Grow Your Marriage by Enhancing Your Love Maps (b196)

marriage-mondays-pngContinue getting to know your significant other. That’s a principle for making love last that Dr. John Gottman has discovered over his decades of research. He calls it “enhancing your love map.”

Dr. Gottman writes:

Without such a love map, you can’t really know your spouse. And if you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them? No wonder the biblical term for sexual love is to “know.”1

Understanding each other’s love maps isn’t something you do once and you are done. People change and grow.

Below are 30 questions you can ask your spouse to start discussions to increase the detail of your love maps for each other.

When you ask these questions, be sure to bathe the process in grace. Don’t get mad if your partner gets a question wrong. You wouldn’t be asking each other these questions if you didn’t love each other and desire growth in your relationship. Dr. Gottman has more questions and great thoughts about love maps in the first chapter of his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

  1. What’s my favorite color?
  2. What is a food I would rather go hungry than eat?
  3. What is my favorite food?
  4. What’s my favorite color?
  5. What’s my favorite sport?
  6. What get’s my motor running, sexually?
  7. Would I rather have 16 friends over for dinner or two?
  8. What is one of my biggest fears?
  9. What is something I really enjoy doing with time off?
  10. How is my life different than I expected it would be at this point?
  11. What do I find very relaxing?
  12. Who is my favorite relative?
  13. Who is my least favorite relative?
  14. What is my favorite vacation so far?
  15. What is something I worry about (or, at least, am concerned about?)
  16. What are three things on my “bucket list”?
  17. What is one of my major dreams or aspirations?
  18. What is a major disappointment I have experienced?
  19. Who is my favorite artist? (Recording, painting, who cares? You’re building a better love map!)
  20. What is one of my favorite books?
  21. Who is my best friend (other than my spouse)?
  22. Do I have any regular pain? If so, where?
  23. How do I like most to receive affection? Words, gifts, acts of service, touch, quality time?
  24. Am I enjoying asking you these questions?
  25. What really saps my energy?
  26. What is something I would like to change about myself?
  27. What is something I am proud of?
  28. Would I rather have a chauffeur or a maid?
  29. What is something you are pretty sure you don’t know about me?
  30. Would I rather have breakfast in bed or dinner in a restaurant?

I recommend “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” (CLICK HERE to take a look at it on Amazon.com)
It’s a well-researched and very practical book. The chapters are filled with true/false tests, questions, anecdotes from Dr. Gottman’s long research career and principles for making your marriage work. I suggest you read it together.

On another note:

I am still honing the focus of my blog. Relationships are a vital part of every person’s life and I think I have something to contribute to people’s lives when it comes to understanding and growing healthy relationships.

For the time being, I am going to call Mondays “#marriagemondays” on my blog. Every Monday will be a marriage-specific post. Of course, these thoughts and principles will apply to other close relationships as well.

We’ll see how #marriagemondays goes.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope it is helpful to you.

pastor-john-sig

1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (p. 48). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Crowd-sourced Wisdom from Church Last Sunday (b195)

crowd-sourced-wisdom-squareLast Sunday I crowd-sourced part of my sermon with some great wisdom as a result. Here’s what happened:

I was preaching on the third chapter of Ruth. In that chapter, I noticed that Ruth had to do something that we all must do from time to time: wade into circumstances of unknown outcome. Every one of us has had to enter into situations that have an unknown outcome. These times can be difficult or scary. They could be personal growth issues, conversations we need to have with others, meetings, almost anything. I saw in Ruth three things to have in place to be ready to “wade into” those times: 1) Trusted advisers. 2) Godly processes. 3) Faith.

Here’s where the sermon took an unusual turn with the outcome that I want to share with you.

There is a huge amount of collective wisdom and experience in the room when our church gathers together. I decided that instead of me preaching to them about a bunch of godly processes for wading in, I would ask the congregation for godly processes or thoughts that help them wade in when needed.

The people of Journey of Life offered great wisdom for wading into unknown, difficult or scary circumstances. Here are the principles/processes they shared during the service:

“What’s the best for the other person?”

