Conditions on love?

Do we put conditions on our affection? When love is freely received by us, why do we struggle to freely give?

Luke 6:32-36

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

If Jesus is asking me to love my enemies freely, how much more should I pour love out on those within my own home?

Matthew 18:32-35

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Romans 5:8

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He pours His love and forgiveness out on us when we are not worthy.

In my marriage, do I pour out the incredible,  death-defying, generous, merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, unending covenantal love that was poured out on me?

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Especially Fond Of You

Well this is what was in my mind when I wrote my last post… 

On that topic, I had a wonderful set of messages from my sister yesterday:

‘Stop striving, just be – and receive God’s love. Just as you are. He loves you just as you are. Allow him to love you just as you are – you are enough!’ Obviously the words ‘just as you are’ were the emphasis 🙂 Love you and thinking of you xxxxx

Isn’t it great to have family like that!!

The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. (Deuteronomy 26:18) Read: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26, Luke 10:38-11:13, Psalm 76:1-12, Proverbs 12:15-17 Relate: I am not a big fan of the Shack. It was a nice book. I didn’t get all worked up over the […]

http://tworiversblog.com/2016/04/04/especially-fond-of-you/

So… God’s told me we’re having another baby…

Today’s topic is one that is close to my heart… Babies. 
They are great! But HARD HARD work… A joy to conceive, an endurance to cook (in the metaphorical oven, of course), a pleasure, joy & trial to raise… We have 3 beautiful children, and haven’t been planning for any more.

Now, S. has yet to read or hear about this latest topic, so I can hear her quivering in her boots (or flip-flops) as she will eventually read this…

I’ll set minds at ease, all is not as it may seem from the title.

Before I begin, the backdrop is quite simple:

Another baby she does not wish for. Unequivocally.

I am personally less worried about the whole thing, but that’s beside the point for now. More importantly, something odd started in me a few months ago.

It started with a rough patch with the kids and especially my patience, which forced me to begin praying for more grace for myself and for grace to fill our home. 

I started praying for abundant grace to be the testimony and story of our home life. 

I started praying that as a couple we would show grace to one another and for that to overflow and pour out over our kids. 

I started praying that through the grace we have for one another at home, they would start showing  grace to other friends and living out grace in their daily lives, at school and beyond, to the point that one day they would eventually set up their own homes filled with grace, and live out callings in whatever sphere of life they are called to be, pouring out God’s grace to whoever they meet…

Sound exciting? I thought so…

But then one day the picture changed. I got a picture in my head. A baby daughter. And her name was Grace.

What do you do with that?

I’ve been brought up in the school of ‘never prophesy about births, deaths or marriages’ – and here I am feeling like I need to be praying for something that if I really loved my wife I wouldn’t ask for in 100 years!

I love kids, and if I am perfectly honest (and decided to completely ignore the practicalities of our current callings and ministries) would love to have more, but I am also fully aware of the limitations of our humanity, and that child-bearing is not really on the agenda at the moment.

I’m also not sure that S. would appreciate the ‘manipulation’ that would come with any prophetic statement that involves bear another child!

So what is this all about? 
Every pause and lull I have had in the last week or two has left me praying for something that is physically and practically impossible at the moment, certainly not in our human thinking, and something that doesn’t seem a wise choice at this juncture at all.

So, I’ve been grappling silently with this all until today in prayer I had a mini-epiphany.

The truth is I am praying for a baby to be born, but it may never actually be born in the flesh. I believe that I have been asked to nurture and labour for a different kind of baby…

As far as I can tell, I have been asked to pray abundant grace into being in our home life. I need grace for S, I need to be speaking grace over her. I need grace for my kids and to be speaking grace in every conversation.

I desire to live in a home that is oozing with fresh and living grace everywhere you look or sit, everything you touch.

Grace needs to be flowing from my home and out into the streets; into the hearts of my kids and into the lives of their friends; into our places of work and beyond through our various ministries.

