Working on a Dream




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"I Love You Because _____" Saving your Marriage, Part 3

OK, I get it.  
You want more material on how to have a great marriage.  Today, I will be writing my third installment of my, "Saving your Marriage" series and will be drawing from a resource that has proven very fertile for my mind.  It is Craig Groeschel's interesting book titled, "Weird."  Yes. That is the title, and yes, only a weird person like myself would choose to read a book with that weird of a title.

Titles aside; Groeschel hits a home run in the middle of his book when he starts writing about relationships.  When you transition from a dating relationship to a married one; a lot of things change.  If you are reading this and have been married for a while, then I do not have to explain that last sentence. On the other hand, if you have not walked down the aisle before, then I've decided to leave you in your pre-marital bliss.  One of the quotes that I really enjoyed is, "If the grass looks greener somewhere else, it's time to water your own lawn."  

That statement is something for you to take in and really understand if you want a healthy marriage.  Think for a moment about any area in your life that you can stop working on and still see growth?  No matter how attractive you find your spouse, no matter the amount of money your spouse makes; it is human nature to peer over the fence of self-delusion from time to time.
Another aspect that I really love about the above quote is how it places the responsibility squarely on your shoulders.  It leaves no room for excuses.  So here is my advice:  If you have a problem in your marriage, fix it.  If you can't see eye-to-eye on an issue, then fight it out until you are both seeing 20/20.  We live an a throw away culture.  If it isn't brand stinkin' new, with all the latest and greatest parts then it is old and should be replaced.  Not so with marriage.  The vows you took are sacred and deserve your effort.   Marriage is a full time job; don't be surprised if it falls apart when you treat it like a part-time burden.

NYC: Central Park
Let's get practical for a moment.
I want to share with you simple advice that you can do to start saving your marriage right now.
MEN:  Pretend this is Sport Center for a moment and really listen up:  Women love to be told how much you love them. Your wife wants to feel special and perhaps one of the greatest ways to accomplish this is to genuinely tell her how much you love her.  So the next time you see her, walk right up to her and say, "Insert Name here ...  I love you because ___________________ "
Fill in her name, tell her that you love her AND be sure to verbalize something specific that you love about her.  Here is a recent example:
Christen, I want to let you know that I love you because you made me breakfast in bed today.  It really meant a lot to me; I know that you didn't need to do that and I appreciate it.

WOMEN:   Pretend this is Lifetime (even writing that gives me the heeby-jeebies). Your husband wants to feel admired and perhaps one of the greatest ways to accomplish this is to genuinely tell him how much you esteem him.  So the next time you see him, walk right up to him and say this, "Insert Name here ... I admire you because ____________________"  Your man is sensitive regardless of how tough he pretends to be.  I'll give you an example of something Christen said to me recently:
Anthony, I really admire your strength. And when I say "strength" I am not referring to your huge bulging muscles, I am talking about your inner strength.  

Speak to one another in this manner and watch how this simple phrase helps save your marriage.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peering into your Heart: Time & Money

Every year, Christen and I have a little tradition around Christmas.
We go to the local gas station and buy ourselves scratch lottery tickets. We buy one ticket at a time, alternating between ourselves anticipating our BIG win. We scratch, we wait. We scratch, we wait; and then, 10 minutes later we do the losers-waltz right out of the gas station shrugging our shoulders and wondering why we continue this silly tradition.

Honestly, the whole thing takes about 15 minutes because scratching a lottery ticket takes only a few seconds before you get the answer. What you can't see is covered by a very thin film that easily rubs away when you apply the slightest amount of pressure by any coin you pull out of your Levi's.

Many people's lives are like this. Scratch the surface, and you will see their true priorities.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, said, "Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God."
So let me ask you a question: What is your heart clinging to these days?
I've heard it said that "time & money" are the true indicators of what defines you as a person.
Think about this for one moment: 
-What does your calendar look like? 
-What is your checkbook filled with?  
Be honest.  Reflect where you spend most of your time.  Look at your last couple of weeks. Do you see a pattern? Now go further;  delve into the last couple of months.  Where are you spending the majority of your time? OK. Now grab your bank statement(s).  Where is your money going?  Clothes, frappes, movies, up-doos, manicures, adventurous trips ... Jeesh.  Guess what? If that list reflects your reality, then your worshiping an idol.  And if you are confused about what idol I am making reference to, just stop reading this, stand up and go to the mirror.  ---BINGO.

