Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who Did We Miss Today?

"Rebecca Wells, a compliance auditor and USC graduate, died in her cubicle Friday, but no one noticed her body for an entire day. The LA County employee was eventually noticed by a security guard on Saturday afternoon. Her body was found slumped over her desk, according to reports."

That news story ran just the other day. A fifty-one year old woman passed away at work and no one saw her struggle, take her last breath or lay there alone. And of course we don't know the circumstances and perhaps this was just a quirky situation that no one could have helped.

But unfortunately, there are people dying all around us every day.  No, not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Their marriage is tanking, kids are hurting, job is gone, they feel like no one cares, and their personhood has taken all sorts of hits that make them feel worthless. In addition, many of them have no understanding that God loves them, cares about them and wants to give them life, real life.

I remember one of my grad school teachers and respected author Larry Crabb telling us to remember that, People are hurting more deeply than we know.  And yes, we're often surprised by the ones right around us - coworkers, church attenders, leaders and even family members who all of a sudden expose some deep wound that we never knew about.

And we can never know people's thoughts and emotions that they aren't willing to share but we can at least open the door to being a caring, loving friend, spouse or parent who might be the help they need.  How?

First, listen beneath the words.  You don't have to be a therapist to do this.  Just listen for generic statements that may send a deeper message.  A potential exchange:   "How are you today?"  "Oh, fine."  "Just fine?"

Now don't be a pain on this one.  If they say, "Yes, just fine," then let it go. But sometimes people will let you in to talk more and will welcome your concern.  Spouses and parents would be wise to practice this and do it well and often.

Second, build relationships that welcome openness.  My boss regularly asks me, "How's your heart?" And I know he means it and really wants to know.  I also know I can trust him.  That kind of relationship takes time but he doesn't have to work really hard to hear about when I'm struggling.  This should come naturally for spouses and parents but often we don't go here with each other. Start early and respond lovingly no matter what you hear and you will be surprised at the results.

Third, model openness.  When my boss and I share I also feel comfortable telling him things because I've seen his heart, too. He models authenticity.  We must do the same with others especially in our homes.  But instead home can become a place where we keep stockpiling all sorts of things we never talk about: disappointments, failures, being sad, and the like. Instead make your home a place where it's safe to mess up, make a mistake and be hurting inside.

Who might be dying in your world or home today?  Get next to them, speak to them words of life and offer them a listening ear that just might be the resuscitation they needed to stay alive and healthy.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nothing Says LOVE Like When We Says It

Every year there is Valentine's Day. Most wives have spent time either pouring over the cards in the card shop or like my wife, making one. Most guys will be trying to find a store still open after midnight and will pick out a card in less than sixty seconds. (I actually picked one out that quickly once but hung around a few minutes longer just to make sure the woman nearby didn't think I was just a  heartless jerk going through the motions. And I really did get a nice card!)

And yes, those special touches, the gifts, nice dinner, flowers and cards are helpful reminders that our sweetheart is really special. But maybe we put a little too much stock IN an object to express our love when our spouse needs to be more the object OF our love.

So what am I saying about love?  Express it verbally. Yep, say it - often, meaningfully and in variety of times, places and ways.  Don't be like the crotchety husband who replied when asked why he never said "I love you" anymore, "I told you I loved you the day we got married.  That should be enough."

Really?  No, it's not enough. There is power in our words for good and bad. Say it on the phone, when you separate at the beginning of the day, when you come home, when you're being romantic, when you just need to. Hearing "I love you" is like adding fuel to the emotional tank of our spouse.  When we keep making healthy deposits into one another's health reservoir we help them build up a reserve that will sustain them through the not-so-nice struggles and disappointments of life.

It will be much easier for us to deal with hurts, disappointments and even conflict if we have a positive balance in our love bank. Saying the words helps stamp our feelings for one another more deeply into the recesses of our souls.

And we must remember that we can have short memories when it comes to being loved.  Love must be expressed, modeled and most of all said out loud.  Those three little words, "I love you," have the power to heal a wound, restore a heavy heart and poured renewed strength and energy into a troubled soul.

When will your next opportunity be to say "I love you" to your spouse?  Will you take advantage of it?  I hope so. Because we must never forget that the next opportunity will someday be our last! Don't wait.  Just say it - now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Are You Doing HOME Maintenance?

We just experienced extended, freezing temperatures in Austin, TX. That doesn't happen very often. We even got an inch of snow, the kind of thing that only shows up once or twice a decade! Unfortunately a lot of homes and their owners weren't prepared for these unusual stresses.

As a result, pipes froze and broke. And before long what started as a slow leak turned into a major flood and some unfortunate damage occurred for some.

The same can be true in families. They don't prepare well, haven't provided the kind of insulation and warmth their homes need and let slip some of the important emotional maintenance that should have been taking place all along.  And if they're not careful, the drip, drip, drip of family or spousal concerns can become a damaging flood that no one saw coming.

So, while we can't avoid family struggles and concerns, we can at least do our best to manage and maintain.  How?  Well, don't get apathetic.  Don't assume everyone's just fine. Listen to each other, take inventory now and then, ask some questions.  Sometimes just spending meaningful, focused time with your spouse and/or kids will help you know what's going on and what needs attention.

Anticipate the potential problems.  A lot of people where we live found out they didn't know where the water shut off valve was and when the flooding started were in big trouble. Have you determined what you will do in a crisis?  Do people in your family see you as a cool cucumber when stress comes or are you the one who freaks out every time something goes even slightly wrong?  Do you have some helpful valves so to speak that will help deal with anger, disappointment, and even tragedy?

Do you have  resources and people who you can call on to help you through the hard times?

Keep learning. None of us has all the answers. Our community shared a lot of ideas through an email connection I happen to facilitate when the problems started happening.  We all learned a lot, some the hard way.  Nonetheless, I think everyone knows now that we need to be a bit more intentional about learning what we can in the still water (excuse the pun) before we hit the rough waters.

So keep reading, listening, and gaining from the insights of other wise people about marriage and parenting.  Grow your soul through your relationship with God and spend time with others who have walked the path before you.

And when a family pipe bursts at your house maybe you'll be a bit more ready next time. Or perhaps you'll have done enough to keep it from happening in the first place! 
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.