4 Things You Need to Stay Out of Divorce Court: Today @ The Gathering

I’m sad to see our current series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage,” come to an end this morning, but it’s been a great journey, and the feedback has been tremendous.

We ended our time on the subject of marriage by talking about divorce and the four things you can do to stay out of divorce court.

We began by talking about the two things women owe their husbands, and the two things men owe their wives. And if we were to give each other these two things respectively, not only would our relationships not turn toxic, they would flourish.

We talked about three justifications for divorce, and followed that up with the four things you need to stay out of divorce court. Listen to this timely talk here on my web site, or check out iTunes where you can subscribe and get my weekly talks delivered directly to your iPod, iPad, or mp3 player.

Sex and Marriage – How to Make the Most of Them Both: Today @ The Gathering

Today was installment number nine in our current series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage: The Top Ten Things They Don’t Tell You Before You Say ‘I do’.”

That subtitle doesn’t apply anywhere more importantly than it does with the issue of sex.  Think about it. The two most important things in our lives – money and sex – are hardly ever talked about in church.  They are relegated to movies, magazines, and other media mavens who reinterpret these powerful forces in our lives and lead us down dead end streets.

Today we talked about the 6 stupid myths that have developed and grown up around our sexuality.  We talked about the three rules for super sex inside our marriages.

Here is the bottom line. If we don’t talk about this and deal with this from God’s perspective, we all lose.  Think of this. All of these societal issues are born out of the heart of God: marriage, sex, relationships, faithfulness, fidelity, and honor.  All of these are God concepts.  You’ll find them talked about and given practical application in this talk today.

Oh How We Love Married Money: Today @ The Gathering

We continued our series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage,” with part 8.  If you’re in debt and broke, this is what you should do.

That’s how so many people feel, “What should I do?”  Before you do anything, you have to understand what got you to where you are.  There are actions and attitudes that we have to bring to how we deal with money.  Let me be the first to say today, that money is a profoundly spiritual issue. It’s not the knowledge, necessarily, of how money works. It’s the attitude.

So today one of the clear things we want you to understand is, when you got married, so did your money.  Married money is very different from single money. It behaves differently.  The responsibility is no longer “How do I spend my money?” but “What do we do with our money?”  It’s not even just a two-party decision.  If you have children, it can be a 3, 4, and 5-party decision. Today we gave practical ideas and advice on how married money behaves.

If you know someone who is frustrated with money issues, listening to today’s talk would be a great way to clear the air to get some simple, move ahead ideas.

As Dave Ramsey said on his National Live Radio broadcast, the number one cause of male suicide in America is money woes.  This is something that need not be. We can turn this around, but we’ve got to start.  And this is as good a place as any.

Confronting Conflict Where Everyone Wins: Today @ The Gathering

Today @ The Gathering we continued our series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage,” talking about conflict.

It is absolutely impossible for two wounded people to live together without conflict. The conflict isn’t the problem. It’s how we deal with it. So today we talked about confronting conflict in a healthy way; a casualty-free approach to dealing with things that keep us apart. Remember, just because you love each other doesn’t mean that you automatically know how to live together in harmony.

There are four stages in marriage: the forming stage, which is dating; the storming stage, which is the first few years; the norming stage, when you’re learning how to live with each other; and then the performing stage. What we want is to go from the forming to the performing stage and ignore both the storming and the norming. No one does. Listen to today’s talk, and find out how to confront in a way that brings you close, gets you on the same page, and moves you ahead to a great marriage.

How to Turn a Dud Into a Dude: Today @ The Gathering

Today @ The Gathering we continued in our current series “Accept No Mediocre Marriage” by dealing with how you help your mate make the changes they need to make.

One of the neat things about today’s talk was I interviewed my wife Paula for the first 10 minutes.  She talked about our relationship, how we met, and how – through her willingness to take a stand – my life was changed through a spiritual conversion to Jesus Christ.

We talked about the ways we make each other miserable trying to force changes in our lives by nagging, complaining, betraying a trust, all the normal things that seem to come all too naturally to us.

We also talked about the insights, that we are agents of change; that we do have the capacity to bring out the very best in our mate.  We are catalysts, not commanders.  In marriage we do not have power, but we have something better: influence. We can inspire, and model the behavior we want to see.  As a matter of fact we must model the behavior we want to see in every member of our family.  We talked about how you get it done, how you make application, and how you can see real change and turn-around in your marriage relationship.

