Love & Respect (book review)

Love & Respect

My Grandma used to say this poem, “Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.” I thought of this again while reading Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love & Respect. If your marriage is bad, this book can help it get good; if your marriage is already good, this book can help it getter even better; if your marriage is already better, you can use this book to “best it.”

Many of the principles in this book generated an initial push-back from me. I found myself thinking, “I’m not so sure that would work.” But as I read on, I found almost all of those initial hesitancies dissolving.

The book is divided into three overarching sections that cover the three cycles in which your marriage could be: the Crazy Cycle (a bad marriage), the Energizing Cycle (a good marriage), and the Rewarded Cycle (the best marriage). Throughout all of the sections, there is sound, biblically-based counsel for husbands and wives. The title of the book—and most of the underlying principles—come from Ephesians 5:33 where the Apostle Paul tells women to respect their husbands, while husbands are to love their wives.

Be forewarned: the first part of this book felt a little like a commercial for Dr. Eggerichs’ Love & Respect seminar. And oftentimes I felt he was “plugging” his seminar throughout the book. But if you don’t mind the occasional sales-pitch feel, you will uncover some great truths to help your marriage go from bad to better to best.

I am a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Wounded Healer (book review)

Wounded Healer, The

“For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service. Whether he tries to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, his service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks” (from the introduction).

Henri Nouwen was a man ahead of his time. Although this book was written in the early 1970s, it sounds so applicable for today. The Wounded Healer challenged me as a Christian leader to step into the pain-filled lives as others in a more authentic way. Nouwen argues that healers must first be personally acquainted with the same type of pain that other wounded people are experiencing.

Isaiah 53 says that Christ “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.” Because Jesus was wounded in the same way we are wounded, He knows how to help (see Hebrews 2:18).

One closing quote from Nouwen: “If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness. … No one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his whole person into the painful situations, without taking the risk of become hurt, wounded or even destroyed in the process. The beginning and the end of Christian leadership is to give your life for others.”

This book reconfirmed my desire to—like Jesus—be a wounded healer for others.

Be All There

Once a friend of mine (whom I happen to think is more tuned-in to people’s needs than almost anyone else I know) went on a first date. He said the evening was pleasant, but felt his date was a bit distant. At the end of the evening when he brought up the subject of possibly going out again she informed him, “No, I don’t think we can go out again. You’re just not emotionally available for me.”

I know this wasn’t true for my friend, but have you ever been there? Ever been with someone, but it was obvious that they weren’t really there with you in the room? Frustrating, isn’t it?

[Insert tongue firmly in cheek as you read this next paragraph.] Now I’m certain that none of the readers of my blog would ever be distracted like this. And I know I’ve never done this myself. Since you and I, dear reader, always are 100% attentive to the people in the room with us, these next two quotes probably won’t pertain to you, but here they are anyhow:

“The human brain is simply not designed to multitask. You can get by doing multiple things at once, but you can’t do them well. Your brain is physically unable to process more than one set of instructions at a time, so while you are juggling all of those actions at once, your brain is scrambling to keep up. Through a variety of experiments measuring brain activity, scientists have discovered that the constant switching back and forth from one activity to another energizes regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination, while simultaneously disrupting the brain regions related to memory and learning. According to the research, ‘we are using our mental energy to concentrate on concentrating at the expense of whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on.’ Got that?

“More simply: when we multitask we’re dumber. How much dumber? A recent study for Hewlett Packard exploring the impact of multitasking on performance revealed that the average worker’s functioning IQ drops ten points when multitasking…. (The analogy the researchers used is that a ten-point drop in IQ is equivalent to missing one night of sleep.)” —Marcus Buckingham, Find Your Strongest Life

“Concentration, which leads to meditation and contemplation, is therefore the necessary precondition for true hospitality. When our souls are restless, when we are driven by thousands of different and often conflicting stimuli, when we are always ‘over there’ between people, ideas and the worries of this world, how can we possibly create the room and space where someone else can enter freely without feeling himself an unlawful intruder?” —Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

This week I’m making it my goal to be all there for whomever is here with me. I’m going to try my best to eliminate multitasking and truly concentrate on the one spending time with me. Are you ready to try this with me? Let me know how it goes.