This is a very loving way to approach life. It reminds me of several of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Two in particular are “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” and, “Think Win-Win.” It also calls to mind Paul’s instructions to the Philippians:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. — Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

“If I bring my best, that’s the best I can do. If more is asked of me, I can’t do that.”

In this statement, we see a recognition that we cannot be all things to all people. Each of us have gifts to be used. If you are in a situation in which you can’t meet whatever is asked of you, then your gifts are not the ones required for that situation. The Apostle Peter teaches us this:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. — 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)

“Even if it goes badly, it’s not the end of the world. My whole life isn’t tied into the results of this one thing.”

There is great grace and wisdom this this principle shared by a young woman in high school. Underlying this thought is the idea of giving up judging. Not only did Jesus say, ““Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 (ESV)) but Paul takes it further and refuses to judge even himself:

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. — 1 Corinthians 4:3 (ESV)

“Pray and do your homework.”

An elderly woman talked about hiring tree trimmers. There are plenty of less-than-reputable tree trimmers around. So, her process was to pray and do her homework. I can’t help but think of the great leader Nehemiah when the Israelites were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem after the exile. There was danger from neighboring kingdoms who felt threatened by the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s defensive walls. Nehemiah commended the results to God and took responsibility for what he could:

We prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. — Nehemiah 4:9 (ESV)

“Release the results to God.”

An older man talked about remembering who is in charge. When you wade into circumstances of unknown outcome, you need to remind yourself that ultimately the Lord is guiding your life. A passage from James comes to mind in which James reminds people that ultimately God is the determiner of our lives.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” — James 4:13–15 (ESV)

“Even if I don’t get the result I sought, that doesn’t mean that’s not the best outcome.”

Another man reminded us that we don’t know everything. The results that you want might not be the best results. The result that you weren’t seeking might be the best thing that could happen. I think this can be true. When we have to wade into a circumstance of unknown outcome, we often cannot envision the possible best outcome. That is why trusted advisers, godly processes and faith are all essential. Proverbs reminds us who is guiding us:

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. — Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

And Paul encourages the Christians in Rome to remember that even in things that are scary, difficult or painful, God is at work toward the ultimate end of redeeming us:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (ESV)

 

Yes, my congregation preached a great sermon to me! I know I can’t get away with that every week. But last Sunday was so excellent I felt I must share the wisdom with you.

For the record, one of my basic “godly processes” for wading in comes from Ephesians 4:15. “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Christ, who is our head.” I have failed that process, but that process has never failed me.

Ask Yourself This Question During Difficult, Trying or Confusing Times (b194)

Oh, man, was I tired last Sunday morning!

One of the things you can’t do as a pastor is take a sick day on Sunday just because you are tired. As frosting on this “tired-day” cake, I had Confirmation Class from 1pm-3pm Sunday afternoon. I seriously considered cancelling Confirmation Classes because I was head-nodding, micro-napping tired.

BUT I had listened to a podcast earlier in the week that offered me one simple question to help guide and motivate my decisions in the right direction. Asking this one question got me through the worship service (which went very well) and through Confirmation class (which also went very well).

I heard this question on a podcast by Andy Stanley, a pastor and leadership guy.  For most of the podcast, the question was framed in terms of leadership. A leader can ask him or herself this question when confronted with the temptation to compromise, give up, cling to old ways of doing things, or in just about any circumstance. The question is this:

What would a great leader do?

This question is not just limited to leadership, however. It can help you in a wide variety of circumstances.

What would a great _______ do?

For me, I asked myself, “What would a great pastor do?” This question digs into your own goals and motivations. It pushes you to lean toward your best self. I was very tired. What would a great pastor do? Would a great pastor back off and give Sunday morning a maintenance effort instead of best effort? Would a great pastor cancel a class just because that pastor was tired? No and no.

I want to be a great pastor so after asking myself what a great pastor would do, I did what a great pastor would do. And everything went well. Just as important, I maintained consistent performance as a pastor, which is an important part of leadership.

