Effective Encouragement: creating a SPARC in those you lead

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Encouragement gives life! Whether you are trying to lead volunteers, your family, employees or friends…encouragement breeds life, productivity and effectiveness.

The tongue can bring death or life (Proverbs 18:21)

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

So how do we take full advantage of the power of encouragement? Effective encouragement creates a “SPARC” in those we lead and those who are around us. To create and deliver effective encouragement our encouragements must be specific, give perspective, add value, be regular and calculated.

Specific

Make your encouragements very specific. There is a big different between, “You do a great job” vs “I was so proud of you and thankful for you yesterday when you went out of your way for that upset customer. That was above and beyond”. Both are examples of encouragement but the more specific you are in your encouragement the more weight it carries and the more impactful it is.

Part of being specific in your encouragements is making it personal. Personal for you and them. A thank you note written and signed personally by you is much more personal and is more effective…yes, it does take longer and no, you won’t be able to do this for everyone all the time. But a good way to think is, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all”. 

Perspective

When giving specific encouragement be sure to give them perspective; why what they did was so important and valuable. Many times the people we encourage don’t always see the extent of their actions. Giving perspective when you encourage helps people see the bigger picture and how they are helping accomplish the greater goal, mission or vision!

For an organization, tie your encouragements back to your goals or the mission and vision of your organization. Within a family, show how their actions modeled the family values. Knowing that our actions accomplished something greater is a rewarding feeling…

…and what we are rewarded for we repeat

Add Value

Effective encouragement must add value to the person. Encouragement where the other person doesn’t feel encouraged is “empty encouragement” and hinders the effectiveness of our encouragement.  If we are not careful with our words, our good-intended encouragements could be received as criticism or just shallow.

“You finally did what you were supposed to do! Thank you for listening to me and getting the job done.” VS. “Thank you for being so humble and teachable! You have improved greatly and I am impressed! Keep it up!”

The first “encouragement” sounds more like a reprimand whereas the second example added value to the person by specifically pointing out desired traits (humility and teachability) while admiring their obvious success and making it personal by stating the fact that you are impressed.

Not every “Thank You” and “Good Job” will be received as encouragement. Know the person you are wanting to encourage; know what makes them feel the most encouraged. Choose your words, gestures and timing carefully to ensure your encouragement adds value.

Regular

Encouragement is typically underestimated and even forgot about which means we usually only give encouragement when we think about it. The more regular and consistent we are in giving encouragement we will cultivate a healthy and thriving culture! Culture is created by norms…is encouragement a norm at your organization or in your family? Or is encouragement something that is random and once in a blue moon? Healthy culture, healthy relationships require regular effective encouragement. Your encouragements will become more and more effective when it is regular and becomes a norm and part of your organization’s DNA.

Regular encouragement also allows room for candor and honesty. When people feel valued regularly then people become more open to periodic criticism, pushback and feedback because there has been so much positive feedback and encouragement given already. If there is not a culture of regular and effective encouragement there cannot be a culture of candor.

Calculated

Delivering effective encouragement requires intentionality, thought and planning. What doesn’t get planned for doesn’t get done. Schedule time in your calendar that does not get interrupted or changed. Use this time to write thank you notes, call just to encourage, etc…whatever strategy you come up with you need time to develop and execute that plan.

We set aside time and spend time planning and preparing for a number of other “important tasks”…Be calculated, create a system, be intentional with your encouragement and become more effective in this simple yet crucial tool.

How Effective is Your Encouragement…really?

Creating a SPARC in those you lead through effective encouragement will change your culture, the relationships and the productivity of those around you! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder…in other words, you need a system in place to find out if what you think is effective encouragement is actually being effective! The only way to do this is through honest feedback that you seek out.

Ask periodic questions, include them in your employee reviews…be creative and find multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of your encouragements:

“When was the last time someone praised you for something you did?”
“What recent encouragement has meant the most to you personally?”
“What did you do that you were proud of but no one noticed?”

I’m Doing It My Way

Bedroom Confessions #2 “I’m Doing It My Way”

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From Mountain Lake Church Dawson’s Sermon Series
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

My Way

We love our freedoms and our independence. We want to do what we want, when we want, the way we want. Culturally speaking, our entire lives are oriented towards achieving the goal of being self-sufficient, self-reliant, completely independent and free. Understand there is a difference between independence and selfishness. Independence is not always a negative in our day and age but making our personal freedoms and independence the top priority is selfish and leads to unhealthy relationships.  The problem we will continue to run into is when we value our independence and freedoms above what is best for our relationship with God and others.

When replying to the church of Corinth Paul writes, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Paul is helping the early church (and us) understand that yes we have the right to do anything…but that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it is always beneficial…Especially in our relationships!

