Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why Decision Makers Are Hard to Find

"Decision makers are hard to find. Here’s why: In decision making, we are either right or we are wrong. This pressure is often too much hassle for the average man.  Decision makers are leaders who accept the responsibility of making a decision. Lack of courage to make decisions brings failure in personal lives, in homes, and in churches.  That great monster of “consequences” is the threat keeping us in our dugouts when the game is tied."
--  Don H. Polston  (passed away Jan. 22, 2014)

It's Winter in Wisconsin

It's winter in Wisconsin 
And the gentle breezes blow 
Seventy miles an hour 
At twenty-five below. 
Yes, the weather here is wonderful 
So I guess I'll hang around 
I could never leave Wisconsin 
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground!
(from a poem sent to me by my friend, Shirley)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Building a Marriage That Lasts

A report from the Family Research Institute on the State of Marriage in Wisconsin reported that 70% of people believe that the institution of marriage is weaker than it was 20 years ago. Statistics prove the case. In the 1930's, 1 out of 7 marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960's it was 1 out of 4. This year, it is predicted that at least half of the marriages will not survive. Each year, more than 200,000 new marriages end prior to the second anniversary. Around half of recently married couples expressed doubts as to whether their marriage union will last. 49% of these reported serious marriage problems.

What can be done to stem the tide and turn marriage back around? How can we build marriages that last?

The first step to building stronger marriages is to start the relationship on the right foot.

Most ministers in our community require extensive pre-marital counseling. Although some couples seem to view this as an annoyance -- it is vital to building a positive foundation for the marriage. There are many excellent resources and tests which measure compatibility and the potential difficulties the couple may encounter. It's best to know these things ahead of time.

Many helpful books have been written for engaged couples such as Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les Parrott and Preparing for Marriage by Dennis Rainey. These texts help couples dig deep relationally, and address such areas as conflict resolution, money, sexual issues, and communication.

Starting on the right foot does not include living together before you're married. Contrary to what some may think, cohabitation sharply increases the odds of divorce. We were created to be married first -- and then to live together. Not the other way around. When people get the cart before the horse, it causes trouble in the relationship.

Secondly, couples must keep a realistic view of the relationship

Marriage is the imperfect union of two imperfect people relating imperfectly. No wonder so many people have struggles in marriage!

Sometimes, people are disappointed when life together does not resemble a Hollywood romance. Marriages might be made in heaven, but they have to be worked out here on earth!

The vows, "for better and for worse" were put in there on purpose. The commitment of marriage has to be big enough to include the "worse". If it doesn't, the relationship quickly falls disintegrates.

Love, according to Bible, bears all things. This includes annoyances, conflicts and pet peeves.

Nobody has a perfect marriage -- but a really good marriage is within the reach of every couple that makes the commitment and pays the price.

Thirdly, Intimacy is built through meeting your partner's emotional needs.

Willard Harley's excellent book, His Needs, Her Needs points out the importance of making deposits in your spouse's "love tank." This is the way to keep the sense of closeness. His web site, Marriage Builders, is very helpful for couples desiring to build a deeper relationship.

Selfishness is the number one enemy of marriage intimacy. It's hard to be close when you're being selfish. Instead of asking, "When will my partner meet my needs?" you should be asking, "How can I serve and encourage my partner?"

Every husband want to be respected. Every wife want to be cherished.

Fourth, Keep your eyes on the long haul.

A really good marriage is based on lifetime commitment. Here are the A.B.C.'s of a marriage that goes the distance:

A -- Anchor Your Marriage Relationship in God. 

A Harvard Study revealed that couples who 1) read the Bible together 2) Pray together and 3) Attend Church together regularly have a divorce rate of 1 in 1287! That's less than 1/10 of 1%! There is no better way to divorce proof your marriage!

B -- Be Attentive, Honest, Caring and Open.

C -- Commit Yourself for Life. Together forever!

D -- Don't Go to Bed Angry.

E-- Examine Your Heart and Express Your Love Daily 

If you say "I love you" every day for 50 years -- that's 18,250 "I love you's!" and each one draws you closer together.