It’s not just for leaders, though. You can use this question in any situation:

  • What would a great parent do?
  • What would a great manager do?
  • What would a great employee do?
  • What would a great husband do?
  • What would a great wife do?
  • What would a great teacher do?
  • What would a great maintenance worker do?
  • What would a great lawyer do?

You get the idea.

Of course, you might have to reconsider your idea of what a great _______ would do if your idea is a little messed up. (For instance, if you think a great mom would never say, “no,” to her kids or a great worker puts in 80 hours per week regardless of his family’s needs.) But assuming your definition of greatness is on track, this question can do great things in your mindset, motivation and energy level for what you are doing.

Try asking yourself this question and see if it doesn’t move you in a direction that you want to go in. It worked for me last Sunday and it worked for me today.

What would a great blogger do? Find something great to blog about and get it out there because people need it!


Andy Stanley has two separate podcasts, one specifically on leadership and one more about life in general called, “Your Move.” I haven’t listened to “Your Move,” but I almost always find Andy Stanley graceful, educational and motivational. Give him a listen and see if you agree. Let me know in the comments section.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast I was listening to

CLICK HERE for Andy’s podcast page listing his two different podcasts (and weekly sermon cast)

 

4 Things You Need to be Able to Say to Your Loved Ones (b193)

fortigivelovethankI was listening to a podcast yesterday (I think it was the TED radio hour) when I heard something profoundly worth passing on.

There are four basic things we need to be able to say to our loved one. The context is end-of-life, but I think we need to practice these four things all the time:

  1. Please forgive me.
  2. I forgive you.
  3. Thank you.
  4. I love you.

If you have a loved one approaching the end of this life, I strongly encourage you to bring these four sentiments into your relationship. Each one represents an area in which people are sometimes left with significant “unfinished business” when a loved one leaves this life. I would spare you that.

Even more, the regular use of these four phrases can keep you from building up “business” in the first place. That is the best way to be sure not to leave unfinished business.

four-things-coverThese come from “The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living,” by Ira Byock. His web site summarized the power of these phrases succinctly:

Four simple phrases—“Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”—carry enormous power to mend and nurture our relationships and inner lives. These four phrases and the sentiments they convey provide a path to emotional wellbeing, guiding us through interpersonal difficulties to life with integrity and grace.

You can find his book in hardcover and Kindle format on Amazon.com (CLICK HERE to go to the book’s page)

Please note: I have not read the book yet. I intend to. If you have read the book, I would love to hear your feedback.

 

Disclaimer. This article may contain affiliate links. To learn more, please see disclosures page.

 

3 Things You Can Do This Week to Make Your Marriage Better (b192)

In the marriage relationship, the occasional grand gesture or major course correction can’t hold a candle to regularly practiced good habits.

Here are three habits you can start this week that will have a significant and positive effect on your marriage.

1. Schedule Business Meetings with your Spouse

This may seem odd, but I’m telling you it can be a game-changer. Business meetings accomplish two important things.

grow-a-great-marriageFirst, life is complicated. Schedules need to be coordinated. Setting aside a time to coordinate schedules regularly will minimize the chances of cross-scheduling. This could be daily at breakfast if you eat together. This could be a few minutes on Sunday night. You and your spouse decide when to do it. Then sit down with the intent to coordinate your lives.

Second, and probably more important, some conversations that married people need to have can be unpleasant and difficult to start. I’m thinking of the family budget. Or something that has been bothering you for a while that you haven’t gotten up the nerve to talk about. A “business meeting” provides the opportunity to talk about those things. This is beneficial in two ways:

  1. You are more likely to start a difficult conversation if there is a specific time set aside to have difficult conversations.
  2. Knowing that a ‘business meeting’ is coming up frees you to enjoy your other time with your spouse without looking for an opening to bring up that difficult topic.

Business meetings don’t have to be about just difficult stuff. You can use this time to tell your spouse something you appreciate about him or her. Or mention a time during the week when you were impressed by or proud of your spouse.