God’s Way

God has given us very specific standards to live by FOR OUR PROTECTION and for our benefit. These standards are the Ten Commandments. When we choose to “Do it our own way” instead of “God’s way” we invite pain, hurt and consequences into our lives and relationships. However, that means in order to live within God’s standards we are required to give up certain freedoms that we may want to hang on to. We still have freedom…but it is freedom within the standards of God.

Self-Control Protects Intimacy

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28)

Selfishness destroys intimacy and our capacity to be intimate whereas selflessness rebuilds intimacy. At the root of selflessness within a relationship is self-control. We all have desires and temptations and we have a choice to “do it my way”, to choose to exercise my freedoms to benefit myself OR “do it God’s way” and practice self-control by not giving into the selfish desires. Self-control is intentionally choosing not doing something just because you want to or feel like it. When we are able to consistently practice and show self-control within our relationships (as singles or marrieds) we increase the capacity for intimacy within the relationship.

Fast Food & Porn

The lack of self-control is the easy way out…it’s lazy! Within our culture, we celebrate and glorify instant gratification: it has become a norm and even an expectation. We go through the fast-food drive thru because its fast, easy and convenient compared to planning ahead, going to the grocery and making dinner. We use porn because it’s instant and more convenient compared to developing an intimate relationship over time through selflessness. The lack of self-control becomes very dangerous within relationships and sexuality. When self-control is not a standard, there can be no standard on what is or isn’t acceptable which leads to pain, problems, heartache and the death of health and intimacy within the relationship.

Side Note: Our circumstances and situations do not determine our capacity for self-control. If we are unable to practice self-control in the seemingly small and insignificant areas what makes us think we can have self-control in other areas!? If porn is a self-control issue as a single…it will still be an issue when married. If sleeping around is an issue now…it will still be an issue later! Changing our relationship status does not automatically change our ability to have self-control

Pure Sex Challenge

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We gave this challenge to our church this last week…The 7 Day Pure Sex Challenge! (let me explain…) For singles and marrieds, this is a challenge to practice self-control over the next 7 days, to not engage in selfish sexual relations or acts. That means: no porn, no masturbation, no sexual relations outside of marriage, no affairs (physical or emotional). To commit to practice self-control in what we think, say, wear and do! To commit to “Doing it God’s way” instead of “My way”…to live within the standards God has set

For marrieds, that does not mean sexual abstinence…that means to pursue intimacy at a higher level (to selflessly serve one another and meet your spouses needs more). That may mean MORE sex, MORE date nights, MORE conversations and pillow talk once the kids are in bed…Take a reality check of your marriage and together determine which areas of intimacy do you as a couple need to increase and press into.

The Body Follows the Mind

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Committing to self-control, especially within the context of sex, is easier said than done! James helps us understand how we can set ourselves up for success! It starts with our mind’s desires. When evil (evil = anything outside of God’s standards) consumes our minds we will be tempted. And even though the temptation itself is not a sin…if we continue to dwell on that desire it is eventually going to “drag us away”, as James says, and lead us to sin and eventual death. Death here does not refer just to a physical death but a spiritual death, the death of intimacy, the death of relationships.

As we find ourselves living outside of God’s standards we must begin with our mind. What we think about, what we allow in our mind. If we change what is in our mind…eventually our body will follow.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

God’s Grace Restores Our Intimacy and Refines Our Desires

Of course, this is not something we can do on our own! Ultimatly we must give up our independence and rely on God, become more dependent on Him, trust His Ways are better than Our Ways. When we are unable, God is very able and that is the truth we must lean on in our lives and our relationships!

King David knew that in order for him to change his lifestyle and desires he first had to ask God to change what was in his mind and heart: asking God to do what he couldn’t do! A great starting point in asking God to restore intimacy and refine desires is to pray as David prayed:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

I’m not getting IT

Bedroom Confession #1: I’m Not Getting “IT”

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From Mountain Lake Dawson’s Sermon Series
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

“IT”

IT is more than just the physical but needs in general. In our marriage we often are thinking “i’m not getting it…i’m not getting my needs met”. It is a common thought in relationships but seldom said out loud. The unfortunate truth is that by the time we do communicate to our spouse that we aren’t getting our needs met we have already started to call it quits in the relationship. To love means to meet needs. Loving our spouse requires us to know their needs and be willing to selflessly and unconditionally meet those needs.

Not Too Late: If you are thinking “I’m not getting it”, know that it’s not too late! Marriages can be restored and intimacy rebuilt.

Prepare or Repair: Even if your marriage is great and you are “getting it”, that can change quickly. When things are good we can easily slip into auto-pilot mode. You can either prepare and continue working in your relationship or find yourself trying to repair the relationship later.

