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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

When Divorce Looms Over Your Marriage

I am sure I don't have to remind most of us of the statistics on divorce. Half of today's marriages will not experience "til death do us part." So it's imperative that spouses think long and hard about the impact of divorce and decide now what they will do when divorce rears its ugly head in their homes.

Some would say at this point, "Well, we shouldn't even be talking about it."  And I would agree that in a perfect world that SHOULD be the case. But we are humans so let's get a little more real and think about this for a few minutes.

First, ask yourself how the idea got posited there in the first place. Did one of you use it in an argument for leverage?  Is that really the route you want to go or were you just mad?  If there is no real movement or need to go the divorce route, then take the word out of your vocabulary NOW. Become more mature and talk about what's really going on, in the here and now, and deal with it.

But using divorce for leverage is the cheap way to resolve conflict and it rarely works.  Get some help but change your terms.

Second, have you done everything YOU could do to fix things?  Sometimes one of the spouses appears to have quit or given up.  And if that's the other person then I still want to ask you, "Have you tried everything anyway?"  Have you gone for counseling, have you prayed, have you been the spouse you want the other person to be?  Have you confessed your role in the strife (and yes you do have a role).

Ten years from now you at least want to be able to say that you before God did everything you could to save your marriage.  And sometimes, not always, the other spouse will see those changes in you and begin to come around.

Third, what kind of impact are your responses having on the children?  Whatever you do, keep the kids in mind.  Don't let them get hit with unnecessary friendly fire and shrapnel from your arguments, namecalling and petty ways of trying to win the battle. Lay aside your pride, suck it up sometimes and deal with the conflict but only in appropriate ways.

And should you go down the divorce road, still keep those kids in mind. You may have to yield on something that you'd rather not so that your kids can be spared some unncessary hurt. Do it. I know a guy who broke up with a woman he had a relationship with after his marriage ended because of how his ex used that relationship to harm the kids. I admire him.

Finally, remember that your worth comes from God not your spouse. Too many battles go on and on in homes because each spouse is fighting for his or her worth when it's not really on the line. Remember whose you are. Your spouse will never be enough for you so move forward.

Go to the mat for your marriage. Fight for it. Pray about it. Give it all you've got.  It's usually worth it.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

At Your Home Do You Enjoy or Protect?

I've only seen a partial episode of the reality show Hoarders but that was probably enough for a while. Each week the program focuses on a person or family who literally hoards everything from old boxes to tools to clothes to you name it. In most cases their homes are a mess and every room is piled with stuff. I can't imagine living that way for even a day.

However, there seems to be a common reason behind most of the hoarding, one that is closer to where many of us live than we care to admit. They can't imagine losing it for fear that they might need it someday.

They can have a hundred empty shirt boxes but won't throw any away because they might need one and one is never enough. That pile of magazines probably has an article, ad or coupon that could come in handy. That shed full of tools, broken and worn, might meet a need for them or a neighbor.

And while saving things, making do with what we have and not being wasteful have their merits, hoarding like this is really just selfishness and many of us are at least tainted by it. In fact there are probably some deep-seated insecurities and self image issues that have never been resolved in hoarders and us.

Nonetheless, in most cases we too have WAY more than what we need and we can become protectors and hoarders in our own right. We spend thousands of dollars on what we deem necessities that people in most of the world would call luxuries and in some cases would like to have just one.

So we live a lot of our lives trying to protect our stash rather than wisely using just enough.  We accumulate and accumulate just a little bit more.  And we model the same for our children who pass along similar habits to their kids. People alive who lived through the depression still think this way but that mentality has made it to today as well in some forms.

In fact today there are two extremes:  use things up and then buy a new one or never throw anything away and try to get more. Both are misguided.  I'll talk about the consumer mentality in another post.

For now let's talk about how can we live a life of contentment with what we have versus being those in the protective camp who fear losing anything.

1.  Regularly take inventory and throw away (or give away) things you aren't using or don't need.   I have a lot of books that I've had to buy or read for my counseling and pastoral ministry over the years.  However, whenever I get a new book now I throw or give one away.  I'm just not going to add to my collection anymore.  We need to do something similar in our homes.

Some say if it's been there a year or more and you haven't use it get rid of it. You decide.

2.  Get rid of some of your storage by downsizing or selling some places you have that just pile up more stuff.  Some people have sheds, multiple homes or other places where they are keeping things that they just don't use. But they are paying to store it or asking someone else to manage it. Say goodbye and pass it on to someone else who could benefit or just throw it out.

3.  Enjoy what you have, don't hide it away somewhere.  Sure, we should take care of and maintain those things we've been blessed with. We should help things last as long as possible. But also take time to enjoy special items - pictures, collections, hobby items, special souvenirs, etc. They were made to be used.

4. Get involved in the lives of people needier than you.  They will remind you of how much you have that you don't really need. The more we spend time here or in other countries with people who have so little we'll realize how little we could live on.  And the less we have the less we have to take care of.  Aren't there better things we could do with our resources?

You bet!

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Teaching Our Kids To Value The Right Things

I remember when a number of years ago now a friend's home went up in flames. One moment he and his family had a beautiful home, minutes later it was ashes. They lost most everything except their lives.  However, I remember his comments when I among others arrived there to see if we could do anything.

He said,  "Well, it's just stuff."  And he was right. Yes, he and his wife went through some emotional challenges losing so much in one night. But I think his faith in God reminded him that the most valuable things he had not lost that night. The rest was just stuff.

It's replaceable and temporary. It's really not what makes us happy.

