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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ten Things To Always Consider Before Marriage

A wedding is one of those events that most look forward to and eagerly anticipate. Little girls dream about theirs and act out the perfect wedding in play times. Couples spend countless hours looking for the perfect location and extra elements that will make their day memorable.

And yet beyond the wedding is a marriage, a hopefully lifelong relationship fueled by love, founded on faith and sustained by commitment that survives even the toughest of times. And sometimes people let wedding plans and excitement distract them from determining whether this other person they're planning to live with until death do them part is not just the person they can live with but also the one they can't live without.

I want to suggest that couples spend far more time on their marriage than their wedding. And finding that special individual can be helped dramatically by being willing to look at ten considerations and questions below and answer them honestly. No one is perfect, but these questions can root out some deeper issues that may rear their heads later and keep a marriage from being the intimate, loving, lifelong relationship it could be and should be.

And let me add that if several of the questions suggest significant problems or red flags, please consider not getting married until these issues are talked about and examined closely. Counseling may be valuable at that point too. There is little worse than being several years into a relationship knowing that there were skeletons lurking in someone's background that needed attention and can potentially destroy the relationship.

I have a theorem that has proven true over and over. If something is going on before the wedding, it will still be there after the wedding. Marriage changes little when it comes to problems.

My Marriage Top Ten:

1. Does your fiance like you? For example, do they laugh at your jokes, take interest in your likes and priorities, talk about things you enjoy or is it all about them or someone else?

2. Does your fiance seem proud of you? Do they brag about you to others, ever tell you they think you do something well or does it feel like they're always a little jealous or at best silent about your talents?

3. Do you make most of your decisions together or does the other one subtly take charge as though they know better?

4. Does either of your fiance's parents act the same way?  In other words, are there genetic, family systems issues involved?

5. Have you talked about whether there has been any abuse in either of your families? Abusive characteristics are often passed on from past generations or started in childhood. See #6.

6. Does your fiance tend to not want to talk about serious issues or problems or suggest that you can work them out after you get married?

7. Are faith, church involvement and spiritual growth considered by your fiance to simply be nice things but doesn't support with any enthusiasm or personal commitment?

8. Do outside hobbies, goals, education and work seem more important than your marriage, home and ongoing relationship together?

9. Does your fiance place undue importance in keeping family traditions and not upsetting their parents?

10. Do you simply sense something is fundamentally wrong and you can't put your finger on it?

Answers to these questions won't make any marriage perfect or unearth every potential problem but they will address most of the major ones. I know you might rather look the other way but don't. Your life and relationship depend on it. And if nothing else by asking these questions you may end up affirming that you really have found someone you can't live without.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Can Anyone Learn Anything From Soccer? Maybe.

We're going to another professional soccer game today. Our son is the public address announcer for the Chicago Fire and sometimes we get to sit with the boys during the game while Tim works and spend a little time as a family beforehand and after.

I've never been much of a soccer fan, however, playing baseball, basketball and some hockey as a kid. Soccer always seemed like too much running, too little scoring and a lot of fake injuries. But the more I watch these games, I see some life lessons that are worth talking about and modeling in everyday life.

It seems parents would be wise to discuss these now and then with your kids whether they actually play the game of not.

You don't always see the results of your efforts right away. Let's face it, soccer games with scores of 1-0 or even 0-0 are more common than 4-2 or 5-3. Results (most notably goals) don't just happen and usually don't occur in great quantity unless you're watching 7-year-olds.

Life works that way, too. Sometimes you have to work hard and long to see the results you want to see. And today's kids probably need to hear and see that more often to help them keep from becoming part of this oft-entitled generation.

You won't always win either. That's a lesson to be learned in every sport but it's enhanced in soccer because of ties. You can work really hard, lead the whole game 1-0 and then see the other team score in the last minute and you end up even. Life's the same. We don't always come out on top and sometimes others waltz in at the last minute and seem to get the same benefits. It doesn't feel fair, sometimes it's not, but it's life. Move on.

Sometimes great skills won't get noticed or appreciated. I have to admit that top-level soccer players are incredibly talented and fit. They run and run while making moves with a round ball and pretty much only their feet that most of us don't even dream about. And while soccer purists and participants generally recognize the high level of ability the players possess, many like me really don't appreciate their abilities for what they are. The lack of goals can imply that the players aren't doing that much of note when they are in many cases world class athletes.

We need to remind each other and our children that our efforts and abilities will never receive all the accolades they deserve. Nonetheless, we need to enjoy and embrace our accomplishments for what they are to us, to those who love us and to God.