Simply put, God’s grace needs to invade and change our lives and the lives of those around us.

So it appears that for the first time in our marriage, it is my job to carry a baby, to nurture it, feed it day in and day out, consciously and subconsciously until it one day will be born and released into the world.

I read this today:

Jeremiah 31:2-3

Thus says the Lord:

“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Even in the wilderness, God’s grace flows freely -directly out of His love – and His love is incredible. 

He loves us just as we are – with a covenantal, faithful, merciful love that endures forever, that is not phased by mistakes, that sees beyond actions and to the very core of our being. His love doesn’t change because we mess up, if anything it shows its strength in our weakness. His grace comes out of THIS love.

By this love the universe hangs together. Do I allow the father’s love to hold my universe together?

Could I learn to love others like that?

Perhaps, if I am going to see this kind of grace born into my home I should start by receiving His grace through this incomparable love for myself…

Speak Life.

So words have power.

That’s awesome, isn’t it?!
Well, not when you’re not really aware of what you’re saying (or how you’re saying it!)

Have you sat back and listened to the things you’ve said in a day and thought of your positive:negative ratio?

Let’s put this into some maths terms…


If ((-ve words x10) > +ve)
- Wife = under valued


But if (+ve > (-ve words x10))

Wife = valued

Now clearly this is not the whole picture, but a good place to start!

And I’m being serious – negative words carry a weight far more than the positive ones, because they stick!

Proverbs 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

I’m still learning this one. My ratio still isn’t great… But it is worth fighting for!

You did what?!

So this post goes first in my soon-to-be-growing public catalogue of marital fails…

And what a way to start!!

Let’s set the scene first… Mid-January, I realise how many mistakes I’ve been making as a husband and start writing this blog as an outlet for processing and as a reminder to keep at the simple things…

After a good few weeks of progress I go away for 10 weeks on business, and do quite well on the whole, good contact, good communication, presents for all… Job done!

What a great guy I am.

Plane home. Great. Feeling pretty awesome about myself.

First day with the family. Pretty good. Presents a success. Oh yeah – got this husband/dad thing nailed…

Day 2. Have a few days off planned, to ‘reconnect with family’, but what do I do? 8am. Start decorating my home office… Wait a minute… What’s was that I hear you screaming?
I’ll repeat myself. Day 2. Started decorating my home office…

Yes, I really did embark on a work-based home project within 36 hours of landing home after 10 days away, during the time that I had booked to ‘reconnect with family’.

And yes, even my boss would be disappointed with my priority choice here.

And yes, I realise how high a percentage of readers are banging their hands against their heads in disbelief…

I thought I was doing so well up until then…

Yes, I know, this is one of those fails Homer Simpson would have been proud of.

Now, I had my reasons, and some really good ones too: I have some meetings in a few days that I needed to sort out the room for… Plus we had sick kids so we couldn’t really do much else out of the house… Also I prefer to get this kind of thing done quicker so it’s not hanging over, and it was a full moon on the second Sunday of the month, which everyone knows is the best time to start decorating… You see, really solid case I have here…

But what I realise now is that it makes a difference what I do first.
That is to say:

I need to make my first thing the first thing!

When I’ve been out of the country for the best part of two weeks, the balance needs to be reset: S. has to be shown that I value her over the work that has occupied my life 100% for the last 10 days.

The best way I can do that is to give her the time of day, to hear from her, to actually ask how her time has been, to let her debrief and unload before I launch into my projects, my stories, my my my…

Whatever I do first is going to be understood as my priority, even if it is not and I have perfectly ‘valid’ reasons!

Now, part of me feels that this particular mistake was a one off with extraneous circumstances, but I’d be foolish not to learn from the principle here, otherwise you’ll likely see me writing another sheepish piece in a few months time!

I will get a second chance at doing a ‘re-entry’ well before long (not that I want to go away again!), but I did well and truly blow this one.