Duty over Desire

Intimacy is destroyed by selfishness but rebuilt by selflessness. Our focus must be on our spouse and their needs. Meeting our spouse’s needs is not conditional. We do not meet their needs SO THAT our needs will be met. Even though that is the eventual result…that cannot be our motivation.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Meeting our spouse’s needs must happen whether we feel like it or not. Husbands, you have a duty to meet your wife’s needs. Wives, you have a duty to meet your husband’s needs. Desire is not the goal because there are plenty of seasons and days when we don’t want to put our spouse first. But when we married we promised to submit ourselves to our spouse and put him/her first!

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

[Husbands and Wives] Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:21, 22, 25)

Fulfilling Your Marital Duty:

Easier said than done. Most couples want to love and meet the needs of their spouse…we just don’t always know how and where to start. Here are some places to start so you can begin to meet the needs of your spouse and fulfill your marital duty.

Love Languages: Take the Love Languages Test online at: www.5lovelanguages.com Once you know the love languages for you and your spouse you will be better able to love and meet their needs.

Fresh Ideas: It’s doesn’t take long to run out of ideas of how to love and meet the needs of our spouse. Eventually, buying  the same flowers doesn’t convey the intended message of love. Gregory Godek’s book, “1001 Ways to be Romantic” is a great resource for new and varied ideas! Click to view as a PDF

His Needs/Her Needs: It’s not surprise that the needs of a husband are very different from the needs of a wife. But knowing that fact doesn’t help unless we are able to identify the needs in our spouse. That’s where the book “His Needs/Her Needs” is a great resource! Dr. Williard Harley identifies the top needs for husbands and wives. Click to view it out on amazon!

Ask Questions: We are not mind-readers, no matter how long we have been married. If you want to get the right answers…ask the right questions. Ask your spouse how things are going…really going. How is our marriage? How am I loving you? When was the last time you really felt loved by me? What needs am I meeting well? What needs am I not meeting? When asking the right questions, be sure to ask them in the right environment. Asking these questions on your way out the door, right before going to sleep or while playing with the kids probably isn’t the best time or setting. Create space and time for these discussions. Make it a date night or a morning coffee conversation when it’s just the two of you. The more regular these conversations are, the more honest you become and the better spouse you grow to be.

 Giving while on Empty:

Relationships are a give AND take. If we are in a relationship that feels like a one-way street we quickly become deprived and depleted…feeling like we are running on empty with nothing left to give our spouse or anyone else. That is why it is vital that we are growing in intimacy with God. When we have a growing and intimate relationship with God we are filled with His love and His grace and it is out of the OVERFLOW of that love and grace that we are able to give love and grace to those around us. If you are in a relationship (married or not) and you feel like you have nothing left to give. Ask God for the grace you need so you can give grace. Relationships require much grace! But it also requires a conversation. Be open and honest about the reality of your relationship. It is our tendency to withdraw and withhold when we find ourselves depleted and deprived. Instead, press further into the relationship by selflessly serving and having open and honest conversations while allowing God to pour more into you

Kingdom Eyes and Ears

A New Lens

A prayer of mine recently has been to see with “Kingdom Eyes” and hear with “Kingdom Ears”. How differently would our attitudes and lives be if we filtered everything through God’s lens of what is best for His Kingdom…and not necessarily what we would say is best for us personally in that moment?! If we are not careful our prayers can become a selfish wish list instead of a desire to see the Kingdom of God grow.

For Your Name’s Sake

In the Psalms there is a phrase that is used over and over, “for your name’s sake”. The writer is asking and praying for things just like many of us do: forgiveness, guidance, provision, deliverance, etc… But the notable aspect of these prayers is the motive and heart behind what is being asked. WHY do I want to be forgiven? WHY do I want God’s guidance? WHY do I want to be helped in times of trouble? The question is not what but why. Do we want God’s help just so we don’t have to hurt or deal with pain which would make our lives more comfortable OR do we want God’s help so He can show the world His great power? Do we want God to guide and lead us so we end up in a more successful position OR do we want God to guide and lead us so His Kingdom is advanced?

When you pray, what is the “WHY”, the reason behind what you are praying? Is the “what” God focused and Kingdom minded or Self focused?

Psalm 25:11 For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Psalm 31:3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Psalm 79:9 Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Psalm 143:11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

Change the focus, change your attitude

Yes, God is our Father and He desires to provide for us and give us blessings (Matthew 6:25 – 7:12) because He loves us! But is our driving motivation of prayer for God to just accommodate us? What if our prayers were Kingdom Minded? What if our prayers were rooted in what would be best for advancing the Kingdom? And what if my personal needs and comfort took a backseat to the Kingdom of God.
Next time you pray and ask God for something…ask with the Kingdom in mind. How does what you are asking help move the Kingdom forward? Next time something doesn’t go the way you were praying take another look at the situation and see it with Kingdom Eyes.
God loves us and wants what is best for each of us! As we grow in our love for God may we want what is best for the Kingdom!