How to Break the Silence and Start Communicating Constructively in Your Marriage and Family

Today @ The Gathering we continued with installment #5 in our current series “Accept No Mediocre Marriage: The Top Ten Things They Don’t Tell You Before You Say ‘I do.’”  We talked about the importance of communication in marriage.

We talked about the power of words: the powers to heal or to hurt, to elevate or to devastate, to bring together or tear apart.  One of the most important things we need to understand about communication is that God gave us the power to talk not so that we could be right, but so that we could be close.

The truth is, most of us have never had good models of effective communication.  So today we talked about four out of the seven essentials of effective communication.  We said communication needs to be constructive, centered, compassionate, and clear.

We also talked about the single best way to break the silence and start talking especially if you’ve not been communicating over time.  Listen to today’s podcast to get answers that will help you change your marriage and your family forever.

Staring at Each Other, Hoping Things Will Get Better Only Makes Things Worse: Today @ The Gathering

Today @ The Gathering we continued our series “Accept No Mediocre Marriage: The Top Ten Things They Don’t Tell You Before You Say ‘I do.’”  We talked about the importance of having mission, vision, and goals in your marriage.

In a recent Tennessean article it was noted that in the last 10 years in Tennessee, marriages are down a full 10%. Why?  It’s not because people don’t want to get married; they are scared to get married.  And so they are living together outside the commitment of marriage, hoping that somehow this will be better than what they’ve seen modeled in the past.

I could say what you’d expect me to say, that it’s wrong, that God can’t bless it.  And that’s all true; that living together outside of marriage causes pain, that women usually are the biggest victims as they give over their lives without asking a man to pay the full price they are worth: and that is full, lifelong commitment.  But you’d be ready for that, so let me just say that getting married for marriage sake falls short of the intended goal.

So today we asked people to rate where their marriage is.  Are you stuck, stagnant, or disillusioned?  If you are, then you are basically normal.  But there is a fourth option.  Are you on the same page, advancing toward your goals? If that’s true, then that would put you in the top 3% of all married people.

The minute I say “goals,” people think about money. They think money is the issue in marriage. And the truth of the matter is, money can’t buy you a clear mission, a compelling vision, a noble cause, or a big, scary, audacious dream that’s going to take the rest of your life to achieve.

Today we defined what B.I.G. means: Beyond the Immediate to the Goal. So let me ask you, what is the goal, out in the future, that gets you up every morning and gets you excited, that calls out your absolute best, that means that you must stay together, stretching and growing; a big audacious dream that you both want more than anything else in the world that keeps you on your knees praying and seeking God, keeps you learning, focused, and humble, keeps you creatively agitated so you can meet the need, and simply just can’t go neglected?

And oh, by the way, people who have written out goals stay younger, longer. They take care of themselves because they realize that big goals are going to take the next 10, 20, 30, 50 years to achieve.

You can either be a statistic, or you can be married and on the same page, advancing toward your dreams, smiling all the way.  It’s your choice.

Today @ The Gathering – How You Can Build High Levels of Trust That Will Allow Your Marriage to Become Everything You’d Hoped and Prayed it Would Become.

Today @ The Gathering we talked about trust in marriage.  Everyone knows it’s important, but too few of us know how it works.

It’s really important that you understand that relationships are like any other endeavor in life.  You can want them to work.  You can pray for them to work.  But if you don’t know how they function, and acquire the skills it takes to make them healthy, you’ll be frustrated the rest of your life.

Trust in marriage, just like any relationship, works like money in the bank. When you meet, you open a trust account and you give each other some trust currency; not much, just enough to go to the first level of trust.  As a matter of fact, that’s what we talked about today, the 5 levels of trust and how they work.  The levels are: like, love, commitment, admiration, and intimacy.  We also talked about how getting those out of order can almost guarantee the failure of your relationship.

We dealt with the 5 levels of distrust: drift and distance, silence and suspicion, anger and arguing, lies and deception, and level 5, disrespect and loathing.  Once you get to minus five in your level of trust, your relationship is most certainly on life-support.

This talk will help you identify where you are in your trust relationship and give you ways to make true trust deposits that will build the currency of your love and admiration.

Today @ The Gathering – Why is it So Hard to Get Family Right and So Damaging When We Don’t?