F -- Forgive 

"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage," said Ben Franklin, "and half shut afterwards."

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Daniel Plan

Recently, I had the privilege of reading The Daniel Plan, by Rick Warren.  This is so much more than a book.  Rather, it is a way of life -- a pathway to health.

In November 2010, as Warren, widely recognized as America's Pastor, baptized over 800 people, he realized something -- his congregation desperately needed to lose weight -- and he did too.

Warren got serious about his health habits, and with the assistance of three well known physicians mapped out The Daniel Plan.  He took his church through it together, as a pilot project, and collectively they lost more than 250,000 pounds!

The Daniel Plan is not a primarily diet book.  It is a way of healthy living, based on five pillars:  faith, food, fitness, focus and friends.

The book provides specific, practical steps a person can take over 40 days to become more healthy.  Anyone following these guidelines is guaranteed to come out the other side in much better condition.

I must admit, I've appreciated this work primarily as a spectator, rather than a fully engaged participant. I suppose I still need some attitude adjustment (and Warren addresses attitude -- which is an excellent part of the book.)

Some of his menu suggestions, for instance, stretch my imagination.  For those who are really ready to buckle down and get serious about their health, this resource provides a way.

For the rest of us, who aren't quite there -- but should begin taking small steps towards better health habits, I appreciate Warren's suggestion:  Start with one thing.  What one thing can you add (or eliminate) from your life that would lead to better health?

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to my by the publisher for review on this blog.  I was not required to post a positive review,.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Live for the Long Haul

You were designed to live for the long haul! Life’s a long distance marathon, not a 50 yard dash.With that in mind, it's vital to keep the big picture in mind. Most of us get tangled in the minutia of the moment and forget to look beyond the current situation.

Most worries aren't really that important in light of the big picture – the long haul. The next time you find yourself “all worked up” about something, ask this question, "Will this really matter ten years from now?" That question puts it in perspective. I’ve discovered that most of my frettings of very little consequence.

Long haul living requires some long range thinking:

*  What are you willing to sacrifice today for a greater gain tomorrow?

*  What habits today will destroy your health and/or relationships tomorrow?

 *  If you continue in the same direction and at the same pace as you
are going today, where will that lead you tomorrow?

*  If your money management patterns today continue, what will your
financial picture be tomorrow?

*  What does your spiritual condition today say about your spiritual
destination tomorrow?

*  Are you content with where you are heading in your life? If not,
what changes need to be made?

Here's a wild idea: Think of something you really should be doing -- but you've just not gotten around to it.

Get up from reading this and go find a mirror. Look at yourself in that mirror and say, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! I’m not going to delay another day. I’ve been wanting to do this someday – and someday starts today. I’m going to do it now! “

Then, go out and do it!

This very instant is the first moment of the rest of your life. There’s no better time to get going than right now!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Problems Help You Grow

Your problems can help you grow!

Life’s difficulties can seem overwhelming. Disappointments, rejection, and painful experiences tempt us to cave into discouragement.

When faced with a Goliath sized obstacle, what do you do? Cower in fear? Ignore it? Throw a tantrum?

On ignoring: In The Hobbit, Tolkein remarks, “If a dragon lives with you, it’s best never to leave him out of your calculations.”

Genuine problems must not be ignored. If you sweep a dead skunk under the rug, it won’t get any better.

So how do we deal with difficulty? Put the problem in the right perspective! Realize that life is made up of problems. Troubles are everywhere and everybody has them. Don’t be surprised when they come
your way.

Problems contain the seeds of their own solution. You can find the answer if you get on the “solution side” rather than the “problem side”. (By the way, you don’t have to be too smart to identify a problem. You need to stretch your brain a little, however, to see the solution.)

Problems are only temporary. Better days are ahead.

Focus on what you have, rather than what you’re lacking.

Be patient and learn something from this situation. Every pearl is the result of an oyster’s victory over an irritation.

If you don’t get bitter, you surely will get better!

