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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Love Jesus? Just Do It!

I love my wife Jackie. Perfectly? Nope, but as passionately as I can. And I often come up with, discover or even learn from others' example great ways to express that love better. But I have a feeling that you and others who know me would get annoyed if I constantly either suggested that my new ways of loving were better than yours or intimated that they were perhaps the standard for everyone.

And yet I hear some pastors, leaders and everyday people suggesting that their new strategy or idea for living out their Christian faith and love for Christ is the newest, brightest, most spiritual and best way. They say or at least imply in their message, comments or even Facebook post that they've now discovered the real way to love, a way that others have apparently been missing for years, perhaps even centuries.

I often read or hear that if I just gave more sacrificially, served the poor more, sold my home and downsized, gave up social media for a month, fasted, went on a missions trip or did something truly radical that I would genuinely be showing my love for Jesus just like them.

The problem is that none of us who follow Christ have to be like them or like anyone except Jesus. There are myriad ways to live out our faith and God has given us all unique situations, personalities, gifts and opportunities to be Jesus in and to our culture. Add to that people in other cultures to whom our American ideas for spirituality and Christ following would make little sense at all.

Can we learn from the example and urgings of others?  Of course and we should. There is a place for pushing one another to new levels of love and obedience. But too often likely well-meaning people want to find the Holy Grail of discipleship or Christ - following when we would be better to just live out our personal commitment with all the passion and fervor we can offer. We don't need to talk about it, pontificate, brag or tell others how they should live for Jesus like we do.

If we have received a new nudge from God to ratchet up our commitment to Christ, like a husband or wife might for their spouse, then we should just DO IT passionately and humbly.

Jesus can handle the challenges people need to hear and will stimulate genuine heart change. We should just love Jesus, model it and keep learning. My hunch is that others will notice anyway.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Boring Consistency: A Cornerstone of Great Marriages

I'm a musician. I've been playing keyboards of some kind since I was eight. And I used to hate practicing. All those scales, chords and arpeggios in different keys. There was painful fingering that often caused me to want to quit.

Thankfully my parents made me stay at it knowing that I had some natural talent and that they had spent a lot of money on lessons that could have been used for other important things, too.

I didn't realize it then, but I certainly do now.  Sometimes the best, most important things require boring consistency, doing the same thing over and over because there is a wonderful result ahead. Athletes, artists, mechanics, surgeons and airplane pilots also know this. They do things over and over to both improve and to be able to make important decisions quickly.

The same is true in marriage. Staying true to your spouse, doing the right thing, being loving day after day even when life is hard can be boring. Others may taunt us that a life of running around and doing your own thing is more "fun."  The problem is that the results aren't the same.  The fun is short-lived, while the fulfillment of a commitment and deepening relationship with our spouse lasts and causes us to find deeper intimacy.

So what are some perhaps boring habits, repetitive actions and attitudes that will help our marriages to be rich and last?

Saying impacting words.  We may have tired of saying "I love you," or think our spouse knows that already but keep doing it. Find some new ones to spice it up but don't quit.

Doing little loving actions that your spouse likes.  Maybe it's the coffee you make in the morning, the favorite meal you cook or filling the car with gas. Don't stop even though it's boring.

Planning special events together. You may not like everything your spouse enjoys but do some of those things over and over anyway. You can take turns but don't bail on your part.

Going to church and serving others. Your spiritual foundation is what supports everything else. It may not be as exciting or interesting as you'd like it but go get reoriented with God's truth and the encouragement of other believers. You may feel like you've done the same task for years but remember it matters to someone.

What else in your marriage is good but a little boring?  Make a new commitment this year to keep doing it. Thank your spouse for keeping his or her commitments too. If there's too much boredom then talk with your spouse about spicing things up as well.

Too many marriages are tanking because people give up and quit. Don't let yours be one of them.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lessons in Love From a McDonald's Manager

Recently I visited a Michigan Mc Donald's to pick up some food to take out. And I was not there long to see that most of the help, even those behind the counter, were people with special needs. I found myself wondering how that might work especially with customers on a tight schedule who were likely in a hurry.

Would these people working take longer? Would anyone care? What if they made a mistake or couldn't figure out what to do next?

I soon found out. The sweet woman waiting on me was very pleasant but it took her longer to find things on the cash register. Several times she needed help. I wasn't in a hurry and would like to think I would not have cared about her slowness even if I was.

What impressed me next and most however was her manager. She was amazing. She was holding down the busy drive-thru lane but graciously moved away from her work theree and helped the woman in my line or anyone else.

She always treated her team with respect and spoke kindly. She never openly showed frustration or exasperation. She was a saint.

I think we can all learn from her no matter who we are dealing with and especially in our own homes.

We can first speak graciously and kindly.  We all have weaknesses, faults and make mistakes. We need to still treat each other with respect, honor and forgiveness. Jesus said to love others the way we love ourselves.

My wife and I just faced one of the worst weekends of our life with an extended family member and realized how cruel people can be with their words especially. The damage can be destructive.

But we can all also look for the best in people. That McDonald's manager did just that and she is making a difference in lives. Even with our spouses or children we can always want more rather than be thankful for and bless the good in them. Does that mean we overlook the negatives? Of course not.

This woman leader corrected her help every time but encouraged them as she did it. We must do the same. All salt and no sugar eventually leads to sour.

Who in your world needs to be treated with more love, dignity and grace?  Start today honoring, encouraging and blessing them with your words and actions even when you have to say hard things. Remember God does the same with us every day.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Some New Year Challenges For Your Marriage

I don't know what your specific marriage needs but after several decades of counseling and being married I have a pretty good idea what every marriage needs. Like a great golf swing, recipe or piano sonata, doing anything well always require certain foundational skills and ingredients.

Individuality must be layered over a strong foundation.

So here are a few of those less-talked-about marriage components that you might consider for work on during your new year. And no matter how well any of us are doing we can all improve. In fact continually working on our relationship is what will keep us going for a lifetime.

First, improve the little things that can end up big things. For example, speak more kindly in the every day moments. If you have a habit of speaking abruptly or without much feeling, work on getting a little softer and adding some understanding and emotion.

Give compliments more often, help out where you normally would not and surprise your spouse with some kindness. Commit to pray for the other every day even if you don't talk about it. Small changes now can make for huge differences years from now.

Second, make more time for each other. Plan (together) some time away and add some regular down time for just the two of  you. You may have to leave some things out but who cares?  They're probably not that important. If  you have kids it will be important that they too see you make each other a priority. As I've said in other posts, the number one cause of marital discord is when couples quit acting like friends.

And husbands be sure you join in on the planning.  Letting your wife put together a trip and you just going along for the ride misses out on the intimacy occurs when you work in tandem.

Third, get out of debt. This topic requires whole posts and even books full of discussion but the concept is simple. Too many couples today are swimming in loans and payments that steal from their marriage and home. Start the process of downsizing, limiting your expenditures and saving. Read a book or two by Dave Ramsey or Ron Blue for specific help.

Start somewhere to save, give to God and to invest for your future. 

Fourth, reach a new height or two in your faith. Don't just let your faith become a routine. Stimulate your relationship with God through a mission trip, new Bible study, personal growth plan, accountability partner or other service opportunity. Following Christ is also about growing, changing and becoming. It won't happen by itself.

Don't let this new year just slip away and be another year in your relationship. Start today making it the best year so far doing it one step at a time.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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