Are You Winning?

Early on in our marriage, PR31 and I adopted a rule that said if one of us took a big stand that we were right about an issue and we’re later found to be wrong, we had to say out loud to the other person, “You were right, and I was wrong.”

I hated it when I discovered to be wrong and I had to utter those words. It happened more than once… to my own embarrassment. Each time, I felt like the Fonz from Happy Days or Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter… barely able to utter the second part of the statement. It didn’t take me long to learn that my relationship with PR31 mattered more to me than trying to prove my mental prowess.

You see, sometimes being kind is better than being right. And your response to that statement depends on how you define winning.

“Winning at any cost” to some means they will sacrifice relationships and people to accomplish their goals. To others, it means setting aside some of their personal desires or doing without certain things to be able to preserve relationships. (I choose the latter, if you care to know.)

I obviously don’t mind sharing my opinion… I write this blog. But there comes a point for me where arguing and debating an issue ceases to have as much value when I realize that I could wound a person long-term or degrade them publicly and lose their friendship. I have been in arguments I could have won based on my knowledge of the facts, and yet would have lost a relationship that really mattered to me in the process. So I chose to lose… in order to win.

You may be right. You don’t have to let anyone know you’re right. You can keep that little fact to yourself, and it will all come out in the wash. In the meantime, you’ll keep a friend both now and later.

Priorities reveal our true definition of winning. What you make important makes an impact… one way or another.

Choose kindness… What is right will eventually become clear, and you just might retain a relationship that you’ll be glad you didn’t lose.

For All My Friends Who…

It seems like I have so many friends who are struggling and battling tough situations in life right now. Some have lost a marriage… others a ministry… still others their health. Some long to see a hurt healed… some long to hold their own baby… some long for companionship. And it breaks my heart.

So for all my friends who are suffering and struggling tonight, know this…

1) You are not alone. Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is walking through this tough time with you.

2) You will win if you stick with Jesus. He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. He knows what it takes to come out on top, and He will help you do exactly that.

3) I love you… I am in your corner… and I am praying for those of you who have told me about your situations. I’m not Jesus. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know I can’t fix most of your issues. But I can be your friend. And I can encourage you. And I can let you know that, not only is Jesus with you, I am with you also. My heart aches with yours, and so I am keeping your need in front of the Lord on a regular basis.

Some of this sounds so cheesy and trite. I promise that I don’t mean for it to be that way. I mean it from my heart. And I hope you are encouraged by these reminders!

No Quit In You

As you know if you’ve followed the blog at all recently, I am a fan of the TV reality show Small Town, Big Mayor.  One of the guy’s on the show… “Get Down Brown”… recently said this about someone, and it totally connected with me… “This guy ain’t got no quit!”

Now, I don’t care if it is grammatically poor wording.  I love the sentiment behind it.  He spotted someone who had the attitude that they were not going to give up… regardless.

I want to live like that.  I want people to be able to say about me that I “ain’t got no quit” in me.  No matter how challenging… I want to keep doing good… having a right attitude… loving others… serving others… pleasing God… being a terrific husband… raising my sons to be men after God’s own heart.  No quit!

Let me ask you… If “Get Down Brown” met you, could he say that you “ain’t got no quit?”  I hope so, because Scripture points out that if we won’t quit, we will eventually accomplish what we’re working toward.  It will pay off.

So, let’s commit to not quit.  Unless it’s bad habits. Definitely quit those. But as for all the good we’re working toward, no quit!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 3

I was in my last year of college, and I was talking with one of my professors about what my life might look like…my future… marriage… you know, just light casual conversation.  And she gave me some incredible advice that served me well.  That stately little powerhouse of a lady told me to make sure I married a young lady who was my equal because we were going to be partners in marriage.

She went to say that I should choose someone who was strong enough to challenge me in all areas of my life… because that would push me to always be moving forward in order to be the leader in our family.  She went on to clarify that by saying I should be the leader did not infer that I would better than my wife or superior… just fulfilling my role and responsibility.

