10 Ways to Murder a Marriage (Part 2)

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-MarriageThe following post is a continuation of an earlier post (find it here) describing behaviors that can murder a marriage.

6.  Refuse to forgive.  Some couples fight and refuse to forgive.  They stuff their anger, their resentments and their bitterness.  They refuse to forgive and move on.  The old negative behaviors of the past are allowed to accumulate in one’s heart and mind, like smelly garbage that is never taken out.

At some point, when this couple is in a heated battle, they open the garbage bag and drag out the past failures of their spouse.  Out comes nasty resentments and more anger.

Refusing to forgive can destroy the intimacy in a marriage and put one another at a distance.

7.  Be disrespectful to one another.  I once knew a couple who regularly showed disrespect toward one another.  They didn’t just disagree.  They wanted to hurt one another.  She would accuse him of not being a real man with any backbone.  He accused her of being cold and unresponsive.  Their language toward one another was demeaning and hurtful.

Disrespect can slowly destroy the tenderness that a couple may have had toward one another at one time.

8.  Act in an untrustworthy manner.  A man in his late thirties has been on a number of business trips with his company.  He never wears his wedding ring when he travels and is very flirty with female co-workers.  At one point, his co-workers were shocked to learn that he was married. Eventually, his wife found out about his reputation at work.  Now she refuses to trust him.

Behaving in an untrustworthy manner is a major breech in a marriage and destroys the trust that might have once existed.

9.  Be manipulative.  Manipulators attempt to get what they want without being honest enough to be transparent.  A woman once said regarding a family member: “I feel like he is always up to something.”  The manipulator is always trying to put himself at an advantage so that he can get what he wants.

Husbands and wives who manipulate one another destroy their opportunity to practice self-giving love while they opt instead for power and control.

10.  Put yourself first.  

Putting yourself first in your marriage destroys the opportunity to follow Jesus while you decide you choose instead to go your own way.

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage

marriage-broken-eggThe following is part 1 of a two part post in which I reflect on how to destroy a marriage. We have been married for 34 years and have had a front row seat to many, many other marriages.

1.  Create an atmosphere that no one would want to come home to in the evening. Do nothing but stare at your television night after night.  Complain.  Gripe at her or him for mistakes.  Go to bed angry and resentful.  Repeat the next day.

Constant carping, complaining and whining can destroy the atmosphere of a marriage. 

2.  Use pornography.  This is an ever increasing temptation not only for men, but women as well. You can lose yourself in a make believe world.  Pornography creates the illusion that sex is basically about the enjoyment of one person, instead of the mutual service of two people.  You don’t have to grow.  You don’t have to mature.  You don’t have to work at the give and take of relationship.

Pornography can destroy intimacy in marriage.

If You Are Not Praying for Your Children

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?

This occurred to me a few years ago as I thought about my prayer life and my own children. If I am not praying for my own children, then who is? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I can give to my children is faithful prayer.

Our children, whether small children or adults, live in a very difficult world. How important and encouraging for mom and dad to lift them up in prayer every single day of their lives.


My two children are now adults. Both are married. They each live a great distance from Charlotte and me. In some ways, we have little influence over what they do each day.

Yet, we lift them up in prayer each day, believing God will work intimately and powerfully in their lives wherever they are. We believe that God loves them, cares for them, and calls them to live under his rule. It is important that we pray for them.

3 Suggestions for Investing in Another’s Day

James Boswell (1740-1795) is best known as the author of what some have claimed is the greatest biography written in English:  The Life of Samuel Johnson. invest.jpg

Boswell was the eldest child of Alexander and Euphemia Boswell.  As a young boy he began to show signs of the depression that had affected his family for several generations.  He also experienced extreme timidity.

Many years later, as an adult, Boswell often referred to a very special day in his childhood when his father took him fishing.  The day was fixed in his mind as a significant moment in his life.   He often reflected on the things that his father had taught him on that day.  After hearing Boswell refer to this day on a number of occasions, someone once decided to check the journals that Boswell’s father had been keeping.  The man wanted to see what had been said about that trip from the perspective of a parent.  

Turning to that date in this journal, the reader found that only one sentence had been entered.

“Gone fishing today with my son:  a day wasted.”   

Wow!  Now isn’t that ironic?  

James Boswell remembered that particular day for decades.  It was one of the memorable occasions of his life.

From the perspective of Boswell’s father however, it was a day wasted.

Sometimes you and I may think that a particular day didn’t amount to much.  I may be frustrated because my plans and intentions did not seem to work out.  Yet this very day may have been highly significant for someone else.

Guest Post: Walter Petticrew

Walter Petticrew recently left a comment on this blog in which he discussed some of the important practices of his family. I thought these were very good and needed to be read by our regular readers.