But I'm pretty sure that most of us, even with the best of intentions, put way too much value and focus on what we have - our home, cars, equipment, special objects and other things of value. We say they don't matter that much but deep down they count for more than most of us would admit. If we're honest we know it would be hard to live as happily without those luxuries, comforts and things we so often take for granted.

How can we learn to live more with a stuff-less mentality and a focus on the eternal while modeling a less is more way of life?

First, I think it helps to cut back drastically.  No, I'm not suggesting go live under a bridge but cutting back could include getting a smaller home, selling a big ticket item, dropping one of our big vacations or just spending less on things we don't need.  How about saying, It still works so why buy another one?

Second, get more intentional about giving resources away.  And not just money though that counts. Give away your time, a car, clothing and whatever else could be used to help someone else.  Think about a Christmas where everyone gets one small gift and the rest of your normal spending goes to help others.

Third, try going and serving somewhere.  This goes along with sharing resources, but you will also have sweat, tears and relationship in the game.  You will actually go and care for someone yourself and not just give them money. You will become friends with someone likely outside of your social strata and become personally involved. And your kids will remember those interactions forever.

There are lots more ideas.  You can come up with your own.  But whatever you do, find ways to involve your family in activities and practices that will take their eyes off of things and give them new eyes for loving people and valuing things . . . the way Jesus did.


Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Who's Really Raising Your Kids?

Outside of our second story condo are lots of trees and some birdfeeders. We get all sorts of birds to watch, some colorful, some annoying and all of them quite hungry most of the time. However, recently we've had some cowbirds poke around or at least try to get into  feeders that they really don't even fit in but they work at it anyway.

Interestingly my wife recently discovered something unusual about how cowbirds care for their young.  They typically deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave them there for these rogue parents to take care of. How sad. A momma is going to have these cute little babies but in essence doesn't really care that much if she is involved with them.

Now I'm sure no human parents would ever think of dropping their kids off at someone else's house to raise (though we had moments) but I wonder if some parents are more like cowbirds than they want to admit.

For example, do we let the church do most of the spiritual training of our children?  We expect the church to teach them Bible stories, life concepts and what it means to truly follow Jesus. We expect the church or other Christian organization to provide all their special faith-building activities, missions trips and social gatherings.  And so we drop them off in the nests of other leaders and hope for the best.

But Deuteronomy 6 reminds us that this training is to come from the everyday lives and actions of us, the real parents. Don't give it all  away to someone else.

Or, do we let other adults really do most of the parenting, disciplining and rule - setting?  Sure we have our guidelines but we don't push them too hard. We want our kids to like us, think we're just as cool as them and are the parents that all the kids think are the best!  So we look the other way, let things slide and then wonder why our kids don't really listen to us anymore.

Or if we're a single parent we may believe that we're just warring against the different standards of our ex so why try?  God still asks us to be the parent, train up our children well and teach them that life isn't all about them.

Third, do we let culture ultimately parent our kids. We allow TV, movies, and other social mores determine their morality. We rarely talk with them about what it means to be pure, holy and godly even when others around them are not. We also may find ourselves letting most of our own rules and habits slide explaining that it's really no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Kids do absorb what they hear and are taught everyday.  We as parents can and must be the central purveyor of truth and righteous living in our homes. There will always be an onslaught of ideas that our kids will face but we can help them learn to still stand for the truth, especially after they leave our homes.

So don't put your kids in some other nest or nests to raise.  God gave us this wonderful opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of our kids for good and to help them be all God made them to be.  And frankly, no other bird, no matter the species, can do that better than us!

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bold Love: Laying Aside The Past Wrongs in Your Marriage

I have several large bookshelves that stand directly behind where I sit when I counsel couples. (I somehow believe it will it impress them but that hasn't ever seemed to work.)  And I often use those shelves as an illustration regarding how we like to keep our own personal bookshelves handy, shelves filled with all the wrongs our spouse did in the past.

And then when we need them we grab one or two or twenty of those "books" and throw them again at our spouse. "I've never trusted you since that day five years ago when . . . " or "Don't you ever forget how much you hurt me when . . . " or "You lied back then and you're obviously lying now. When will it ever stop?"

Now granted the past matters because it has shaped much of what we do today. It matters because we need to learn from it sometimes. It matters if things really haven't changed and today you're simply facing more of the same.

However, healthy couples instead learn to leave those volumes on the shelf and communicate only in the HERE and NOW.  When they are angry or upset they talk about what's currently happening and don't include the past as part of the discussion.  They let go of the past out of love for their spouse and work on today only.  This is a biblical concept.

"Love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received."  I Corinthians 13

We need to forgive, to let go of the wrongs against us. As I've said before, forgiveness is not about letting someone else off the hook as much as letting yourself off the hook.  But if you and your spouse are ever going to make real progress in dealing with conflict you will have to live by this idea of letting go of the past.

How do you live this out in everyday life?  Start rephrasing your comments when you're angry, hurt or confused.  Say something like, "This morning I was really hurt when you . . . .  "  as opposed to, "Every time I try to bring up (blank) you get defensive and blame me.  It started the day we were married and I don't even know why I try any more."

Don't let the past own you anymore.  Love even admits that often our view of the past is skewed by our emotional reaction to it.  Sometimes it's as bad as remember but often it is not.  Either way, it does us no good now.

Love was never intended to be easy or not require big-time sacrifice. Read the rest of I Corinthians 13 and you'll see what I mean. But the love God describes there is the only kind we should settle for. And if we're going to enjoy it then we need to forgive . . . even when it's hard.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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