Life Lessons From College Football

Tebow & Meyer

Football is hands-down my favorite sport. I love watching coaches strategizing with their teams, and players executing so precisely the plays they have practiced over and over again. I love the emotional highs and lows I feel after great plays for and against my team.

Over the past couple of years, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching three premier college quarterbacks that are not only great players but great men too: Colt McCoy at Texas, Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, and Tim Tebow at Florida.

Saturday, in his game against Mississippi State, Tim Tebow had a rough outing. Twice he was intercepted. And if that wasn’t bad enough, both of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Ouch!

But then after the game, his coach Urban Meyer made an amazing statement. When asked about the interceptions he said, “I put Tim in a bad position. He shouldn’t have had to make those throws.”

This really got me thinking about the coaching I do with my own kids. Do I put them in a position where they can be successful? Do I put them in places where their strengths can come into play? Do I try my best to keep them out of positions where their weaknesses could overwhelm their strengths?

Obviously, Urban Meyer did not throw those interceptions; Tim Tebow did. But Coach Meyer took responsibility, saying, “As a coach, it’s my job to put my players in a place to be successful.” This is what I’m striving for: not yelling at my kids for their “interceptions” but looking first at my coaching skills. I want to set up my kids to be winners.

Life On Life

In my remarks at the funeral in which I was officiating on Wednesday, I quoted the great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. He was reportedly addressing a couple of under-performing players when he said, “When all’s said and done, usually more is said than done.” In other words, don’t talk about what you’re going to do, just do it.

One of my passions is to mentor and equip other people to do great things. I’ve found that the best way to do this is not to just talk about what they should be doing, but to step into their life and do those things with them—to do more than I say.

This life-on-life mentoring is challenging but so incredibly rewarding. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ. C’mon, let’s pursue this relationship with Jesus together. I’m going to keep you close to me so that you can look in on what I’m doing, and I’m going to be right here for you too. Let’s draw closer to Jesus together” (see 1 Corinthians 11:1)

I love the one-on-one times with my kids … brainstorming with the young leaders-in-training at church … having challenging conversations with an accountability friend … opening our home to a young single mom. These interactions keep me focused on staying as close to Christ as I can. Because if I lose sight of Him, so might the others who are connected with me life-on-life.

It’s pretty hard to say, “Follow me while I do my own thing.” So I’m redoubling my efforts to stay close to the Master today.

It’s A Love-Hate Thing

Are there things you love to do, but hate to do at the same time?

Ah, yes, that wonderful love-hate relationship. I spent most of the first part of this week in a love-hate thing, and I discovered yet again that love outweighs hate. To rediscover this, all I had to do was agree to walk through a funeral with a grieving family again.

I hate seeing families grieving. I love being able to share hope with them.

I hate how drained I feel after funerals. I love seeing the flicker of encouragement glow in others.

I hate tearful goodbyes. I love the knowledge of joyful reunions.

I hate preparing funeral messages that remind people of eternity. I love sharing that Jesus is the Promise of an eternity in heaven.

I hate having every eye in the room on me. I love seeing God speak His truth through me.

Yup, it’s true: walking through a funeral with a grieving family is—hands down—something that so drains me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually more than anything else I do. But I wouldn’t trade this privilege to step into hurting people’s lives for anything. Yes, love triumphs over hate!

My New Club

The newest member of the Junky Car Club

The newest member of the Junky Car Club

I like my car. It’s a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville. This is the second Bonneville I’ve owned. I bought my first one with 70,000 miles and put 130,000 miles on it. I bought my second Bonneville with 100,000 miles on it, and I’m now up to 175,000 miles.

