faith, Family

Love Women | Letters To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:27

“Marriage is a lot of give and take. You take a lot, and you give a lot.”

—Verna Mae Baker

Son, It Seems The Times Are A-Changin’

We live in a time in our culture where it appears men and women compete with each other. In this battle for equality and preserving the masculine and feminine identity, it seems there is an attack on old customs. Former “gentlemanly traditions” are now brought into question as if their motivation was to force women to become our subjects in the home, marriage, marketplace, and the church. While this could long be debated, including the underlying motivations and resultant issues, it’s had an impact on what it means to be a man and how to best cherish and honor women. I would say it has made relationships more tricky to navigate. Some men are skittish, and others ignore it—but the world is not skittish and refuse to ignore it. Popular media throws out words that even I have to look up—like “misogyny” and “misandry.” Colleges now subject incoming students to pronouns about gender and sexual identity that inherently have a double meaning—like “cisgender.” And I wonder if this is creating more clarity for anyone, or just adding to the confusion. On our quest for understanding, could we be frustrating ourselves?

Maybe this is partly our fault as men. The unintended consequences of not living out the character of Christ might be catching up with us. Our misuse of power, objectification of beauty, locker-room lingo, misunderstanding of submission, and poor treatment might have created the perfect storm in our time. The sad part is that it calls into question all that was good about gentlemen behaviors like provision, protection, roles, and manners that had long-standing masculine charm. Our culture is trying at hyperspeed to redefine masculinity, but this does not change God’s plan for manhood.

So how can we best love the women of our life?

Eight Principles For Female Relationships

One | Be A Strong Gentlemen

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”—1 Peter 3:7

Everyone gets tripped up by the “weaker vessel” part of this verse, yet why wouldn’t every woman want a strong man? But “strong” does not infer that we should use power to demand the submission of others. It means to steward our strength to “lift a heavy box” responsibly and with the understanding, we do have some common ground with women—a grace that redeems us both. Balancing this is a delicate art. Sincerely strong men know they possess a “power,” whatever that power may be, and manage it with care toward others. This is God’s obligation before us. Being strong is to know our strength and then practice it in a way that brings beauty to those who possess a different strength. I believe this is what it means to be a “gentle” man. And I want you to be this man—unashamed of your strength but not shaming others with it—especially women.

Do this:

  • Hold the door for a woman.
  • Give a thoughtful gift to a woman.
  • Wait until marriage to have sex.
  • Respect your mother or any older woman.
  • Put Godly boundaries on your interaction with women.
  • Kiss her respectfully.
  • Protect her dignity with other men.
  • Mind your manners around all women.
  • Defend and embellish women.
  • Don’t put yourself in a compromising position with a woman.

Two | Connect Emotionally With Women

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”—Colossians 3:19

One thing I failed to learn before marriage was how to connect emotionally. Due to the emotional damage in my life, I was unable to discover that emotional connection was critical in marriage, relationships, and leadership. Emotional connection is a part of life, and it requires honesty, openness, and transparency. If you want a great relationship with women and marriage, then you are going to have to learn how to connect with women emotionally. This means sharing your heart with them about the things you are experiencing, not just talking about the facts, your opinions, or being ready with the next best joke.

“Harsh” men, as Paul references above, have failed to learn to connect emotionally. Contrary to popular belief, anger is not the only emotion we have as men. Many men never learn this. Angry men have not learned or been taught the strength and power of real honest, open, and transparent sharing. They have not learned to identify and address their wounds, and thus, in fits of anger express this confusion. And when we are “harsh” with women, we end up treating women as submissive subjects rather than loving them the way God would love them.

Emotional connection is vital in a relationship with women, raising children, and leading people. “Emotional Intelligence,” terminology Daniel Coleman popularized, is the ability to understand self enough that we can connect healthily with others. But this is not to be reduced to a leadership tactic—it’s an emotional ability of mature men. Women have an intuitive sense in this area and know when we are not making an emotional connection with them. And emotional connection begins with us connecting and getting real with how we feel—angry, disgusted, fearful, happy, or sad.

Do this:

  • Listen to how she is feeling.
  • Share with her how someone made you feel.
  • Listen to her struggles.
  • Share a struggle you are trying to overcome.
  • When you are confused, confess it and ask her for advice or wisdom.
  • Share something new you learned and why this was important to you.