My wife and I have two children. Our son, and elder child had muscular dystrophy and passed away two years ago, shortly before his 20th birthday. Our daughter, now 19, is getting ready for college. So raising our children was different in many wfamily01.pngays. However there are some principles that, looking back, I would say shaped all of us and continue to do so today.

*Spend time with your children. My time was bath time with them. We would spend a minimum of an hour. It gave my wife some well-deserved rest and was the best transition time from work to home. The tradition of the bathtub was for me to make up stories while they played. It got to the point where we had a favorite character, “Oscar the Turkey,” so each night we had a new adventure of what Oscar was up to next.

*Life is not fair; yet in the hand we are dealt, God is with us. We knew this was the case for us, but it becomes even more clear each day now. There is grace and blessing everywhere; but when you are in the thick of it the grace can be hard to see. That leads to….

*Patience. (God’s and our). God knew what we were in and revealed to us all the blessings in the hardships

*Honesty. It has always been a foundation in our home. We had to be honest with our children and they demanded the same of us. It can be hard. I recall the exact moment when our son, then six, said, “I am going to die because of my disease.” We never gave him a false hope or said “Don’t worry about it.” We told him the truth.

*As a father, I took it upon myself to make sure we had a lot of smiles. My wife is a natural in this category, but I feel that dads need to show kids examples of “good crazy,” such as getting out of the car after work and jumping in the pool with your kids with your clothes on.

*Show appropriate affection to your wife in all matters. They must see you hug and kiss and love. Then invite them in for a group hug and in that hug pray over the family. Family hugs and prayer are meant for each other. Take advantage of that.

*Have night and morning prayer time with your children. My daughter, 19, still will not leave for school or the house without me praying for her before she leaves. Your children want you to pray for them.

*Be in a Bible study and let your children watch you study. I was very fortunate. I have been active in a Monday night Bible study for over 12 years. Each night when I got home and put my son to bed, he would always ask “What did you learn in Bible study?” We would spend a good hour talking about it.

*Be the kind of house and family that will cause your kid’s friends to want to spend time there. One of our regular events (still is) has been the fire pit. It got to the point where on almost every weekend my son’s friends would ask if we could have a fire pit that night. This went on from 4th grade and continues to this day. Even now, some of my son’s friends, even though they are in college, will come and spend a weekend with us. We always had a great mix of laughs and serious dialogue. We earned the trust of the kids in our neighborhood, and it was always a time to invite Christ into their lives.

One last note: If possible make sure they know their grandparents. It is very important for both of them.

The Messiness of Raising Children (Our Attempt)

Today is our oldest daughter’s birthday. It has hard to believe that 29 years ago, we had our first baby. Now Christine and her sister Jamie, are grown and have families of their own.

I recently thought about the years we were together as a family. We were all learning together. We certainly made lots of mistakes. However, as I think back to the many conversations Charlotte and I had about our children, this is what I recall:


1. We tried to establish consistent habits such as reading Bible stories at bedtime, praying together, and eating meals together.

2. We never wanted to put pressure on them because they were a minister’s children. We tried to communicate they were children of God, just like everyone else.

3. We talked about our faith and God at home. We did so as a part of our everyday lives.

4. We attempted to be consistent in what we taught our children through our words and actions.

5. We went on family vacations together. Some of the most signifiant conversations occurred late at night when one parent was driving while one of the children rode in the front seat.

6. We tried to communicate again and again, God’s care and concern for them. We did this each night when we put them to bed. Later we attempted to do this through notes, conversations and prayer.

7. We wanted our children to see that our lives did not center around them but around God. This can take enormous pressure off children. Rather, they see that we have a higher purpose outside ourselves.

8. We attempted to communicate basic godly virtues such as honesty, truth-telling, and patience.

Again, we did this imperfectly.


What has been important to you in raising your children?

5 Ways to Build a Solid Foundation for Marriage

Are you young and newly married? Or, have you been married for a few years?stk142184rke

Regardless, the attention you give to the foundation of your marriage is important. In fact, it is critical. How you build your married life together right now will impact you for many years to come.

When Charlotte and I got married, we loved each other and wanted our marriage to be good. However, I don’t think I had any idea about the kind of behaviors and habits needed to build a solid foundation. About all I knew was make an effort to be a good husband. Looking back, I think I missed some opportunities that might have helped us begin our marriage well.

Unfortunately, many couples begin their marriages by paying little attention to what makes their foundation strong. As a result, they miss opportunities to build a solid foundation.

The following five suggestions can help you begin to build a great foundation. If you have been married for a while, these might be reminders of what will help keep your foundation strong.

1. Pay attention to one another now. Yes, a husband and wife may be in the same room. However, they may actually pay little attention to one another. Instead, night after night the television blares while they each focus on their phones. Far too many couples communicate with others (texts, Facebook messages, tweets) but spend little energy connecting with each another.