Make it nice. Pick a time to meet every week. You know this is the “business meeting.” Sit down with a beverage appropriate to your lifestyle and the time of day. And talk through whatever needs to be talked through.

2. Read Something Together

Kelly and I read a devotion together most every morning. Sharing something we both read puts us in the same frame of mind for a while. It gives us something to think about together and to talk about. It really is a point of connection.

But it doesn’t have to be devotions. It could be another book. It really doesn’t matter what book it is. The point is you are experiencing this reading together. It’s almost like a two-person book club. Growth materials work well for this because the two of you can discuss your own thoughts about what you’ve read. You could try personal growth, relationship growth, parenting, biographies, history, philosophy, business, leadership, etc.

Whatever you read, think about and discuss will bring you closer because you are sharing your thoughts and reactions with each other. You will likely discover new ways you appreciate your spouse. And, if you have kids, you might just re-discover each other as two adults who are attracted to each other independent of your family responsibilities.

3. Pray Together

As a Christian pastor, this one is near to my heart. The act of sharing concerns and praying together bonds people. It doesn’t have to be super religious. You don’t have to light candles or sing a hymn. It is as simple as sitting down before bed and saying, “What would you like to pray about?” Then you hold hands and have a simple prayer about whatever is on each of your hearts. Once you get over the initial discomfort, you will find that praying with your spouse is a most natural and wonderful part of your relationship.

If you decide to start this, don’t make a big holy deal about it. If there’s something you and your spouse have been talking about, casually suggest you pray together about it at that moment. Hold hands and say a simple prayer. Then thank your spouse for praying with you and go on about your day as though nothing amazing and wonderful just happened (even though it did!).

If you are not of the Christian persuasion, try sharing an interactive spiritual practice from your own tradition.

 

These three habits are gold waiting to be mined. If you are not already doing these three things, get started and see if they don’t take your relationship with your spouse to new and wonderful places. I bet they will. And I’d love to hear about it when they do.

Minimalist Week

Hi Friends,

My blog has not gone dormant. This week is super busy and I haven’t gotten to my blog. Next week I should be able to resume my regular 3-5 posts per week.

In the mean time, here’s something to think about:

 

Do You Make This Common Mistake When Trying to Help a Hurting Loved One? (b191)

empathy-screen-capOther people’s pain can be so uncomfortable, especially when the hurting person is someone we care deeply about. We want to help so badly.

The problem is that sometimes we help badly. 🙂

In this short video animating a snippet of a talk given by Brene Brown (one of my favorite authors), Brene talks about sympathy, empathy, and which is the way to really help ease the pain of others.

Enjoy! (and learn) – John

Video description:

The Power of Empathy

What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Dr Brené Brown is a best-selling author, speaker and research professor. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

Voice: Dr Brené Brown

Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne)

3 Things You Need to Think About from the First Chapter of Ruth (b190)

man-contemplatingIn order to learn from the book of Ruth in the right way, you must remember that this is not a parable. Parables are stories constructed to teach. The book of Ruth records something that happened to someone in real life. To learn from real life, You have to observe and ponder. You  have to think about what happened, how the people in the story interpret what happened, and whether you interpret the events of the story in the same way as the participants.

Before you continue this post, read at least the first chapter of Ruth (CLICK HERE to read it on Bible Gateway). I am writing with the assumption that you are familiar with Ruth chapter 1.

There are four names in Ruth chapter 1 with significant meanings:

  • Bethlehem means “house of bread”
  • Elimelech means “God is my king”
  • Naomi means “pleasant”
  • Mara means “bitter”

Elimelech’s name calls to mind the Israelites’ loyalty to Yahweh. As the story begins, there is a famine in “house of bread,” so “God is my king” decides to go to another country. Not much loyalty there, eh? To make matters worse, “God is my king” chooses to go to Moab, a country 30 miles East of Bethlehem that is specifically off-limits to Israelites. Why? The Moabites treated the Israelites poorly as they passed through on the way to the promised land. In response to this treatment, the law commanded:

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. — Deuteronomy 23:3–4 (ESV)

As I read Ruth 1, I notice at least three things we all deal with that come up in this real life story.