Three | Let The Creator Determine Manhood and Womanhood

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:27

God is the Creator. We are not. He does not remain neutral on the fact that men and women are unique and beautiful and yet both made in his image. But the world is going to have a lot to say about men and women. In college, your professors and friends will have lots to say. The world will even try to define it for you. But don’t listen to the creation on Creator issues. Marketing, movements, and sensationalism cannot redefine what God has already established. It has been tried repeatedly. When you want the best answer, go to the Creator, not creation—their opinions and ideas don’t matter. The designer, in this case, is God. He has the best purpose, plan, and payoff. And the significant part is that he has given us the best model—Jesus Christ.

Remember:

  • God has the best plan for man.
  • God has the best plan for women.
  • God has the best plan for marriage.
  • God has the best plan for a family.
  • God is the truth; when you have questions, go to the truth.

Four | Learn How To Love & Sacrifice For Women

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”—Ephesians 5:25

My grandmother used to say, “Marriage is a lot of give and take. You take a lot, and you give a lot.” And her point is well taken. Nothing is more humbling than discovering there is no end to the need to cherish and sacrifice. There is no line, no boundary, and no limit. We take and give endlessly. But personally absorbing and acting in the beauty in this is difficult. Women are not perfect. Men are not perfect. But we can love and sacrifice in lieu of this and see perfection through it.

In those moments, I am most challenged by my wife, I still think to myself about the high responsibility I have to love and sacrifice for her. Sometimes my selfish nature says, “again?” But in the years we have been married, I have continued to fight off this broken logic. I have discovered I do still love her underneath it all—we are merely having one of our moments.

You too will have these moments—moments of deep frustration. This is sometimes a communication issue and sometimes just part of the challenge of relationships. Don’t be quick to think it’s just a woman thing. It’s a human thing. People are sinful and broken—men and women. Due to this, you are going to have to love and sacrifice in spite of the challenges. Jesus did the same. He loved and sacrificed for a people who did not love him, and he did it anyway—so should you. And this is the point of this text. Learn to love and sacrifice—anyway.

Do this:

  • As a man, love a little longer than the moment.
  • As a man, love when you don’t want to.
  • As a man, love a little longer when people tell you not to.
  • As a man, sacrifice till it hurts and discovers real love.
  • And look for a woman who will do the same.

Five | Seek A Covenant Not A Contract

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”—Genesis 2:24

Oneness is a great mystery. God wants us to enjoy it live in it. He wants us to find someone with whom you will spend the rest of your life with whom you will share sexually, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

All I know is that we can corrupt this oneness. We have the opportunity to take and steal from this oneness even before marriage by separating them from a covenantal relationship. Don’t make this mistake. God’s covenant of marriage is not something to adulterize. Many do this thinking they will be fine, and they are not.

Many people hold a “contractional” or “transactional” view of marriage. Don’t keep this view. If it’s contractional, then it’s meant to be broken. If it’s transactional then determining your half of the contribution will lead to much debate. But understand marriage as “covenantal,” and then you will take it much more seriously—because there is a third person involved in the covenant—God. And it is God who created us for a relationship, a forever commitment when the time comes. Look for a woman who wants this kind of commitment with you and God.

Do this:

  • Identify marriages that you admire and pray for them.
  • Identify characteristics in women that you want and pray for them.
  • Identify characteristic in men that you want and pray for them.

Six | Avoid Immorality

“Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?”—Proverbs 5:20

Yeah, this is one of those points that never gets old. It’s a timeless truth. Don’t treat women this way, and don’t treat yourself this way. What more needs to be said?

Don’t do this:

  • View pornography or undress women with your mind.
  • Joke sexually about women even with others, it’s not funny.
  • Endorse the objectification of women by giving your money to entities that do.
  • Don’t support others who do any of the above.
  • Don’t be alone with an untrustworthy woman.

Seven | Find A Woman Who Cares About You & God

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”—Proverbs 31:10-12

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”—Proverbs 18:22

Your mom has made me a better man. Women often see us as their favorite project. And while some think this could be interpreted as overstepping and positionally arrogant—honestly, I want to be better. Daily I am challenged by her to be better, push harder, do more, serve further, love more, be more open, become more romantic. While once I used to see this as a drawback, I now view it as an advantage I have. So look for someone who will make you better—a better man, husband, father, and leader. And someone for who you can do the same.