Today was the second week in our 10-week series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage: the Top 10 Things They Fail to Tell You Before you Say, ‘I Do’”

Today we talked about the importance of the families we come from and what baggage we often bring into a marriage.

Who doesn’t get married with high hopes and expectations, thinking that the only thing that matters is the guy and the gal up front saying, “I do?”  Well the truth of the matter is that guy and that gal, no matter how well-intentioned they are, have been wounded by their family of origin and they bring that stuff with them, there, that day.  It’s hard to see that to be true because of how good they look: a beautiful dress she’ll never wear again, a tuxedo he’ll never fit into again.  That’s’ why we take so many pictures, because we’re saying somehow in our minds that this is the best we’ll ever be.

We talked about the three things that solid families provide, and what happens when they don’t.  We talked about why family is so hard and we also talked about what we owe each other.

If you are dealing with family issues that you brought into your marriage, generational problems, insecurities, and dysfunction, this talk today can help give you a lot of answers, guidance, and hopefully, freedom.

Today @ The Gathering – Accept no Mediocre Marriage: The 10 Things They Don’t Tell You Before You Say “I do”

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this enthusiastic about a new series.  It seems that each one is unique and different, and has its own special place in my heart.  But this new series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage” has to be the singular passion of my life as a speaker.

Why?  Because for 38 years I have seen so much pain and misery visited on the lives of really good people who lost their marriages not because they are bad people, but simply because they lacked the tools, the skills, and the knowledge on how to apply them.

So in this 10-part series, we’re going to deal with the 10 core essentials; the things you must get right. Today we started with providing a way of recognizing if your marriage is failing.  As a matter of fact, it is a way to gauge where you are in your marriage.

During this talk we talked about the nature of marriage, and understanding that what you believe about the nature of marriage will determine the kind of marriage you will have. We presented five goals for these weeks together.  They are:

  • Drowning marriages will be rescued.
  • Troubled marriages will be saved.
  • Stuck marriages will get unstuck.
  • Good marriages will grow to be great.
  • Great marriages will become contagious and the norm for all of us.

We talked about the four skill levels in marriage, that you understand what they are, how you attain them, and how you apply them.  We also talked about the nature of marriage.  We defined what marriage is, and we also explained what it means to promise for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

This is a talk that not only informs, but inspires.  It firmly teaches and believes that anyone anywhere can go from where they are at this moment and truly build a great marriage. As a matter of fact, the worse your marriage is today, the more potential for good it has tomorrow, if you know how and if you are motivated.

Today @ The Gathering: Living a Life of Irresistible Influence – How to Make the World a Better Place Because You’ve Been Here

We wrapped up our summer series today @ The Gathering.  It’s been a great journey. In the past twelve weeks we’ve talked about 12 Steps Up: How Messy People Mature Over Time.

The genius of the 12-Step program, in my opinion, is that in the process of recovery and growing/maturing (whichever you like) everyone gets a sponsor; someone who is there to mentor them. And everyone sponsors someone else.  In other words everyone takes in, and they also give out.  It’s called influence. Be open to the influence of those who inspire me to be better, and who teach me and lead me.  And also be open to pass on what I’m learning.

Today we talked about how to influence others and help them in the process of change and maturation.  We talked about walking the walk, telling your story, taking responsibility, and giving hope.

It’s amazing to see so many new faces today.  It was overwhelming.  In my opinion it may have been the best day ever in the short history of The Gathering.

The Gathering is made up of amazing people and you proved it today when we did a fruit-basket turn-over at the theater, not only switching sides and theatres, but positions.  And everyone pitched in like clockwork.  It’s amazing to walk the halls and see people laughing, excited, working hard, sweating, putting their hand to the task, and loving it.  Today proved to me again that there is nothing stronger that the heart of a volunteer doing something they love, and believe is important.

Next week we begin a brand new series, “Accept No Mediocre Marriage.” It’s going to be an exciting trip.  I know God is going to save marriages, grow marriages, and do some amazing miracles.  What a sweet ride!  I love being your pastor, and I love being a part of this amazing movement of grace, joy, and hope.

Today @ The Gathering: Where Do You Stand With God?

One of the most important questions you’ll ever answer for yourself of course is, “Where do I today stand with God?” That’s what we talked about today as we continued in our series, 12 Steps Up: How Messy People Mature.

In Step 11 of AA it states, “We’ve sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.”