Time for a Truth Atomic Bomb:  bank statements and daily planners do not lie, so neither should you. Self-delusion is never a good idea;  for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  I know herds of people that aspire to this or give lip service to that, but a simple glance at their priorities nullify even their greatest of speeches. Margaret Thatcher wisely stated, "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions." Here is what I can say with certainty; each person's heart wages a war for kingship.  Meaning, what we owe God and what we give Him are oftentimes standing in direct contrast.  And not to sound like the proverbial broken record, one of the great litmus tests that reveal what we pay homage to is how we spend our money and what we do with our time.  My friend and colleague, Nick Cerda once told me that he has no problem giving to the church because he has no problem giving to the things that he loves. Said another way, if something really grabs your heart you cannot help but give that something priority in your life.

Dear friends, my intentions for writing this is not to beat you down or make you feel ugly inside.  Rather, it is to set you free ...  I know so many people that have a deep desire to be used for God but just cannot figure out how to or why they continually fall short. By being cognizant of where you spend your time and money you are taking the first steps in re-prioritizing your life; you are scratching below the surface.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Saving your Marriage, Part 2 "Life is Short"

Life is Short.

All the greats have understood this. I've read authors, philosophers, sociologists; talked with wise men and boneheads -all agree. Life is short.  So how can understanding these three words save your marriage?

Come with me as we journey back into the centuries ...

Ecclesiastes 9: 7-9 says, 
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for

God has already approved what you do.
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life

that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life

and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

In order to understand what the wise author of Ecclesiastes is teaching, you will have to understand the original language being used. In verse nine, you will find the word "vain". In Hebrew, the word "vain" can be translated as hebel.  Why does this wise author use the word hebel when referring to his relationship with his wife? He is trying to emphasize a very important point to the reader, and that point is this: Life is Short. Life is fleeting, like a breath on a cold morning that once you see and then in an instant it disappears before your very eyes. See, life moves very quickly and this is one thing that all married couples need to keep on the front burner of their mind.

I've heard it said that married life can seem as if it's only 5 days long. The first day you meet, the second day you marry, the third day you rear your children, the fourth day you meet your grandchildren, and a fifth day you die first, or bury your spouse; then go home alone for the first time in many years.

Life is Short. Why is this reality so important for you and I to remember?

Because often times we lose sight of what's really important.  Our life gets full of all of the little things and all of the distractions that seem to get in the way.  And what gets tossed to the side like an old pair of shoes? Our relationship with our spouse.
-Who's going to bring Sara to soccer?
-Who's going to pick up Johny from practice?
-Did dad start the addition?
-Did mom plan the PTO meeting?
This all happens while the couple forgot to build and stay focused on maintaining a healthy relationship.

When offering premarital counsel, I ask couples to imagine themselves on a date sitting in the middle of a busy lake in two sepeareate boats. On that lake they are intentional about staying close to one another because they are so in love. Due to their passion, they hardly notice the waves that are trying to tear them apart.
Over the years, however, the same couple may find themselves on distant sides of the shore.  The reason is that when they were dating they were intentional about staying close to each other, but as time passed; life filled in and they forgot to maintain their relationship with one another.

This heartbreaking scenario is why many couples often separate, divorce, or live shallow married lives after their children go off to college. It is because the couple forgot about the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship through the years. It is becuase they forgot that Life is Short.

My Advice?
Keep your boats close. Before you know it, your life is over.

Monday, January 14, 2013

4 easy ways to Save your Marriage

Ever wonder why some marriages thrive while others seem to just survive?  

If there is one topic that continually seems to be on peoples minds these days, it is the topic of having a joyful marriage.  This is why I am grateful for books like Mark Driscoll's, "Real Marriage." In it, he takes a no holds bar approach to examining and uncovering marriage from a Biblical perspective. In chapter 5, Driscoll gives four easy, helpful and practical steps that every couple needs to write down and then implement. Echoing the apocalyptic language of the Bible, he teaches that when conflict arises, there are "four horsemen" who are certain to multiply relational pain and can result in marital death.

Horseman number one is Criticism: 
Driscoll says a complaint is simply pointing out something in your spouse that you find annoying or frustrating.  Criticism however, goes deeper to attack your spouses character or personality. My thoughts? You need to realize that a complaint attacks the problem whereas a criticism attacks the person.  You will do yourself no favors if you decide to be the spouse that continually breaks down your significant other.  If you find yourself riding this horse, get off fast before your spouse resents you.