2. Set up protective boundaries now. Talk with one another about appropriate boundaries with persons of the opposite sex. Talk about appropriate boundaries for conflict. (For example, a couple should not use demeaning language or dredge up old wounds.) Couples need to talk about boundaries with their families of origin and how they will relate to them.

3. Commit yourselves to an encouraging Christian community now. Far too many Christian couples are only nominally connected to a church during their first few years of marriage. Listen, the time to connect with a church is immediately. Find a Christian community that will support and encourage your marriage. Find a church where there are not only others your age who are married but older believers who have invested their lives building good marriages.

4. Take the initiative to build your friendship now. Unfortunately, the expectations for marriage are often so high and unrealistic that couples remain continually frustrated and disappointed. Far better to simply focus on building a loyal, life-giving friendship with your spouse. Focusing on your friendship can heighten the joy you experience in your marriage. (By the way, it will also bless your sexual relationship with one another.)   

5. Talk through your frustrations with one another now. Do not let the frustration build up inside you. Do not assume that it will just work itself out. Talk through your frustrations. Be the first to admit wrong. Make the first move to change your own behavior. Step up.


Which one of these five especially connected with you? What else might you include in this list of foundation building behaviors?

Being a Parent Who Refuses to Settle (1)

Being a parent is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. About the time you realize what you should have done during the last phase of your children’s lives, they have moved on to the next phase.


Being a parent is also very humbling. I still have much to learn about being a parent to my children. My children are now 28 and 24, and I continue to learn how to be a parent to two adult children. When our children were young, I read, listened to audio/video presentations on parenting, and watched other parents in order to learn. Again, I learned so much from just watching other parents. Periodically, I asked some of these parents questions about child rearing.

I have observed a few things in parents today which encourage me greatly. One evening, Charlotte and I were talking about a young family at our church. We have been in their home and around their children on numerous occasions. Watching them with their children was an encouraging experience. On the other hand, I have observed a few things which cause me concern.

What gives me concern:

1. A mom and dad who seem to think they have got this parenting thing down. There are some people who have been parents for a few years who almost seem to think they are a cut above other young parents. Sometimes they will have read one book on parenting and now see that book as the definitive work on parenting. No reason to read anything else or listen to anyone else. After all, they have read the book (not referring to the Bible). Contrast this spirit to the person who is humble and is always wanting to learn. Parenting does have a way of humbling many of us. It sure humbled me!.

2. A mom and dad who have basically yielded control of their family to their children. This family has become child centered (much to the detriment of the child). Whatever this child wants, this child gets. This happens regardless of how many other people are inconvenienced by the desire of these parents to please this child (or children) — at all costs. The child is the one who loses most in this arrangement.

3. A mom and dad who think that whatever their children do is cute, precious, special, etc. For example, here is a small child who is climbing across the pews or chairs after the Sunday morning assembly. The mother says, “Oh, he has so much pent up energy after our worship service is over.” Far better to say, “Son, stop walking on those pews. Get off! We don’t do this at home!” Some behaviors are cute and others are inappropriate. We do our church a huge favor when we teach them the difference.


What causes you concern as you observe parents with their children — in Wal-Mart, in your church, in your neighborhood, etc.?

These Five Habits Will Really Help You Enjoy Your Family More

Does your extended family have good habits for how they relate to each other?family1.png

Today, I am thinking about extended families as they relate to one another. These relationships include parents, children, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins. Of course, I don’t want to leave out my new role of grandparent. Regardless of our roles, we have to relate to one another if we are going to have relationship.

How do these people get along and experience the kind of family relationships that lead to joy instead of misunderstandings, resentments, and frustrations?

Families need to practice the habit of being dependable.

A part of being dependable is learning to be on time. Such a habit communicates that you respect another’s time. Some people are habitually late. This can become very frustrating to a family when meals, birthday parties, etc. are delayed because of the late relative. You can almost feel the frustration, especially when the late comers laugh about their lateness. Constant lateness often communicates a lack of respect for everyone else’s time.

Families need to practice the habit of returning what they borrow from one another.

You are at the store with your sister-in-law. She is about to go through the check out line when she turns to you and asks to borrow $20. Later, you express your frustration to your spouse that your sister-in-law never seems to have money with her at the store. Your spouse responds, “You can kiss that $20 good-bye! You will never see that money again.” You realize that he is right. She rarely repays money that she “borrows” and you feel somewhat resentful toward her for that.

Families should not have to chase down other family members in order to be reimbursed or to get their belongings back. Some people borrow the weed-eater and then fail to return it. Some borrow articles of clothing and don’t give them back. Some borrow dishes, tools, sports equipments, books, cd’s, etc. and for some reason don’t return them. This gets very frustrating and can create resentment in families.