Our New Adventure!

moving-boxes12We Are Moving!

I say that with excitement and sadness: excited for the call God has given us to go and impact the Kingdom in a new area but sad because we are leaving so many friends who have been like family and a church we have loved being part of for the last seven years!

Our New Adventure!

Becky and I have always wanted to be available and willing for God to use us in whatever way He would want. As we have discovered, it’s easy to pray that but much harder to accept and follow it. After much prayer and counsel we have decided to follow God’s calling and to go where He is calling us to go! So we are heading to Atlanta, GA to join Mountain Lake Church. Mountain Lake is a church in Cumming, GA (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta) which was planted 14 years ago by Shawn Lovejoy who is still the lead pastor. There are three campuses and Becky and I will be launching a fourth campus where I will be the Campus/Teaching Pastor for that campus. We are very excited to join the Mountain Lake Team and allow God to use us in a new way and in a new area while also stretching our faith and sharpening our gifts! Mountain Lake has a great team that I will be able to learn a lot from! This also allows us to be closer to our families, which has become more of a priority since we had Connor (and hopefully more kids in the future).

We have felt very welcomed and loved by Mountain Lake and know this is where God is leading us. God is doing great and exciting things through the people of Mountain Lake as they reach the lost and give people a place where they can belong, become and bless!

For more info on Mountain Lake Church visit the website at: http://mountainlake.tv

THANK YOU ADVENTURE!

Words cannot describe the gratitude we have for Pastor Rick and all the staff, volunteers and families of Adventure Church! I came on staff in 2007 from the mid-west not knowing anyone and being very inexperienced in ministry. My wife and I began our marriage and family without any family in the area and so the staff and the church became our family! Adventure is about “loving people one at a time” and we have been blessed to be able to experience and feel that in such a real way over the last seven years! The leadership of Adventure (starting with Pastor Rick) has loved and valued my family and me in ways we never asked for or could have expected! We have never spent a holiday alone and always had the support we needed. Adventure believes and lives out loving people, even when it means loving people above the overall organization! I am a better leader, pastor, husband, father and follower of Jesus because of the mentoring, developing and love we have received from Adventure! God has used Adventure to help me be who I am today and now I get to take what I’ve learned to another place where people are desperate for Jesus! We could not have asked for a better church to begin our family and ministry! We owe you all so very much! This was not an easy decision but we know that God’s calling supersedes our comfort. Thank you to Pastor Rick and our Adventure Family for giving us the privilege and joy to serve with you and inviting us into your family! We will miss you all more than you know!!!!

What’s Next:

My last day at Adventure Church will be July 3rd and I will fly out on July 5th to Atlanta to begin the campus launch process. Becky and Connor will join me in Atlanta a couple of weeks later as they finalize details with the selling of the house and moving.

Ministry will continue at Adventure! The staff and volunteer teams are stepping up to make sure this is a smooth transition and to ensure ministry continues and people continue to be loved one at a time! We have been blessed with amazing volunteer teams and they are excited to step up in new and needed ways!

Please continue to pray for us during this move and transition. Also, be praying for the volunteers who are stepping up and the new staff member who God will be leading to Adventure to take the ministries to a new level! Lastly, please be praying for our new ministry opportunity in a new area and developing new relationships!

Thank you to Adventure for letting God use each of you to love us in incredible ways and for pouring into us over the years! We will always be thankful for you!

Thank you to Mountain Lake for giving us this opportunity and welcoming us with so much love already! We are excited to start this new Adventure with you!

– Brian, Becky & Connor

Roommate or Spouse?

Just a heads up: This is not a discussion on should romantic partners live together or not. Instead, this is for any married couple that at some point has felt like they have a roommate instead of a spouse. First of all, it happens to us all. Secondly, it doesn’t have to be like that!

Falling into Roommates

We all have a great story about how we fell in love with our spouse. But the story we don’t want to share is how we slid into being roommates. Over time life can become so routine that we can feel like we live with a roommate instead of a spouse. Conversations are focused around schedules and to do’s instead of hopes and dreams. The spark has dwindled, the butterflies are gone. Date nights keep getting pushed back and rescheduled. You lay in bed as you each do your own thing, in your own world, by yourself with a roommate who happens to sleep next to you. This describes every marriage at some point…so how do you get a spouse instead of a roommate?