There is no effort that we yield more benefit and blessing to than the effort to stay consciously connected to God. Today we talked about four ways in which people try to relate to God: ignorance, information, and institutions. And when those don’t work, as they ultimately fall short, as good as they can all be, we opt for intimacy.

The very idea that we could be intimate with God can be overwhelming. Maybe that’s why people in Scripture who got closest to the essence of Jesus fell on their knees in fear, adoration, and worship; both wanting Him to be there and wanting Him to leave.

We also talked about a four-step test that each one of us can take to determine just how close we are to God. There are four characteristics of a life lived in intimacy with God. There’s rest, release, restoration and re-entry. Listen to the podcast of today’s talk and find out how to turn walking and waddling into flying.

Today @ The Gathering: Are You Brave Enough to Slow Down Long Enough and Listen to Your Life?

There’s an interesting statement made in 1 John 3 that goes like this:  “If our conscience is clear, we can come to God with perfect assurance and trust.”

Two words that stand out there are conscience and perfect. If our conscience is clear (and whose is?) we can come to God with perfect assurance and trust. Maybe that’s the key, isn’t it – to learn to listen to our conscience, our inner voice; that part of us created in the image of God that allows us to be more than mere mortals.

I asked four questions this morning to help people get a sense of how much we live outside ourselves.  I asked:

  1. Am I driven by the need to fix others?
  2. Do I ignore my internal sensors, like my conscience?
  3. Do I avoid disciplines aimed at long-term gains? Do I live on the basis of my emotions alone?
  4. Do I assume I can go on this way indefinitely?

These are the ways in which we choose to live our lives on the outside of ourselves so we won’t have to face ourselves.  But until we face ourselves our conscience will never be clear and we will never attain the one thing we want more thank anything in life: perfect assurance and trust in God and His love, grace, and His promises.

Today we talked about learning to listen to our lives: to our motives, to our emotions, to our relationships around us, and to our inner voice – our spirit.

If you are a person overcome by hurry, worry, and speed; if you’re worn out at the end of every day, confused, or feel stuck, this talk is just for you.

Today @ The Gathering: It’s time to Face Up to the New Normal That You or Someone Else Has Created

Today @ The Gathering we continued with Step #9 in our series, “12 Steps Up.” It’s the step in AA that may be the hardest. And that is, to be willing to face up to the stupid things we’ve done, the people we’ve hurt, and try to make amends.

All of us have awakened with a case of “the stupids.”  You know what I’m talking about, a period of time when you do things or say things that you just can’t imagine that you have ever said or done.  But many times these lapses into times of weakness have caused consequences all out of proportion to the moment.

We talked about what you can do after dumb.  You can flee, you can fight, you can ignore it, and you can deny it.  But there is someplace in your life that if you’re going to grow up and be a healthy, emotional, intellectual, spiritual person you’re going to have to face up to the dumb things that you’ve done.

So we used the word FACE as an acronym for the four steps in facing up and making amends.

  1. We’re going to have to fix what we can.
  2. We’re going to accept what we can’t.
  3. We’re going to concentrate on the changes we can make in our own life.
  4. We expect that God will redeem what we’ve wrecked.

If you or someone you know is living with the consequences of bad decisions, this talk would be just the ticket to get you unstuck, and take you to a better place.

Today @ The Gathering: If You Want to Hold Onto That Bitterness, Go Right Ahead – Step #8: Follow Up

Today @ The Gathering we talked about one of the most powerful steps in any person’s growth; and that is the ability, the willingness, and the strategy to extend forgiveness and grace to those who have wounded us.

We talked about the four kinds of people who wound us: those who mean to, those who didn’t mean to, those who don’t care, and those who don’t even know that they did.

We talked about what Jesus taught about forgiveness; the two elements that are essential for forgiveness to happen.

But maybe the most important thing we talked about today was, what is the cost of unforgiveness, as well as the cost of forgiveness?

Forgiveness costs us two things we can live without, but evidently we don’t want to: our arrogance and our pride.  For me to not forgive those who have wounded me means I have to put myself in a superior position; that I would never stoop to hurting anyone the way I’ve been hurt.  While I hope that would be true, I certainly can’t guarantee it, because I do stupid things all the time.

What does forgiveness cost us? More than you’re willing to pay. I guarantee it.

It is true that religion can make you a better frog.  But only Jesus can turn frogs into princes and princesses.  And we become that as we act like the Lord we serve, and extend grace and forgiveness.