And nothing is more important than finding someone who not only makes you better but loves God even more than you. Someone who puts Him first. A woman who is wholly subject to God. Who wants to grow in character and virtue with Him and then you. Find this woman. Settle for nothing less. I am blessed to have found it. And only now I realize that it is the great “coincidence” of my life. And why would I suggest this? Because a woman who honors God will always honor you. It sounds a little selfish, but it’s wisdom to be trusted.

Do this:

  • Pray for a woman who loves you just the way you are.
  • Pray for a woman who enjoys you—your style, humor, personality, and values.
  • Pray for a woman who loves God.
  • Pray for a woman who makes you better.

Eight | Be The Right Man & You’ll Find The Right Woman

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”—1 Corinthians 16:13

Often, men and women date, hook up, or even get married because they are missing something in their lives and believe that one of these things will fill that void. While there is much to be said here, many fail to remember that Jesus is the relationship who completes us regardless of our married state. If you cannot come to a place of contentment, joy, and understanding your identity in your singleness, you will not find this in marriage. In fact, if you cannot find it now, it might complicate it further to be in a relationship or get married. Your identity is not found in a relationship or marriage because neither of these relational states takes the place of one’s identity in Christ—it only compliments it. You are a complete person in Christ, dating, married, or not. Regardless of popular opinion, your spouse will not “complete you,” Jesus is the only one that does. So be secure in who you are in Christ. Act like a man, the man that God made you be.

Do this:

  • Groom yourself.
  • Smell good.
  • Act in Godly character daily.
  • Seek a career path.
  • Work hard and play hard.
  • Have fun but don’t overdo it.

Love you, son. Dad.

After serving in notable ministry organizations for over 25 years (including Young Life, InterVarsity, TCU Football, and Eagle Brook Church), Vince founded Resolute, a non-profit organization focused on providing men with tools for discipleship and mentorship. He’s written 13 books and handbooks, along with small group videos that are resources for mentorship. He also produces THE MEN’S DAILY DEVO and the MAN TALK PODCAST. His latest book is a devotional and mentoring guide for men called THIRTY VIRTUES THAT BUILD A MAN.

Family, Personal Development

How Differences with Your Spouse Can Make Your Marriage Stronger

3 Ways to Turn Your Biggest Annoyance into Your Greatest Advantage

I hear this all the time: “My husband or wife doesn’t understand me. We are so different. We don’t really have anything in common. How can we make this work when we don’t see eye-to-eye?” In the midst of conflict, it’s easy for us to forget the real reason that opposites attract–because it’s good for us.

Think about it. If you married someone just like you, then you wouldn’t have to grow, you wouldn’t have to budge from your comfort zone, and you wouldn’t have to enter into someone else’s world—and grow yours in the process.

In the long term, differences are precisely what you need. They can add richness, depth, and texture to your marriage if you embrace them. As someone who married a woman who is very different from me, let me share three ways that we learned to navigate our differences.

1. Identify your differences

You know you are different than your spouse, but that is not enough. I am talking about more specificity. In what ways are you different? For example, Gail and I are the exact opposite on the Myers-Briggs. I am an INFJ. She is an ESTP. This means:

  • We approach the world differently. I prefer introversion; she prefers extroversion.
  • We gather information differently. I prefer intuition; she prefers sensing.
  • We make decisions differently. I prefer feeling; she prefers thinking.
  • We approach structure differently. I prefer judging; she prefers perceiving.

And that’s not the end of our differences. According to the StrengthsFinder test, we have completely different strengths. My top-five are:

  • Achiever
  • Intellection
  • Strategic
  • Futuristic
  • Relator

Gail’s top-five are:

  • Positivity
  • Woo
  • Developer
  • Connectedness
  • Adaptability

From these tests—and forty years of observing her—I know the specific ways that we are different.

2. Acknowledge your differences

It’s not enough to identify your differences and then file away what you’ve observed. No, you must acknowledge these—and celebrate them—in real time.

Let me give you a practical example. As an extrovert, Gail draws her energy from being with people. As an introvert, people can wear me out. I prefer being alone.

But because we love one another, we make sure that we help the other person get what they need. Recently, we went to a dinner party. I would have preferred to stay home and read, but I know Gail needs to connect with others to remain emotionally healthy. (And I need it too; I just don’t always recognize the need.)

On the other hand, she knows I can’t be with people every night or I will burn out. So, because she loves me, she sometimes chooses to stay home so I can recharge. (She also needs this; she just doesn’t always recognize it.)