Pursue

While dating…the game is on! It is a game of pursuit! Everyone loves being and feeling pursued. We like it when others ask us questions and are interested in what we are interested in. The pursuit makes us feel valued, needed and loved. But once you get settled into married life the pursuit tends to become less and less. The lack of pursuit tends to be the common denominator is  all “roommate marriages”. The rest of this article will unpack how to continually pursue your spouse. Pursue your spouse often and in different ways: through the questions you ask, the way you act, the way you touch, and even the way you look. Do your words and actions say, “I am pursuing you; I love you, I want you, I need you” or do they say “I already have you, so it doesn’t really matter”? You are never married long enough to stop pursuing your spouse!

Work Hard

Dating could also be called, “the hunt”. It’s during the dating stage of a relationship that the guys are trying to capture and ladies are trying to be caught (yes, this sounds somewhat crass and primal but is generally true). The point here is both are TRYING! Guys go out of their way to be on their best behavior and to play the romantic as they sneak up on their prey while ladies bat their eyes and seem to be interested in anything and everything her pursuer says and does! We all do a little fibbing and masquerading while dating. But once a dating couple becomes a married couple…the hunt is over, the excitement and thrill of the hunt is done. Guards are let down, the facade is dropped and the effort decreases exponentially…maybe not at first but over time. We think, “why try anymore, I already have him/her.” The reality is marriage is work, hard work! Without putting the necessary work into your marriage you will undoubtedly sink into a marriage that feels and looks more like two roommates that share a bed. Working on your marriage means the hunt is still on! You go out of your way for her, you listen intently, you share ideas, dreams and goals, you make time for dates and open the door for her. Working hard means you go back to dating…except this time it takes even more effort, time, and intentionality.

Make Time

One of the top problems I hear from couples regarding their marriage is time, or lack of time. “We just don’t have time”, “life gets too busy”, “there are so many other things that need to get done”. While I am sure these are all true, I cannot think of anything else (other than your relationship with God) that would be more important or worth spending your time on than your spouse! Andy Stanley wrote a book titled, “Choosing to Cheat” in which he asks, “when it comes to your time who do you end up cheating?” We only have so much time in a day, week, month and year…and so who gets the short end of the stick at the end of the day? Do you give more to work and therefore cheat your spouse and family? Because we cannot just add more time to our day we are left with a choice…who or what will get our time, whether it be quality or quantity of time. Roommates do not have a priority to make time for one another. Roommates are there when they are there, no priority or promises given. In a marriage, we must make time for one another.

Side note on making time for one another: it will be vital that the time you give your spouse be the kind of time that they need! For example, does your spouse need your undivided time, time spent talking together, time spent being active together, etc…What kind of time and how much time does your spouse need?

Not I

Selfishness extinguishes the flame in a marriage. Does it feel like the spark just isn’t there anymore? Has that once burning flame of love dwindled to smoldering ashes? Most likely, acts of selfishness have slowly been suffocating your romance and love. Love means to “meet needs”. To love your spouse means to “meet the needs of your spouse”. As I mentioned previously, that is somewhat natural in the dating stage of a relationship but tends to change over time in marriage. Reignite the romance and love in your relationship by humbly and selflessly loving your spouse as you probably once did. Being humble isn’t the idea of thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking of yourself at all! Roommates have no real obligation to one another than a few respectful rules and paying rent on time. Going out of your way for a roommate is a nice thing to do on occasion but not needed. Selfishness is make-it or break-it in a marriage! Try it! What you say, do, even think…does it love, encourage, help your spouse or you?

Pillow Talk

How is it that the person you once had so many things in common with seems to be a stranger to you now? How did the person you once found interesting and fascinating seems normal and dull. Did they change? Did you change? Probably, we do change as we go through different life stages but that isn’t the deeper issue. I would encourage you to take an honest look at your communication in your marriage. We fail to see commonalities because we fail to talk deep enough to discover and rediscover our spouse. However those types of conversations usually don’t take place on the way to work, while making dinner or in front of the TV. Those deep conversation require time, no distractions and a level of intimacy.  We must continue to rediscover who we married! We all have dreams and goals and those dreams and goals can and most likely will change over time! Just because you asked the question when you got married doesn’t mean they have the same answer today! We all want to be known! Be intentional about getting to know your spouse, to give time and effort for pillow talk.

Reality Check

I have a car that looks pretty nice on the outside. In fact, it’s only a few years old and has very low mileage! Even on the inside, the interior is in great shape! In many ways, it still looks semi-brand new! But if you were to start-up the car, the first thing you would notice is the odd engine vibration. Then you would see the check engine light on and a few other dashboard notifications telling me that something isn’t quite right. If you put it in gear and pulled out of the drive way you would notice the oil leak stain where the car had been parked. The reality is my car is in pretty bad shape but I’m hesitant to take it in to the shop because A) I’m afraid of what they will tell me and B) how much it’s going to cost me!