Actually, this principle doesn’t just apply to long trips – what do I do after a day out at work? Straight to phone to pick up more emails? What about straight into my world and my hobbies? Or offloading from my day without sparing a thought for hers?

Reminds me of this:

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In short. I need to make sure she knows the value she holds in my eyes. I need to show it with my words, my time and my priorities…

And if you screw up? Don’t forget to say sorry. And sorry I am, because it’s me who starts work tomorrow without having been blessed with much-needed quality time with my other half.

But as for the last few days, other than a lesson learned, I leave you with the wise words of our great modern day sage, Homer (Simpson):

Doh!

Actively engage

Sitting right now on a plane ride over the Atlantic, preparing for 10 days away.

I’ve slept a bit, watched a few movies, was about to watch one more when… something S. said to me before I left came to mind.

What are you going to write about while you’re away?

Why does everyone ask such good questions!

But that got me thinking… What do I do? Normally when I’m on a trip away, it gives me an opportunity to throw myself into everything – I don’t have to worry about bed times or date nights, I can go at my work 110%.

But does being in a different country make me stop being a husband or father?

Clearly the answer is no. (Unless you believe in the area code rule, in which case good luck making that work…)

So what does it mean to actively engage with S & family while there is so much going on around me? And when I have very few opportunities to be in touch?

Well, I guess the answers may be different for everyone, and in every situation, but here’s my list:

  • I can pause the movie on this plane and actually take time to pray for my family’s day that has just begun – and continue this regularly through my time away
  • I can make the effort to send the odd update SMS – even if I can’t have lengthy conversations
  • I can carve out time and opportunities for chats – even if they are sometimes inconvenient to what’s going on around me here…
  • I can choose to actively engage my mind with what’s going on with the family – staying connected emotionally (even if not to the same degree as usual)
  • I can send specific encouragements to each family member – to let them know they are being thought about and loved
  • (This one is for my gift-crazy family) Presents Presents Presents Presents…

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s probably enough to be getting on with while doing my job faithfully!

Now – there’s a reason I’m writing this on day 1 – So that I can be held to my intentions…

Bring it on!!

How we respond to good news…

This is one that I struggle with, but I’ve never heard it so well put as I read here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-traits-2015-11?IR=T

I definitely need to work on the whole ‘active constructive’ approach – I think I often fall between the passive-constructive/active-destructive schools of response… In any instance – work to be done!!

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other’s good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”

Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.

Building a lasting relationship

Quick scan of facebook and my brother posted this one… Great article – purely scientific, looking at the “masters & disasters” of relationships.

There’s a whole load of good stuff in there, but this observation is great (highlighting mine), the first is about respect & appreciation of the partner’s ‘bids’ for connection:

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have … which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment … It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

How often have I fallen into that trap? Not necessarily intentionally, normally out of neglect – not choosing to respond to those points of connection ‘can I have a quick word with you about…’ – “Not now. Busy.” Or something along those lines…

And that’s not just with S. – I have 3 connection-hungry children too!

What about this one – the other important trait is kindness:

Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved.

Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger … but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

Loads of food for thought from these ones!

http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-traits-2015-11?IR=T

(Photo credit: Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin)

It doesn’t take that long…

So I’ve been going for a little while, and to be honest I’ve been dragging my heels about making effort over the past week. I leave notes on my phone to bless S, and for the most part have become immune…

To me, the thought of thinking of something profoundly loving to say makes me put it off – not that I have nothing to say, but just because I like to give it thought and time and effort.

Which 99 times out of means… You guessed it… Nothing happens.

So here’s a crazy idea – how about I just write something, the shortest blessing… As opposed to nothing?!

Tried it this morning, and this is what I got in reply…

  
So that clearly worked – it’s so great to get an encouragement back… Maybe I’m actually on the right track!

So in short, rather than write/say/do nothing – it’s ok to do a little!