1. There is something about escapism.

Elimelech decided to leave the promised land in order to (as he thought) save his family. As it turns out, he and his two sons both died in Moab. His idea of escaping the troubles in his own land didn’t really pan out. In “The Conduct of Life” (1860), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of this truth:

“The efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only serve to lead us into it.”

There is a strong tendency in many people to try to escape difficult problems of all varieties: internal/emotional, relational and situational.

We run from internal difficulties when we refuse to take the voyage of self-discovery and face our dark side.We try to escape when we don't discover our deeper selves and face our own dark side. Click To Tweet

We escape relational difficulties in two ways. Some people withdraw like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. That’s the more obvious way. The other way, not so obvious, is to go on the offensive. Either way, the result is the same: escape from facing the situation.

The story of Noami’s life can prod you to think about ways in which we sometimes use escapism in our lives.

2. There is something about faith.

Naomi attributes many things to God. God brought the famine. God visited Bethlehem with food. In her mind, the death of her husband and sons is God’s testimony against what she and her family did by moving to Moab.

In all this, Naomi never curses God or calls God unfair. Her faith is still in Yahweh even if what she believes to be his judgment is against her.

Naomi is more consistent in her faith than many Christians today. For instance, we use the language of God directing hurricanes when the hurricane does something we think of as desirable, such as going easy on Orlando. So do we also say that God purposely mowed over Haiti with hurricane Matthew? Many people used the language of God directing hurricane Katrina when it did a big loop, turned around, and struck New Orleans, a city they thought deserved God’s special judgment. This view becomes problematic when we investigate further and find out that Katrina missed some of the most “sin-filled” areas of the city. Now what?

The life of faith has tension. This tension has been an openly acknowledged part of the Christian faith from the beginning. If God is not in control, what does it mean to call God, “God.” If God is in control, what does all the suffering and tragedy say about God?

Jesus intimated that things just happen.

“…those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you…” —Luke 13:4–5 (ESV)

Was Naomi right to blame the death of her husband and sons on God? I’m not sure. But at least she was consistent.

The tragedy that struck Naomi’s family can can encourage you to consider the way you deal with the tensions and unknowns of faith. Do you hide from them or openly acknowledge them?

3. There is something about grace.

As I mentioned above, the law in Deuteronomy expressly Moabites from becoming part of the nation of Israel. Yet here is Ruth, accompanying Naomi back to Bethlehem and being accepted into that community. As we will find out later, Ruth becomes Kind David’s great grandmother! Inconceivable!In Naomi's community, the city of Bethlehem, grace triumphed over legalism. - John C. Rallison Click To Tweet

In this community, grace triumphed over legalism. For whatever reason, these people decided not to follow the written rules in this case. What does this mean?

It means that you should take this moment to think about the role of rules in your life with both yourself and others. Jesus did not say that the central mark of his followers would be that they were exemplary examples of people who keep every rule perfectly. He said,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:35 (ESV)

Points to Ponder

Here are three questions worth considering this week. As always, I encourage you to write your answers down. There is a concreteness in writing that can push us beyond the self-deception that can sometimes be a part of keeping things in our head.

  1. Are movements you are contemplating based in faith or fear? (could be physical, emotional, relational)
  2. What tensions exist in your faith that you need to stare in the face?
  3. Where do you need to receive grace over law in your life? Where do you need to offer grace over law?

(At Journey of Life (the church I pastor), we are beginning a four week series going through the book of Ruth. This post is based on the sermon from Sunday, October 10, 2016 at Journey of Life Lutheran Church in Orlando, Florida. Visit www.journeyoflife.org for audio and video recordings of the full sermon.)