We treat our marriage the same way. From the outside, the relationship looks pretty good, maybe even really good compared to some others! But if you were to step inside their home or be a fly on the wall you would see some warning lights that indicate things aren’t as healthy as it would seem. When was the last time you had a reality check in your marriage; a “marriage check-up”?!

1. Reality Check: You go to the doctor for your annual physical, you take your car in for a tune-up and oil change, you do spring cleaning. You do those check ups regularly because if something is wrong you want to be able to catch it early to fix it before it becomes catastrophic or life threatening! Why are we so hesitant to do regular “check ups” in our marriage? Maybe we are afraid of what we might discover? If you don’t know the true state, the reality of your marriage then how do you know what to work on, fix or adjust? And if you don’t know what to work on, fix or adjust the problem will not go away but continue to get worse and worse until it falls apart. Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity to point the finger at your spouse but share how you feel and to ask your spouse how they feel and to see what they see. This requires much grace, love, understanding and humility!

2. The Cost: One you take a reality check of your marriage and you and your spouse have had a loving, honest and candid conversation on the state of your marriage you can begin to take the next steps in growing the health of your marriage…but it will cost you! Are you willing to pay the price, are you willing to sacrifice for the health of your marriage and your spouse? (Remember, selfishness will suck the life out of a marriage). This is a chance to show that your spouse is more important than anything else in your life!

Marriages are work…all relationships require work, time and effort! There is a cost. There is never a point when you can hit the auto-pilot button and coast on through. The result will be a gradual but inevitable slide into spouses becoming roommates. The good news is that it is never too late! Start today! Begin to pursue and rediscover your spouse! Make time and take time to have the conversations you once had. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about the current state of your relationship and approach your spouse with humility and selfless love!

My Marriage This Month: May

Marriage is a relationship and relationships require work and effort. Here are practical ways for you and your spouse to continue to work on and put effort into your marriage throughout the month that relates to what was discussed at the last Adventures in Marriage!

Adventures in Marriage: Getting to Know Your Spouse (Click for a Recap)

Week 1: Personality (May 11-17)

Why are you the way you are? It’s not a question we ask often or ever really have an answer for. The reality is our personalities play a major role in not just who we are but how we go about life and relationships. Gaining insight into your own personality and the personality of your spouse will better help you both understand and communicate with one another. Remember, the goal here is to learn and understand…not try to change your spouse! So this week…take a personality test and share it with your spouse!

Here’s a few recommended assessments:
http://16personalities.com (free assessment)
https://www.discprofile.com ($$)
http://strengths.gallup.com ($$)

Week 2: Love Language (May 18-23)

Are you loving your spouse the way they feel loved or the way you feel loved? We tend to show love in ways we naturally feel loved or want to be loved. Gary Chapman has identified 5 love languages that will change the way you think about showing and receiving love with your spouse! This week, take the love language test and discuss with your spouse. Then work on loving your spouse in their love language!

Take the Test: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

Week 3: Replenishment Cycle (May 25-31)

You are constantly pouring into others and being drained by some. Relationships and life take so much from us it is vital that we find ways to get refilled or replenished! If you do not maintain your replenishment cycle you will be running on fumes and will not be able to love and give to those you care most about. It is important to not just know your own replenishment cycle but also for you to know your spouse’s to help them stay healthy and refueled. This week, fill out your replenishment cycle and share it with your spouse!

Click Here for Replenishment Cycle Chart

Week 4: Future Dreams & Goals (June 1-7)

Take time to get out of the every day, normal conversation and dream together! This week share what the ideal would look like in each of the following relationships in the next 5 years. You can also share what you would like to see, do, accomplish, etc..in 1, 5, 10, 20 years

God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Society/Community, Enemies

 

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th

7 Things You Should Know About Yourself and Your Spouse

1. Personality

Knowing your personality and your spouse’s personality gives you the “oh, that’s why are you the way you are”.

Some great personality assessments are the DISC and StrengthFinders (both cost $$). A good free personality assessment is online at: http://16personalities.com

2. Love Language

Gary Chapman has identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch. Once you discover your top two love languages you will understand what makes you feel loved and how you naturally show love to others. Knowing your spouse’s love language will allow you to discover how he/she FEELS loved!