She talked about the fact that in a marriage, both the husband and the wife are partners… equals.  But she went on to say that, although they are equals, each one has a unique, God-given, God-designed role.  My role was to lead and give her an example… to stay far enough ahead of her to challenge her to press forward for more, but by choosing a strong spouse that I would never be able to run off and leave her behind.  And yet not someone so strong that she could run off and leave me in the dust.

It boiled down to finding an equal, and respecting that she was my equal… my partner in this marriage.

That was amazing advice… and I am so glad I took it!  And boy did I evermore find an equal in PR31!  That girl keeps me on my toes.  Her generosity challenges my faith to believe I can be more generous.  Her prayer life challenges me to stay more in-tune with the Lord.  Her discipline and commitment level challenge me to  do more than not quit, but to take it up a notch.

Neither one of us has ever felt superior to the other that I can recall.  We are in this thing together… equals… partners.  We respect each other.  And we respond to each other as we fulfill our roles in the relationship.

To view someone as your equal is to show them the respect they deserve… and who wouldn’t want to spend their life in a loving relationship with someone who feels like that about them?

This works in other relationships also…

What if bosses treated their employees as equals instead of subordinates?  What if parents treated their kids with dignity and respect as equal members of the family?  What if students treated their teachers like real people just like themselves?

Respect.  Dignity.  Equals.  Partners.  In this together.  This is a great way to build a great relationship.

So why not give these three ideas a try over the next week… or month?  Why not learn to apologize well… communicate clearly… and give respect?  It could end up making a marriage… or any other relationship great!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 2

PR31 and I had been married about six to eight months when we went to stay with her folks for about six weeks in between jobs.  During that time, we went to the young married couples Sunday School class that her mother was teaching.  The class was packed because she was an incredible teacher. She was way ahead of her time in utilizing video curriculum to elevate the excellence of the class and kick off discussions.

One of those video series she used was by Gary Smalley.  Well, PR31 and I got intrigued with them… and since we lived with the teacher, we had access to the videos whenever we wanted.  And since we were in between jobs, we had time to watch them.

One of the greatest takeaways we gained from those videos was a session he shared on communicating with word pictures to help the other person understand how what they said to us made us feel.  The illustration he gave was of a couple packing to go on vacation.  The husband pinches the wife’s side and asks if they are going to eat desserts on this vacation. He is only joking and means the pinch as a loving touch and the question as a joke, but she takes it as him saying she is overweight and doesn’t need any desserts on vacation.  Smalley picks up a small rock, a pebble, from a table and drops it on the floor… and says this is what the husband thought he did.  Then he picks up a huge boulder and drops it on the floor with a loud thud… and says this is what the wife felt when he said it. He used a word picture to help the audience understand what each was thinking and feeling. And he urged couples to find some way to help their spouse understand better what they were thinking and feeling.

This was nothing new… just sort of new to us.  I mean, Jesus used word pictures all the time to help people understand what God is like… and what matters to Him… and how God feels about certain things.  We call them parables… “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or “Suppose one of you…”

Well, this Word picture thing sounded like a good idea for helping us learn to communicate in our marriage.  And low and behold, that Smalley guy is one smart cookie.  It began working for us… and it still does.  We even use it with our boys now.

Sure, it takes a while to figure out how to figure out the best word picture to share with a person. But you figure it out. It might go something like, “When you rub that dry napkin between your hands, it’s like someone raking their fingernails down a chalkboard… it drives me nuts.”  Don’t give up.

Sometimes the word picture doesn’t really convey the truth. So we added our own part as a disclaimer before the word picture.  We might say, “Let me try a word picture to explain how this makes me feel.  But if I mess it up, please let me walk it back and try again to get it right.”

Basically, this slowed the conversation… gave latitude for attempts at communication… and extended grace to the other person when they were genuinely trying to express thoughts and feelings in love.  These are always good for your marriage.

Over time, we built up enough word pictures which we both understood that we could say, “Okay, you know how you said… Well, think of that because this thing makes me feel exactly the way you said that makes you feel.”  Suddenly, the light would go on for the other person, and resolution came a lot more quickly because we now shared a common word picture that gave us a handle on how the other person was feeling,

So go ahead… give it a try the next time you feel your blood pressure rising because of something your spouse just said or did.  You can make a great marriage.  And hey, it works with any other relationship as well.  You can have a great marriage… or friendship… or parent-child relationship.  Anyone can do this.  And you’ll be glad you did!