Horseman number two is Contempt:
Simply put, contempt is showing disgust for your spouse with such things as name-calling, mocking, condescending humor, belittling, or demeaning actions.  The thing about contempt is that it grows over time if you do not resolve conflict. Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith; nowhere is it more important than in the walls of your own house.  If you find yourself riding this horse, don't be surprised if you are sending your spouse off riding in another direction emotionally and relationally.

The third Horseman is Defensiveness:
Defensiveness occurs when the guilty person refuses to apologize or back down from a conflict. Defensiveness will never see wounds healed; it will only divide and it always leads to an unsatisfied marriage.  If you are riding on this horse, look left, now look right -you probably just noticed that you are riding alone. And if you are the defensive type, you are probably OK with that. This life is too long to be right all of the time, therefore I am suggesting that you take a dose of humility and two teaspoons of repentance. Remember, you are married; you owe your family the best.

The last horse is Stonewalling:
Stonewalling is what happens when we stubbornly ride the first three horses. At this point you are basically living your own life as two lonely people under one roof.  I know many couples, both young and old that settle for this kind of life.  Ruth Bell Graham said, "A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."

In conclusion, I would like to ask you a question.
50 years from now, imagine you and your spouse having one last conversation.  During that conversation wouldn't it be nice to look at one another in the eye and then lean close to their ear and whisper the following:

"My love.  This has been the greatest ride of my life. With you I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We shared everything together. 
If I could go back in time I would not change a single thing about us, (except maybe to spend even more time holding hands).  I love you; you are the dream of my dreams and the heart within my heart. You are my everything..." 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Birthday letter to My Son. 1-10-2013

Birthday Letter To My Son:

Anthony, today is your 2nd birthday.
It is hard to celebrate something so beautiful as the day you were born when you are not here to be celebrated. It seems like everyday I am reminded or thinking about you in some way. Since you were born, mommy and daddy have gone through so much, and we move on daily knowing you are with our Heavenly Father, and you are by our side. My favorite time, when it comes, is when I can smell the scent of your body in the air. I almost pass out trying to only breath in so that I can smell you for as long as I can. Sometimes I just think you are close, I knew your little soul, and I can feel your presence from time to time. 

I can look back at your short life and I am still amazed at the fact that even though you could not speak, I knew what you were saying, I knew what you needed. I understand you could not stay, though my heart, mind, body and soul wish you were still here with me. Your yellow blanket stays with mommy every night, and sometimes when I hold it to my chest -I can feel you in it still. I can still feel your skin on my lips, and I will never forget that night I felt your soul leave us taking you away in flesh, forever. 

Some people may say that your death is no different than any other loss, but I want you to know, mommy and daddy do not believe that for one second. You are our first born son, our heart, and a piece of each of our souls- that could never be understood by anyone, you were uniquely ours, uniquely part of mommy and daddy.  If you are around and hear those things, I want you to know we will always be there for you, and stick up for you, even though you cannot physically stand by our side. I can see you when I look at the television, pictures of babies, or see little baby boys out, and mostly, I can see you when I look at your daddy.  You looked so much like your daddy it makes my heart melt. Even your smile was breathtaking and heart-melting like your daddy’s.  Your strength was like mommy and daddy too. That’s why I know you are now one of God’s soldiers, tougher than the rest.

I continue to thank God for giving me those 9 days with you and I thank you for keeping your strength to stay just a little while longer with daddy and me. I wanted 90 years, but I will always cherish those 9 days.  I hope you are proud of daddy and me, and I hope we were everything you needed for your short stay here. I know you felt all of the love from all your family and loved ones who got to hold you -that was important to mommy. I also know you are receiving a lot of love in heaven from your family and loved ones, I hope we are all keeping you comfort in knowing how special and loved you are. If you were here, we would have a cake, candles, and decorations, but now, we are left with memories and heavy hearts.

Mommy doesn’t know how to celebrate your birth, when your death followed so quickly, so I hope you like my letter to share with you on the day you were born. I am sure you hear me and I am sure you can feel my heart, so you know the love that is here for you. I hope your presence and your smell never leave me.
I wish you were here.

In Love My Son,
Mommy -XOXO 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Man Dies

A man dies and goes to Heaven.