Read more and discover your love language online at: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

3. Replenishment Cycle

We have multiple relationships that require us to give and pour out. We give to our jobs, coworkers, friends, kids, family, neighbors and of course our spouse. But what happens when you give and give and give…and are left with nothing left to give? We cannot have healthy relationships if we are running on empty, personally speaking. It is vital to your marriage that you as an individual remain healthy and “full”. Knowing your replenishment cycle will allow you to continually be filled up which then allows you to continue to pour into others. Knowing your spouse’s replenishment cycle will allow you to identify why she comes home moody, or he is irritable…it’s probably because something(s) are missing in their replenishment cycle. For more on the replenishment cycle click here

4. Family of Origin

If you were involved in pre-marital counseling, this probably came up. If you haven’t had these conversations…what better time to start that now!? If you have had this discussion it can still be valuable to revisit. First understand that the past does not define you but it does influence you. We are all products of our past…for better or worse. Whether you had a great or terrible childhood…both have influence on who you are today. It is important that you are aware of those influences as well as your spouse. We carry a lot of baggage into our marriage, many times unaware and unintentionally. So take the time to share and discuss your Family of Origin. Here are some links that will help you start the conversation:
http://www.foryourmarriage.org/family-of-origin-exercise/
http://timwoodroof.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Family-of-Origin.pdf

5. Expectations

We all have expectations. The question isn’t IF we have expectations but rather have we expressed and vocalized our expectations. Most conflict in marriages can be traced back to a lack of communicating expectations and misalignment of expectations. Make it a point to share your expectations and ask your spouse about their expectations. This gives the opportunity to align your expectations which keeps everyone on the same page.

6. Personal Systems

A system is a set of multiple components making up a whole. A personal system is the “how” we each do things. We have systems for just about everything from how you get ready in the morning, how you make decisions to how you deal with stress. Most of our systems are so ingrained and natural that we tend to not even notice. When you know your own systems and the systems of your spouse you will be better work together and communicate. This also gives an opportunity for your spouse to help you adjust or even change any unhealthy systems. This becomes even more important in parenting. Every system you have will be observed and adopted by your kids.

7. Future Dreams & Goals

When was the last time you and your spouse dreamed together? Remember when you were dating…you would sit and talk for hours about what your life would look like, where you would visit, what you would be doing. But as life goes on our conversations get cluttered with the everyday. Even if we don’t talk about our future dreams and goals…that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When you ask your spouse about their future dreams and goals you are pursuing their soul. This takes you beyond the typical end of the day conversation. A great exercise for you and your spouse to do together is to answer the following question:
“What would the ideal look like 5 years from now in each of the following relationships”:
God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Community/Society, Enemies

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th

Love Self? (The Replenishment Cycle)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

As Christians we paraphrase this into “Love God. Love Others.” but forget or rather neglect the “as yourself” part. Which poses the question, is it possible to love others and God without loving yourself (in a Biblical and Godly way)? No. Jesus teaches and gives the ultimate example of self-sacrifice and a lifestyle of serving but does not teach or promote self-hurt or self-harm. When we neglect ourselves we mask it by calling it “sacrifice” or “serving” but in reality it is harmful to ourselves, our relationships and our ability to work for The Kingdom!

Loving Self:

So what does it look like to love yourself in a Godly way? It will look different for everyone but there are many tools to help identify what it is for you! One of these tools is called “The Replenishment Cycle” (developed by Tom Paterson http://www.patersoncenter.com/lifeplan/paterson-lifeplan.html)

The Replenishment Cycle:

We all have aspects of our lives that either drain us or recharge us. If we do not identify what refuels us and make intentional time and effort to implement those into our lives we will not be able to effectively love ourselves, others and ultimately God. Below is the Replenishment Cycle (which has been adjusted by Gil Stieglitz: http://www.ptlb.com)

replentishment cycle

Loving yourself is to have a life that is full enough that you can pour into others. If you are drained and empty you have nothing to give or offer (the obvious image of trying to pour water out of an empty glass). But when we stay filled we can effectively and more continually pour into others. As you begin to identify what you need to stay replenished and healthy, it would be good to look at this from different time perspectives: what do you need in each of these boxes daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually? Everyone is different, so what replenishes you will be different from your spouse, friends, kids, coworkers, boss, etc…

Rest/Sleep: How much time do you need for sleep to stay replenished? Do you need to go to bed early and get up early or stay up late and sleep in? Do you need one or two power naps? How often do you need a day off? How often does your family need a vacation and for how long? When do you and your spouse need a date night?

Right People: There are two types of people in our lives…those that drain us and those that recharge us. The draining people in our lives are not bad people…they are the people who we need to be pouring into! But if we are only spending time with those who need us/drain us then we are going to be running on empty in no time. Who are the people who recharge you? How often do you need to spend time with them and it what capacity?