The Making of a Marriage… Or Any Other Great Relationship- Part 1

Over the years, PR31 and I have had people ask us on multiple occasions what we think are the keys to healthy marriage/relationship.   Usually, one of the keys we give them is a handy little family rule we established in our marriage early on, and it basically went like this…

If you took a really strong stand on something… opposing what your spouse thought or said… and you were found to be wrong, then you had to say, “You were right. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?

It’s not too bad when the other person has to say it.  In fact, it’s a little gratifying.  The only problem is that Angela rarely had to say it, and I had to say it often.  At least to begin with.

But soon I got tired of having to eat crow and swallow my pride.  Eventually I learned the lesson this little rule was intended to teach when we instituted it… Don’t be so hard-nosed and opinionated that you think you’re the only one in this world who knows anything.  Initially in our marriage, I would fiercely defend my correctness, only to be proven wrong on multiple occasions.  It soon occurred to me that my sweet wife often knew as much or more than me on plenty of topics, and I should learn to listen instead of argue.

It worked both ways, and it also didn’t take long for both of us to agree that we would rather hear the other person’s ideas, consider them as possibly being right, and search together to discover the truth.

The next step of that journey was to not rub it in the other person’s nose when you were right and they were wrong.  Again, it only takes a few times of finding yourself on the other end of that stick to know that there has to be a better way.

Our relationship is better now… more than two decades later… because we learned not to make such a big stinkin’ deal out of every little thing we might disagree on.  Some people suggest that couples have to argue to have a healthy relationship.  I disagree… I mean, it’s possible that I could be wrong… but it seems to me that instead of arguing, perhaps a better choice would be to find a way to disagree agreeably until you can both discover the truth together and agree on it.

And if I’m wrong, you can be sure that I will be the first one to admit it.  That’s been one other outcome of that little life experiment… an attitude that makes us quick to apologize when we discover we are wrong.  Real apologies.  Sincere apologies.

In loving relationships… whether marriage, parent-child or even best friends… love apologizes.

For the record, there are still times one of us has to abide by the family rule and make the statement, but those times are much fewer and farther between than when we first began.  I, for one, am glad for that!

Twenty-Two

Twenty-two years ago today, I heard PR31 say to me, “I do!” And each day since then, I have watched her live out that commitment to love me.  She is my dream girl.  I would choose her every day of the week and twice on Sundays for the rest of my life.

Proverbs 31, from whence I drew her nickname, says that the virtuous woman’s husband blesses her publicly.  And so today’s post is that… my public proclamation that God blessed me with an amazing wife to share life with… and twenty-two years later, I’m so glad He did!

Angela  is my best friend, as well as being my sweetheart.  She listens to and lifts me.  She cheers me on and challenges me.  She nurtures and nudges me.

She is a woman of God.  Her passionate pursuit of Him makes me want to love both Him and her even more.

She makes me a better man… a better daddy… a better son… a better brother… a better friend… a better preacher.  I wouldn’t be the man I am without her in my life.

Her beauty is not only skin deep, though she is indeed gorgeous to look at. (She doesn’t even need makeup or fancy clothes to look pretty.) She is considerate of others’ feelings.  She gives generously… regularly. 

Her talents are off the charts to me.  She is one of those people who can make any recipe taste great… make any Pinterest craft more personal and special… make any trip more fun.

And yet for all her creativity, her practical skills are second to none.  She is the budget queen… homeschool teacher par excellence to our boys… and able to use the riding mower.

I’d keep going, but you probably can’t handle anymore.  And I could write ad nauseum about my love for her.  And when she reads this, she’ll think it was over the top… because she is also a woman of genuine humility.  See? I can’t help myself when it comes to her.

So, today, I celebrate twenty-two years of committed love between us… and commit again to the same for the rest of my life.  There’s no one else I’d rather take the journey of life with.

Thanks for loving me, Angela!  I love you like crazy… and I always will!!!