3. Leverage your differences

Differences are not something to be resented. They are something to celebrate and be used. Think of it this way: If Gail and I were exactly the same on the Myers-Briggs results, we would only have four tools at our disposal. But since we are completely opposite, we have eight. It’s as if we have more colors on our palette with which to paint the canvas of our lives!

The real test of this is in making decisions. As a J on the Myers-Briggs, I like an orderly, structured world. I want to make decisions quickly and get them behind me. Gail is just the opposite. She doesn’t have the same need for structure. She wants to explore all the options. She prefers to have her decisions in front of her.

Left to myself, I can be impulsive, making decisions I later regret. Left to herself, Gail can procrastinate, missing opportunities she later regrets. Together, we ensure that we explore all our options but then make a decision.

Fall down, lift up

King Solomon once observed that two are, in fact, “better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”

We usually think of this in terms of friendship, but it applies equally to marriage. We have different strengths that can help hold up our partners through difficult times.

Especially in times of marital stress, it’s good to remember that you weren’t attracted to your spouse by accident. Embracing your differences can help you both to realize your God-given potential, in marriage and so much else.

Article by Michael Hyatt

faith, Family

7 Ways to Communicate Love

communicating-loveLove is the most important part of life.

We all tend to agree on that, but we can rarely seem to agree on what “love” actually means. 

Here are some of the most famous words ever written about love.

Within in them, God is giving us a timeless road map for building stronger relationships. Below are seven very simple and practical ways to put these words into action in our daily lives and our relationships.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Here’s how we put love into practice (it’s simpler than you might think):

1. Love is patient, so in our rushed world, be patient with people.

2. Love is kind, so in our sarcastic and often rude world, show genuine kindness to people.

3. Love is not jealous or proud, so in our self-focused world, put the needs of others ahead of your own.

4. Love keeps no record of wrongs, so in our world full of grudges and bitterness, choose to offer grace.

5. Love rejoices in the truth, so in our world of dishonesty, always tell the truth and fight for trust in relationships.

6. Love never loses faith, so in our world of skeptics and cynics, choose to believe in the presence of God and the power of love.

7. Love endures through every circumstance, so in our world of quitters, stay committed and never give up on yourself or your loved ones!

 

Dave Willis of Stronger Marriages recently wrote a book called The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships where he started by looking at everything the Bible (the ultimately love and relationship manual) has to say on the subject. He gets full credit for this article. 

Fortitude, Personal Development

Going for the Bronze Medal

having-an-i-am-third-marriage

The Winter Olympic Games is interesting whether you appreciate figure skating and curling or not. Have you been watching? There are so many great stories of people beating all odds to fulfill their Olympic dream. Hearing the athletes explain the sacrifices made and injuries overcome to be the very best at the one specific event for the Olympic games is inspiring.

For most athletes competing in the games, their dream is to compete at the highest level of their sport and they don’t really expect to win. For others though, the pressure to win gold is astronomical. Can you imagine having worked your entire life, literally, for one event – one race at a specific time and place and you know you must perform better than you’ve ever done before for a chance at gold? Your family, friends, and your entire country (it feels) are counting on you to win. Phew!

In a similar way though, we are all trying to win gold. We live in a world that covets, pursues, and praises achievement above pretty much everything else. Think about it. Everyone has the “gold medal” they must achieve. For some it’s financial freedom or being rich. For others it’s the perfect body, perfect mate, perfect house, perfect kids. Maybe it’s the dream job, dream experience, or dream retirement. Maybe it’s just having your way or being happy – whatever that means to you. For everyone, there is that thing. The personal gold medal. What’s yours?

In my personal study I’ve come to realize that all these typical “gold medals” we have for ourselves are ultimately unsatisfying. There are stories of Olympians who sell their medals, just as there are stories of people like you and me who work themselves sick to achieve their gold medal only to find out it wasn’t so great after all and they are left feeling discouraged and disappointed. Can you relate?

I think there is a better way. What if we went for the bronze medal – 3rd place, instead of gold? Try to follow me here. The pursuit of gold is very selfish. Yes, Olympians are racing for their country and maybe for a special cause or person, but ultimately it’s a selfish pursuit. All our “gold medal” pursuits are equally selfish. And they leave us wanting more. What if we didn’t live for ourselves and the “looking out for #1” and “it’s all about me” mindset? Gasp! How could we?!?