St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was.  When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "That's worth three points!"
"3 points?" he says, slightly concerned.

"Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." "Terrific!" says St. Peter. "That's certainly worth a point."
"1 point!?!" he moans, now really getting worried.

"I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." "Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says."2 points!" the man cries...

"At this rate the only way I get into Heaven is by the grace of God!"

St. Peter nods and says, "Bingo, 100 points! Come on in my son!"

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why go to Church? Faith Presbyterian Church

A church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I’ve gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.
But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"

-Come & Grow-

If you are thinking about coming back to church after a long sabbatical or just visiting for the first time; why not try Faith Presbyterian Church?  

Our Sunday starts with a variety of great Sunday school classes for all ages at 9:30 a.m.  On the first Sunday of the month, you are also invited to join us for refreshments, beverages and fellowship at 10:30 a.m. between Sunday School and worship. The worship service follows from 11:00 a.m. - noon. 

Can't make it to all of the above?  No problem!
We would be honored for you to come and fellowship with us anytime!

Pastor Anthony

A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, 
but look what they can do when they stick together!     
-- Unknown

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

American Idol (factory)

Put your seat belts on.
This ride might get a bit rough.
Let's begin with a bumpy comment.
The kind of word that will eject you from your car seat.
Your heart is an idol factory.
It churns them out faster than a hefty guy at the Golden Corral buffet line grabbing at the fatty spare ribs.
I know that you don't think of yourself as an idolater. And I know that when I say the word "idol" you are thinking of Golden Calves and the TV show which churns out preppy-one-hit-wonder's.
But the reality is people worship everything from what money can buy. What it can't. Heck we even worship the green back's themselves.

Before we move on, we need to answer a question, "What is an idol?"
"It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give." If anything in all the world is more fundamental than God to your happiness, to your meaning in life, then that thing has become an idol. It has supplanted God in your heart and in your affections. You will pursue that thing with an abandon and intensity that should be reserved for God alone."

Why do we love idols?
You and I love the 3 dimensional world.
The things that we can see, feel and touch.
 But what if there was more to life than those things?
What if the reason you are not satisfied in this life is directly connected to not understanding and appreciating the things that remain invisible to the human eye?

Faith, Love, Hope.  
All invisible.
All flowing from a heart that knows God.

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, writes the following about Idols:

"The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them." Thus anything can be an idol and, really, everything has been an idol to one person or another. The great deception of idols is we are prone to think that idols are only bad things. But evil is far more subtle than this. "We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life."


Friend, let me ask you --how is it with your soul?
The answer to that question directly hinges upon if you filled your life with the things of eternal value.  Honestly, idols make a bad friend, they are a terrible goal and idols have a nasty habit of leaving you reeling ...

Do me a favor. Take a second and look at your watch because it's time.
Time to do yourself a favor and stop the idol worship. Give yourself and your heart to God in 2013. 
It is the best resolution you will make all year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Leadership & Creative Change

Creativity is the most effective responses to rapid change, and all breakthroughs rely heavily on creativity. However, champions are not independent, isolated creators. Instead, champions bond with their counterparts in the alliance as kindred spirits in co-creation, that is, they are typically co-creative synthesizers, linking new ideas and innovations together, building bridges with other creative individuals whose voices have not previously been heard. Champions typically do not require full credit for an idea to satisfy their egos, because they know that the idea itself is less than 10 percent of the game.

Paradigm shifts come not from incremental thinking but from fundamentally new ideas,
typically originating from outside of the mainstream of accepted thought. Carl Gustav Jung foresaw an alliance’s greatest strategic potential when he said: The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension between opposites.

Alliances create breakthroughs as a result of differentials in thinking. Inherent in the
differences between two alliance partners is the champion’s unique opportunity to initiate the creative tension that can generate the essential shift in perception and thinking that underpins all true innovation. Managing this synergy of compatible differences through the process of co-creation is a fundamental attitude and skill of the best champions.

Champions see that the real value in an alliance lies in the diversity of thinking across the boundaries of different organizational cultures, perspectives, and thinking.

Fundamentally, champions must honor the dignity of diverse thinking, a point of view that can often evoke strong negative emotions from conservative traditionalists bound to the status quo within the alliance’s parent organization.

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?”
– George Bernard Shaw

By Robert Porter Lynch

The Definition of New Year Resolution?