4 Essential Steps for Your Emotional/Relational Disaster Preparedness Plan (b189)

whats-your-planEmergency planners will tell you it’s if you have an emergency, it’s when you have an emergency.  As I type this, Hurricane Matthew is preparing to bear down on my home and family. I feel ok because we are prepared.

The most basic plan for emergencies involves having four things in place:

  1. Awareness of Your Surroundings and Your Risk
  2. An Emergency Kit
  3. A Communications Plan
  4. An Escape Plan

I would like to suggest to you that you should have a similar list of things in place for emotional/relational emergencies. Because it’s not if, it’s when your emotional or relational life enters the emergency zone. Identifying and responding to emotional/relational crises is an important part of your long-term health… including your physical health.

What is an emotional/relational emergency? I Googled “crisis” and found this definition: a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. So we’ll go with a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger in your emotions or relationships.

Just today I heard a story of a guy who went to the emergency room with chest pain thinking he was having a heart attack. It turned out just to be stress. That sounds like an emotional/relational emergency to me.

1. Awareness of Your Surroundings and Your Risk

Awareness of yourself and how you respond to others is the foundational first step.

The man I mentioned above wasn’t aware of what was going on inside of him. He was probably living in “high-alert” status for months. You need to know yourself. Personality inventory systems can be great tools for learning about yourself. The one I am learning about right now is called the Enneagram. It’s an ancient system based on over two millennia of observation.  You can find several free tests online. You can also find more extensive paid tests. Having taken several personality type inventories (e.g. Myers-Briggs) and found them somewhat useful, I will tell you that I think the enneagram is a really powerful tool for self-understanding.

Know what around you might move you toward an emotional/relational emergency. What types of things get a rise out of you? When do you feel like retreating? When do you feel shame rise inside you?

2. An Emergency Kit

This doesn’t have to be a physical kit, but it could be. It could include chocolate!

For emotional/relational crises, the emergency kit is a toolkit of thoughts and behaviors you can call up when, in your self-awareness, you sense an impending emotional/relational emergency. It may be as simple as slow breathing if you are feeling anxious. For relational emergencies, the 30-minute break is a valuable part of the emergency kit. (If you are in a heated discussion and need a break, 5 minutes isn’t enough for the combat chemicals to dissipate and your mind to reorient. You need at least 20-30 minutes of doing something else).

I can’t give you a whole kit here (sounds like another blog post, eh?). But I can tell you that you need to learn and practice the things in your emotional/relational emergency kit ahead of time so they are readily usable when the time comes.

3. A Communication Plan

I am a pastor. As such, I am the emotional/relational emergency communication plan for many people. If you have a pastor that you have a good relationship with, ask for his or her cell phone number and for permission to call if you need to. Most pastors are more than happy to provide this. For you it may be someone else (e.g. a close friend or a therapist).

You may not have anyone. If that is the case, start thinking about whom you might call when you need to talk.

You might feel right now like you don’t need to talk to other people. You can handle it. I guarantee that if you really attempt to grow in self-awareness, you will find yourself desiring open, honest conversation that goes deeper than sports or shopping. You will realize that no one is an island. Perhaps you could handle it alone, but is that the best way to handle the emotional/relational emergency?

4. An Escape Plan

Be ready to give yourself a break if you need it. Take a day off. Schedule lunch with a friend. Go for a walk in your favorite space. Go to the bathroom. Pretend you are getting an important cell phone call that you have to take. This step involves being aware of when you need to escape for a while and loving yourself enough to do it.

Here’s a very important tip: an early escape is a small escape. Many small escapes will usually keep you from needing a big escape. I remember seeing a movie about a news producer. (I can’t remember the title.) The producer had a daily escape because the stress of producing a live news show was so intense. She would stop by a park on the way home, sit in a pier looking out at a pond and cry for a moment.

So, do you have an emotional/relational emergency plan?

I’m a big fan of writing things down because it has a way of making people think more concretely. Look at this list and write down what your emotional/relational emergency plan is.