Creation/Recreation: What is fun for you? Do you like making art, refinishing furniture, making music…? Does creating replenish you? Or is it recreation: sports, games, sowing, etc…? Identify what creation and/or recreation activities replenish you and how often you need to be engaged with them.

Right Work: My dad always told me if you enjoy 75% of your job then you have the perfect job! Ideally you want to be in a career that isn’t a constant drain however the reality is we do what we need to do to provide for ourselves and our family. But ideally, what is the right work for you, what is the right career for you right now? If you don’t have the option to have a career that is replenishing then can you supplement by volunteering or doing something on the side that keeps you replenished by doing what you love?

New Information: Learning will replenish you! This may or may not be in a classroom/school setting. For some this is taking additional classes or continuing through the educational system. For others it is reading, watching documentaries, going to conferences or learning to fix your car by watching YouTube videos. How do you get replenished by learning?

Eliminate: Bob Goff (http://bobgoff.com) is known for saying he quits something every Thursday! The most replenishing thing you could day may be saying no to something. A healthy leader knows when to say no. What is on your plate that needs to be taken off? This is difficult because most of the items on our plates are important but we cannot do everything. What do you need to eliminate?

Nature: There is something rejuvenating about being in God’s creation! Whether you consider yourself and outdoors person or not, nature is reviving. You need to determine what form of nature you need and how often you need it? Maybe you need to be outside hiking weekly or once a year need to be someplace where you can admire nature from the comfort of an air conditioned room.

Add/New Actions/Habits: What are you currently NOT doing that would replenish you if you started doing them? This could be starting a new hobby, exercise routine, healthy eating regiment, family dinners, date nights, etc…  As it is important to know when to say no, it is just as important to identify what you need to begin.

Jesus: In John 15:1,4 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Our souls are replenished by being with Jesus! How will you remain in Jesus and remain filled?

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Upon Jesus’ arrival he was received with many different people welcoming him in different ways. One thing everyone had it common was they were unable or unwilling to see what Jesus was really doing. They were blinded by their own hopes, assumptions, expectations and plans.

The Crowd: Misunderstood Jesus (John 12:12-13)

When Jesus entered the town people celebrated and honored Jesus! They declared him king of Israel and gladly welcomed him! However, the crowd misunderstood Jesus. The crowd assumed and expected Jesus to be their military messiah…the one who would save them from their political oppression. Jesus did come as the messiah and did come to save…but he came to serve and to be sacrificed to save us from our sins not raise up an army to overthrow the government. The crowd had their messiah but he was not the messiah they were expecting! This misunderstanding led to the crowd shouting “Crucify” instead of “Hosanna” just a short time later. Many times we become blinded by our own assumptions, hopes and expectations. May we pray, “Open our eyes to see Jesus as He is and not as I want Him to be”.

The Disciples: Didn’t Understand Jesus (John 12:14-16)

As Jesus rode into town scriptures tells us that his disciples didn’t understand why all this was happening. In Luke 19:28-31 we get a more detailed account of what Jesus asked of his disciples.  It was obvious that his disciples were confused. “Why do we have to go find a donkey?” “Why does it have to be one that has never been ridden?” “Why do we have to be the ones to go get it for you?” “Why do you have to come into town like this?” “Why…why…why?” We make the false assumption that upon becoming Christian we all of a sudden know everything. That’s just not the case! But there does come a point when we do get IT…and so did the disciples. The disciples had their “Ah-ha” moment, scripture says, after Jesus was glorified. So AFTER everything happened and Jesus was glorified THEN they understood. It’s much easier for us to gain understand afterwards rather than before. The disciples were blinding by their lack of understanding and in some ways their lack of faith. We need to be ok not knowing everything…but trusting in God and having faith! May our prayer be, “Give us the eyes to see what Jesus is doing and faith in what we cannot see”.

The Pharisees: Didn’t Believe Jesus (John 12:17-19)

Ignorance is bliss (just read this story: click here). It is easier to ignore or deny reality than it is to adjust to reality. The pharisees had two choices: 1) to accept that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore change and adjust their traditions, beliefs, teachings, etc… or 2) deny that Jesus is the Son of God and remove him as a threat. We know the story…they chose to deny Jesus and plot to arrest and ultimately kill him. Many times it’s not that we don’t believe but rather we don’t want to believe. We don’t want to face reality; we don’t want to change. The pharisees were blinded by their own wants and desires and were unwilling to change. My our prayer be, “Give us the eyes to see reality”.

For further reading and study: Read 2 Kings 6 and pray for your eyes to be opened like Elisha and his servant!

Sermon Notes from Brian Haas
Adventure Sunday Nights
Series: “Palm Sunday”
April 13, 2014