It’s running like a top. But it’s now officially a member of the Junky Car Club.

This club was started by a pastor who was concerned about how much money Christians were spending to keep up appearances. Like somehow a good-looking, new-fangled, gadget-laden, brand-spanking-new car signaled to everyone that we were successful.

Successful, maybe, but also spending a lot of money to make sure everyone knows how successful we are (or pretend to be). So instead of spending the money on the car payments, why not keep the older car and then be able to give more money to worthwhile charities? Great concept! Here is JCC founder Mike Foster explaining the idea behind this club.

My car may rattle a bit, and the trunk leaks when it rains, and the interior dome light doesn’t come on when I open the door, and the coat hanger in the back seat is broken. But I hate having car payments, and my car is running just fine. I joined the JCC because I love what they stand for, and I want to identify with them.

If your car is older and you’re contemplating a shiny-new car, I would ask you to consider joining the JCC with me. The money you’ll be saving on car payments, that you can give away, can make a huge difference in others’ lives.

Greatest Story… Ever

LogosSome people say, “Print is dead.” Perhaps. Probably because there was never a word or a story like the greatest Story. There is a Word that not only came alive but is still alive. A Story that is still being told, still being lived out right before our eyes.

Listen to how John, the disciple who was so crazy-in-love with Jesus, said it:

  • The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. //NIV
  • And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. //AMP
  • The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish. //MSG

In our Impact! Youth service this week we’ll begin looking at this living Story: the Word that came to life and is being lived out right before our eyes even now. It’s a Story in which we play an important part too.

I love this Story. I love telling this Story again and again. I love being a part of this Story. I’d love it if you could join us on Wednesday evenings for a new look at the greatest Story ever.

Unusual Blessing

On Saturday night I was in the hospital with a family as their loved one took his final breath. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a room with someone as their life here ends. And I’m certain it won’t be the last time. I feel blessed to be able to do this.

Before you think I sound morbid, hear me out on this.

I feel blessed to have had some valuable training for this. Long before I became a pastor (a “doctor” of the spirit) I was studying to be a medical doctor (a doctor of the body). I’m so grateful that I received enough training to be prepared for these settings.

I feel blessed to be there for the grieving family. When the emotions are so raw and the pain so deep, I’m grateful that God places me in a position to truly be a minister to hurting people.

I feel blessed to be reminded of the shortness and preciousness of life. It reminds me that life is fragile and short. It reminds me to hug more often, express love more frequently, and not take any time with my loved ones for granted.

Being in the hospital room as someone passes from this life is not an easy thing. But I wouldn’t trade the blessing of being a pastor for anything.

Trading A Can For A Kid

Trade off

As we wrapped up our Bigger Than Me series last night, I asked our youth group how we could know that we are putting what we believe into action. It’s easy to deceive ourselves and say, “I’m doing a pretty good job,” but now do we know we’re doing what God wants us to do.

In Bigger Than Me we talked about stepping out of our comfort zone into The UnZone. We looked at the importance of walking in empathy (or, as we said it, walking in someone else’s flip-flops) to know what they are really feeling. Using empathy as the starting point, we then looked at the importance of praying for other people’s needs as though they were our own. And then we talked about how one person doing the right thing—even though nobody else is—made it easier for others to make the choice to do the right thing too.

So here’s the big ask. How do we put this into action? How do we join faith with deeds?

Our youth group was challenged to take on the responsibilities of sponsoring two students in the Latin America Child Care program. For just $64 per month, we’re making sure that two students get a school uniform, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, get a quality education, and—best of all—have an opportunity to meet Jesus as their personal Savior.

Just $64 per month. For our youth group that’s like each person giving up one can of Pepsi, Coke, Monster (or their other favorite beverage) each month. One drink per month so that two students can have a better future.

Think about it: are you willing to trade one can for one kid? Our youth group did. They responded to the big ask, they stepped up to the challenge, they are putting their faith into action. I’m so proud of them!

How can you step up to the challenge?

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