  1. What kinds of things do you know have a high likelihood of pushing you toward emotional/relational emergency mode?
  2. What are 3-5 things you can do immediately if you find yourself headed into emotional/relational emergency mode?
  3. Who can you talk to?
  4. What can you do as an escape? Do you give yourself little escapes? If so, what exactly are your little escapes and when have you done them?

Some people have a full emotional/relational emergency plan and don’t even know it. In that case, writing it down can bring you peace because you can see that you are prepared for life.

Some people really don’t know what to do but muscle through emotional/relational emergencies. If that is so, start thinking now about how to be ready because it’s not if you have an emotional/relational emergency, it’s when.

3 Benefits of Meditation I Experienced Yesterday Morning (b188)

meditating-young-man-social-mediaI am by no means an “expert” in meditation. I have been practicing meditation sporadically for a little over a year. Practicing it sporadically has actually helped me see the benefits of meditation because they go away when I don’t do it. It’s like a controlled experiment… except that it’s controlled more by spotty practice and my kids’ schedules rather than a randomized trial plan.

Regardless, here I three things I noticed this morning.

1. I Was Reminded that Being Present is Powerful

I was doing a ten-minute meditation. About 90 seconds into sitting still and breathing I thought, “Cr*p. There is no way I am going to make it through ten minutes of this.”

Then I remembered my practice. 10 minutes is in the future. I needed to stay present. So, instead of worrying about how crazy my mind would be going in 8 more minutes, I stayed present to the practice. I focused on my breathing as I was breathing. In and out. In and out. (If you are from Southern California, I know what you are thinking right now!) Before I knew it, 10 minutes were up.

I was reminded how important it is to not worry about the future but rather to do the thing in the moment that needs to be done. That doesn’t mean that we don’t plan. But letting our minds zoom ahead with anxiety about what may not come to pass accomplishes nothing good. Plan but don’t worry. Leo Buscaglia said it this way:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” — Leo Buscaglia

Jesus said it with a slightly different twist:

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. — Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

I was reminded of the power of staying present. By disregarding the difficult ten minutes I faced and staying present to where I was at the moment, I made it through the ten minutes.

2. I Was Able to Stay Calm

My daughter was running late getting ready for school. I had reminded her that we were going to be late and that she should hurry. She said, “Ok,” but if the pace of her progress was altered, it was utterly imperceptible to me.

This is where I would normally begin to use a louder voice, possibly threaten with punishment, and certainly experience agitation. But I didn’t.

Make no mistake, I was frustrated that we were running late for school. But I experienced the frustration differently. Her tardiness was her tardiness. I felt my boundaries stay in place instead of tying my self-evaluation of my parenting to my 14-year-old’s decisions. I also did not waste time fuming. I attribute this to having meditated. And it felt good.

3. I Spoke Kindly to Myself

I have been developing a regular habit of going to the gym. It feels really good overall. But I tend to look at really fit guys with some jealousy and desperation. When I see someone who really looks fit and healthy in the locker room (that is where you can see for real, after all!), I tend to internally shake my head, sigh, and resign myself to never being in that kind of shape.

Yesterday morning I saw a guy in good shape and something very strange happened: I spoke kindly to myself. I said to myself, “Not yet, but I’ll get there.” I felt hopeful. But it was more than that. It was also self-acceptance. I accepted myself as I currently am (needing to lose about 20 lbs.) and I could see myself in the future in the physical health I desire. Part of that is, no doubt, due to exercising and the power one feels when one actually changes one’s life for the better. But I also attribute the shift in attitude to the positive mental and emotional benefits of meditation.

If you want to learn some of what the scientific community is discovering about meditation, CLICK HERE to see my post, “A Free, Scientifically Proven Way to Be Physically Healthier and Feel Better about Life.”

I use an app called “Calm.” You can take a look at it at http://www.calm.com. In addition to using it online, they have apps for iOS and Android. There is a free version and a paid version with more meditations and daily new meditations. I use the free one because all I want is the timer and the basic body scan meditations. Sometime I’m going to write a Christian meditation app! (Do you know of one?)