Ever heard of the I Am Second movement? It basically says that we should live for God, submitting ourselves to his purposes, his ways and by doing so we reap the benefits of living a fully satisfied life. Thousands of people including many celebrities are on board. They put themselves second instead of first. Silver instead of gold. If you are a Christian, this is the way we should live. God first, me second.

But we can take it a step further, which brings us to the point of this blog. By pursuing the bronze medal, 3rd place, we are saying God first, others second, then me. Ka-Pow!

Equation for you math wizards: Love God + Love Others = Fully Satisfied Life

Imagine if we applied this to our marriages… instead of an “I’m Number One” mindset, we chose to love our spouses with an “I am third” attitude… first and foremost comes our Savior, than you (my husband/my wife) whom I am called to joyfully serve, and then me. Oh, to be sure, there is a time and place for appropriate self-care, but more often than not, things are a bit out of balance in that department. #preachingtomyself

“Just as selfishness is a sure marriage killer, an attitude of service and sacrifice—the “I’m Third” philosophy—is an indisputable marriage builder.” –Dr. James Dobson

This is servant leadership, and it’s the best way to live. Amen? Can you imagine what marriage would be like if the heart’s desire of both partners was to joyfully serve the other? How might our work relationships improve? Dang, if everyone lived this way think what the Facebook news feed would look like!

Part of my personal journey is learning how to live this out. I’ve got a long way to go for sure, but I’ve been around enough to know my gold medals do not satisfy. “I’m Third” is unconventional, counter cultural, and radical – which is why I’m betting it works. Seems like this kind of mindset shift is just what the world needs right about now, don’t you think?

faith, Family

4 Things Married Men Should Never Do

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So, you’re a married man. Congratulations! Being married can be awesome and liberating. You get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend and someone who complements you completely – it’s tremendous.

The thing about marriage is that it actually provides a framework for you to thrive and flourish, to become your true self rather than someone who is just angling for another score.

But even though marriage is a time for you to feel free, there are a few things that married men should never do. Here are four of them.

1) Get emotionally vulnerable with a member of the opposite sex

Whether you’re unburdening yourself or whether they’re pouring out their heart to you, this is just a bad idea. Look, we all want to be the person who is kind and loving and who is “there” for those in need. And that’s a great person to be!

Just don’t be that person for a member of the opposite sex. Especially if it’s just the two of you.

Look, we’re not afraid of a man being friends or even being close with a woman that he’s not married to. But we also understand the realities of the way the human heart works, and we know that emotional vulnerability can wind up leading either – or both – of you to places you shouldn’t be going.

Someone else can be there for them. Or there for you. It’s not worth it.

2) Keep score

Hey, you want to know a great way to kill intimacy with your wife? Try keeping score!

When you get into a heated conversation (i.e. argument), don’t try to find resolution – just try to win. When your wife asks you to do something for her, remember it so you can use it later to force her to do something for you.

Oh, and when it comes to sex, definitely keep track of who initiates and when and then take it personally.

Of course we’re being sarcastic here. Keeping score is great when you’re playing actual games, but a terrible thing to do in marriage. You and your spouse are in this together, meaning you either both win or you both lose. Grow up.

3) Try to fix your wife

The great thing about your wife is that she is a wonderful puzzle of occasional contradictions who sometimes just needs to think out loud.

And at the risk of generalizing, we’re going to say that when she does think out loud, she’s not really looking for answers so much as a confidant and someone to back up the way she feels about something.

She probably doesn’t really want you to fix her situation, and she definitely doesn’t want you to fix her.

She wants an advocate.

You aren’t responsible for your wife’s emotions or actions. You know who is? She is. Let her be. Listen, be kind, back her up, and let her vent.

4) Stop doing the little things

You know how when you were dating you did all kinds of cool, fun, romantic little things? And you know how that made her feel?

Yeah, you should keep doing that stuff.

You probably already know this, because it’s in, like, every marriage book, blog, video course, conference, and getaway weekend. But there’s a reason for that: because it’s true.

You have to keep doing that stuff to let your wife know you still cherish her and respect her and have a desperate desire to continue surprising her, even after all these years.

And now it’s your turn, married guys. We’ve given you some ideas – take them as a springboard and start thinking of what you shouldn’t do as a married man, as well as all the many, many things that you can do. Get started. Live free.**

 

**This entire article was written by Craig Gross who started http://www.xxxchurch.com. He provides excellent resources for marriage and common struggles men in particular face. I enjoy sharing helpful and encouraging content from other subject matter experts. I hope this is helpful to you as it is to me.