Turn the problem over to God. He can rectify what you have wrecked.

Don’t run from your problems. Instead, let them stretch, challenge, and develop you.

Deal with today’s problems today. Refuse to put off what needs to be done now.

By the same token, do not allow worry to take over your life. As poet, Robert Frost stated,“Just take things as they come and handle them the best you can.”

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Call to Pastoral Health

Pastor, if you want your congregation to be healthy, you need to become healthy yourself.  Here's a great article by my friend, Lenny Luchetti, on the subject:  Healthy Pastor, Healthy Church.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Keep Paddling

Life brings its share of negativity.  To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker, "Stuff Happens."

We should not be surprised when difficulties arise.  It's a part of the human condition. We should expect the unexpected, and not be dismayed when things don't go according to plan.

Every summer, I canoe down the Namekagon River.  Sometimes, we hit rocks.  Sometimes, we tip over. Sometimes, we get stuck in the shallows and are forced to get out and drag the boat.  Often, we get soaked to the bone, and lose items.  Nevertheless, I continue to paddle. The challenges are what make the voyage an adventure.

You can't canoe without a risk, but if you don't take the risk, you'll miss the reward. Traveling the wilderness by canoe brings breathtaking views of nature and wildlife.  It provides a beautiful bond between traveling companions, and creates memories that will last a lifetime.

The river journey is worth navigating the rocks and shallows.

Maybe, instead of protesting our problems, we should just consider them a part of the grand adventure,

Plans aren't working out?  No problem, adjust your plans and keep paddling.

Expect the unexpected.  Experiencing discomfort and difficulty means you're you're alive.

You're going to hit a few rocks.  Sometimes your boat will tip over. Occasionally, it will be a tough drag -- but if you drag and paddle long enough, you'll reach the destination.

Canoeists do better when they look ahead for the ripples and rocks.  That's true in life as well.  Often, problems present themselves before they become a crisis.  If you keep your eyes open for the obstacles, you may be able to steer clear of them entirely.  The less you look ahead to what's coming, the more likely you're going to capsize.

If your boat flips - -and it will from time to time -- don't let it ruin the journey.  Learn a lesson, dump out the water, climb back in the boat and keep paddling.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Keep Your Soul Warm When it is Colder Than Cold

As I write this, a deep freeze looms on the horizon.  Northern
Wisconsin Januaries are always cold -- but this is colder than cold.

In this weather, Jack Frost does more than nip your nose.  You have to
be careful.

Even my dog Vin makes a quick dash for potty breaks.  As I took him
out this morning, I spoke the words Jesus said to Judas, "Whatsoever
thou doest, do it quickly."

Northwoods folks gain grim satisfaction from the cold endurance. Cars
won't start in cold snaps, but conversations will.  Those who brave
the wilds to visit the post office or grocery store compare mercury
readings .  Bottom line -- it's colder than cold out there!

When it hits 25 below, my kids and I take advantage of the situation.
We toss boiling water into the air, and watch it turn instantly into a
cloud of ice crystals.  We also blow soap bubbles, which freeze
immediately and drop slowly to the ground as ice balls.

If it's going to get this cold, we might as well have some fun with it.

In seasons like this, I'm thankful for warmth indoors.  I'm grateful
for a good furnace, and the kind man who keeps it running for us.  We
take our furnaces for granted, and they escape our attention unless
they aren't working properly.

Today, when it is so cold on the outside, I'm glad it is warm on the inside.

And I believe a spiritual truth is embedded there somewhere.

Winter storms may rage on the outside.  Circumstances may be stark,
frigid and threatening.  Yet, if you keep your furnace of faith
stoked, your soul will stay warm.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Evangelize as You Edify, Edify as you Evangelize

“Don’t just preach to your congregation for spiritual growth, assuming that everyone in attendance is a Christian; and don’t just preach the gospel evangelistically, thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. Evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.” -- Tim Keller

I found this astute Keller quote in a great blog post, How Andy Stanley and Tim Keller Preach With Non-Believers in Mind, by Trevin Wax.