Families need to practice the habit of simple courtesies.

Do you really need to keep answering your phone when you are at a family dinner with your parents, your siblings and nieces and nephews? Do you really need to text at the dinner table when your family is together? Do you really need to spend all of your time watching television when your children and grandchildren come to your house for the first time in four months?

Extended families might find that common courtesies such as saying, “please,” “thank you,” “I appreciate you for doing this,” will go a long way toward building a positive atmosphere when families are together.

Families need to practice the habit of taking no one for granted.

Far too often families have a way of taking one another for granted. For example, in some families, young parents assume that the grandparents should always be willing to babysit their young children. While other couples may have to find (and pay for) a babysitter, there are couples who expect their parents to be willing and available to keep their children. Of course these grandparents are often willing to do this, if for no other reason, than to spend time with their grandchildren. However, this gets very old when grandparents feel they are being taken for granted.

Likewise, some parents believe their adult children should always be available to do whatever they have planned. Perhaps these parents call one evening inviting their children over for dinner that weekend. Some adult children feel as if their parents expect them to be present or they will be upset.

There are some parents who assume that if they go out to eat, their adult children should pay for it. (After all, the kids are doing well financially while mom and dad may be on a fixed income.) Now that is fine if they have this agreement. The problem is in assuming this should happen each time they go to a restaurant. Likewise, there are adult children who seem to think that whenever mom or dad are present, they should pick up the check. These kinds of assumptions can create resentment and frustration over the years.

When families are together over Christmas, does everyone offer to help with expenses? Or do we assume that someone else is taking care of it? Think of the food that is consumed when families are together for several days during the Christmas season. Family members should look for opportunities to contribute and not just take for granted that someone else is paying for this.

Families need to practice the habit of being attentive to one another.

I believe that most families would say they want to be attentive to family members. It is the little things, however, that often leave us feeling as if we are not that valuable to one another. For example, when a person does not return the telephone calls of family members, this is very frustrating. Yet it is also disheartening when you see how quickly this same person returns the phone calls of their good friends. When we consistently fail to respond to e-mails, texts, phone calls, etc., we communicate something to our family. Often family members feel as if they are not valued.

In some families, the same person seems to take the initiative to communicate with the others. What does this say to our families when when make no effort to stay in touch, stay connected, or express care and interest in one another’s lives?  


What additional habit would you add to this list?

Being a Dad: 5 Ways to Move From Good to Great

Father’s Day!father-and-son.jpg

I am blessed to have two daughters, Christine and Jamie. Christine is married to Phillip and they are the parents of a little boy, not quite one year old. Jamie will be married to Cal in August. We are very proud of each one of them. Our family continues to change as we soon will not have not only two daughter’s, but two son’s-in-law.

I am grateful to be a dad. This morning, the Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on the importance of a dad in a daughter’s life. Sometimes, dads underestimate their importance in a child’s life. I believe that a dad can move from being good to being great by focusing on the kind of man he is becoming.

I want to suggest five ways to move from being a good dad to becoming a great dad.

Be a Lover

A great dad deeply loves his wife and children. His children listen and see his interaction with his wife. They know he is exclusively devoted to her. In turn, his children also experience an incredible love from their dad. His faithful love for his wife and for his children creates a safe, secure environment for his family.

Be a Person of High Character

A great dad models solid character before his children. This dad doesn’t manipulate others for his own gain. He tells the truth, even when it may not be to his advantage financially. When in line for a ticket at the amusement park, this dad tells the truth about the age of his child, even though that ticket may him more money. This dad practices truth telling and honor in some might perceive to be the little things.

Be Loyal

A great dad models loyalty in his relationships. He can be trusted. His affection for his wife is exclusive. This dad is no flirt at work. His family doesn’t wonder about who he is texting or privately meeting on Facebook. No, this dad has honor and is loyal to his family. He will not throw his family under the bus while he pursues his fantasy with other women.

Be Present

A great dad is present with his children. That is more than showing up at their ball games. Children know their dad is present by his eye contact and his active listening. Unfortunately, too many dads will not give their children complete eye contact. The television is always on and dad has one eye on the screen. Or, he constantly checks his phone as the texts come in. A great dad will turn off the television, the gadgets, and the phone in order to be fully present with his children.

A dad also communicates his presence by really listening to his children. Intently listening to our children really does increase the sense of connection that they experience. Looking back, there were times when our girls were at home, that I should have spoken less and listened more.

Be a Jesus Follower

A great dad, who claims to be a Christian, really does intentionally follow Jesus in his life. That is, he lives with the intention of carrying out his teachings at work and at home. He models this lifestyle before his children. This is not about the perfection of his life but the direction of his walk. This dad desires for his children to see what it means to be an authentic Jesus follower.


What would you add to this list?