Finally, we don't always live in the greatest of circumstances. Soccer, at least in the Midwest, is often played in lousy weather - rain, snow flurries, wind, you name it. And the game goes on anyway unless there is lightning. In fact, today's weather is supposed to be chilly, perhaps in the 40's at best. And in life we often have to go on in challenging weather - disappointments, challenges, steep roads to climb and wind, so to speak, in our face.

And that's what makes us stronger, tougher and more trusting in God.

So is there a game coming up? Look for a lesson or two.

Where's my favorite jersey?
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Do It Again" And Other Everyday Wonders

What parent or grandparent hasn't sighed a time or two when they've turned the last page of a book and the child in their lap says, "Read it again." And while we generally love those moments with our sweet kids or grandchildren, thankful that they even want to read these days, it's easy to want to just move on to something else.

It's tempting to wonder what significance could there be in those next few moments that couldn't wait for another time.

And while every reading session or other activity needs to eventually end, let me suggest why we not jump too quickly to wrap up our time.

Those opportunities don't last forever.  Before long our attentive readers won't be as interested, they'll grow quickly, move on to more fun or challenging pursuits. And God forbid, people die. We may not be there for the next book. One more time could be the last time - why not have it now?

There's wonder, awe and holy ground there. No, I'm not suggesting our little darlings are angelic all the time. God know mine aren't. But think about it . . . in just the reading of a simple book, a fearfully and wonderfully formed being is seeing, thinking, hearing, processing, enjoying, imagining and learning all at the same time. They are in the process of becoming who they are and who they were made to become, help and influence someday.

They, too, are wondering, revering this new knowledge and experience as though it's the best thing that's happened to them all day. And we get to be there.

God knows the beauty of repetition and made it available to us. Think about the creation story. Six days God designed new things and then pronounced them good or very good. He also made them, millions, billions and trillions in some cases, to do the same thing over and over. The sun comes up and sets every day, the moon circles the earth over and over, the stars keep shining their light from almost uncountable miles away.

You can sort of hear God saying, Do it again, sun. Do it again, moon. There's wonder in repetition that flows from the eternal, that is beyond our human abilities or understanding. Who doesn't want to see it one more time?

Observing God's hand in the everyday enriches and deepens us. Life becomes more fascinating, special and worthwhile. Things that once bored us become intriguing and our days take on fresh meaning and purpose because we saw the miraculous in the mundane.

So when you next hear the words one more time, be thankful. Enjoy the moment. You're in touch with the eternal, the holy, a special moment that you may never have again. Don't miss it. 

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Three Things We Inadvertently Teach Our Kids

Most of us find ourselves modeling the actions of our parents, right? Even things we vowed we would never do sometimes just happen and we hardly notice.

However, we also teach our kids attitudes and actions that most of us would rather they didn't learn. And chances are that even when we see our sweet sons and daughters acting inappropriately we prefer to blame their nature, other social influences, the declining culture or some other handy sacrificial lamb.

Unfortunately, some of their responses are our fault. We the parents taught them how to live the way they do and we need to own our part in it. Let me suggest three of those lessons.

We don't really mean what we say. We supposedly lay down the law regarding when they'll go to bed, their need to clean their room or what they can and can't wear. But then they balk, come up with an excuse or two and we let things slide. And then they use that tactic again the next time and the next. And it seems to work. They have quickly learned that we're not serious and it doesn't matter if they don't respond to our exhortations right away.

We might subsequently tell others that our kids are not very obedient, but we've actually taught them that they really don't need to do what we say, at least right away.

The family revolves around them. How many families are simply running from event to event, practice to practice, rehearsal to rehearsal, all required for their kids? And in most cases there is more than one child involved so the schedule is even more complicated. As a result there are few meals eaten together or evenings when everyone is at home. Sleeping in and having a leisurely weekend morning is a thing of the past.

In other words, mom and dad spend most of their non-working time driving the shuttles, sitting in the stands watching or getting things bought or cleaned so these activity addicts can do it all the next day. And the kids likely begin to think they deserve all of our time, money and other resources. Mom and dad aren't entitled to relax, stay home or slow down. The family center has become the children and their activities and everything else bows down to them

More is more. Finally, most of our homes are not satisfied to be busy during one season, one sport or one extra-curricular activity. Child athletes almost always play multiple sports while some children play a sport, instrument and join a club or two. They can't just play on a local team either and they also at some point join a traveling league, more advanced conference or trendier academy. They are learning that you're only better if you do more.

So how do they learn otherwise?  You'll have to break some habits, go against the cultural grain, be serious and put our values into action, not just talk about them. You might risk having the children angry at you a bit more but when it's all said and done, they'll love you for it and probably be just like you someday! Teach them what you want to teach them. Forget the rest.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

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