows that they come first.  And if anything has to go undone, let’s make sure that it’s the urgent things, and not the most important things.

Make sure to put the big rocks in your life jar first, then fill it up with all the small ones.   Your family deserves to be one of your most important priorities.

SO… MY WIFE CORRECTED ME… AND SHE WAS RIGHT, I WAS WRONG (yes, I just said those three dreaded words).

I’m sure thankful for a godly spouse who cares for me enough to lovingly tell me how it is when I need to hear it, and to help me see my blind spots. Our family will be the better for it.

Do you have an “open heart” policy in your marriage? If not, why not establish one, for the sake of your marriage and your family?

Remember, the next time your spouse comes to you with a concern, be open-minded, be teachable.

Because let’s face it, if you were willing to commit your entire life to this person who cares about you more than any other human alive, don’t you think that what they have to speak into your life is probably worth hearing?

Believe it or not, whatever it is they have to say… they might just be right.

If you agree, please share!  I’d also love to hear your thoughts.