Overcoming Gridlock in Your Marriage (b203)

This post continues my series drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Today’s installment is:

Principle #6: Overcome Gridlock

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous four principles I’ve covered in my blog (click on the title to read the post):


(Chapter 9 of Dr. Gottman’s book includes practical tips for very specific solvable problems that couples often face, such problems dealing with stress, in-laws, money and sex. This post continues with the content from chapter 10.)

Gridlock can happen when partners desire mutually exclusive things. One wants kids, one doesn’t. One is a homebody and one is a party animal. One is a person of faith, the other an atheist. The trick with gridlock issues it to treat them as sort of a relational “bum knee.” They may always be there but they don’t have to suck the joy and energy out of the relationship.

Regarding how to deal with gridlock, writes Dr. Gottman:

The goal in ending gridlock is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue. (p. 217)

Dr. Gottman says the trick is understanding what’s behind these gridlock issues:

To navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand its cause. Whether the issue is momentous, like which of your religions to pass on to your children, or ridiculous, like which way to fold dinner napkins, gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other. By dreams I mean the hopes, aspirations, and wishes that are part of your identity and give purpose and meaning to your life. (pp. 217-218)

In happy couples, each partner wants to help the other fulfill his or her dreams. These can be concrete, such as a certain size house in a certain type of neighborhood, or more intangible, such as a sense of safety or living life as an adventure.

The trick here is (no surprise!) learning to talk. Instead of negotiating or manipulating to move toward or hold onto your dreams and aspirations, talk about them. Talk about what’s underneath them. Perhaps the house and neighborhood aspiration is really a desire to feel successful? Perhaps a sense of adventure is more a reaction to his parents’ fearful attitude toward life.

Move forward by talking not just about your goals and aspirations, but about what they mean to you. Each person should let the other talk for a while about what the partner’s goals and aspirations mean or symbolize to him. No judgment. No interruption (except for occasional questions for clarification).

Here’s an important tip from Dr. Gottman for identifying unfilled dreams that might be fueling gridlock:

One good indicator that you’re wrestling with a hidden dream is that you see your spouse as being the sole source of the marital problem. (p. 224)

How to move past gridlock:

  1. Listen to yourself and your spouse to identify unfulfilled dreams.
  2. Speak and listen compassionately to each other (and to yourself) about what those dreams mean and why they are important.
  3. Soothe each other. These can be tender emotional places.
  4. End the gridlock. Support each other’s dreams.

As with every post in this series, there’s much more in Dr. Gottman’s book, including inventories and exercises to help you grasp the seven principles and put them into action.

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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

5 Practices for Solving Solvable Problems in Marriage (b202)

This post continues my series drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Today’s installment is:

Principle #5: Solve Your Solvable Problems

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous four principles I’ve covered in my blog (click on the title to read the post):

Remember, solvable problems have to do with behaviors and attitudes. What would you like your spouse to stop doing, start doing, or just do differently. It could be helping around the house. It could be not heaving a sigh whenever company is coming over. It could be talking more in the evening. It could be something more serious.

You can learn how to solve these problems in ways that will build your relationship and increase you respect for your partner. It may take some education, some practice, and even some self-discipline. But relational problem-solving is a learned skill. You can do it.

Through his study of couples successfully resolving conflict, Dr. Gottman came up with 5 steps (p. 158):

  1. Soften your startup
  2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts
  3. Soothe yourself and each other
  4. Compromise
  5. Be tolerant of each other’s faults

It is important to note that these five steps do not include the empathic listening skills taught by many therapists. Dr. Gottman writes

It’s not a bad method— if you can do it. But, as I’ve said, many couples can’t— including many very happily married couples. Plenty of the people we studied who had enviable, loving relationships did not follow the experts’ rules of communication when they argued. But they were still able to resolve their conflicts. (pp. 157-158).

Soften your startup by complaining about a behavior instead of blaming a person. Start your statements with “I” instead of “you.” Be clear. Be polite. Be appreciative. Don’t store things up. (Instead of “You never put the dishes in the dishwasher,” try “I get frustrated when I clean the kitchen and then I come home to dirty dishes in the sink.”)

Repair attempts are points at one partner will share a feeling, apologize, indicate a need to calm down, share a change in thought or believe part way through the conversation or express appreciation.

Soothing has to do with using techniques and time that reduce the emotional heat that’s been raised by the discussion you’ve been having.

When approaching compromise, be sure that each person shares what’s behind their position in the conflict. Why is it important to partner A that partner B puts dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink? Dig a little. Then get creative. You don’t want to go to mother-in-law’s house because she controls everything? Maybe take her out to dinner. Or maybe suck it up because it’s important to your partner. Or maybe non-related partner goes for a short time and then leaves for some other important event. You get the idea. Don’t dig in on your positions. Dig deep to find out what real needs are underneath then dig around to find creative ways to find the best compromise. BTW – If you are trying to keep a relationship going, it’s not weak to compromise. It’s strong.

Finally, be gracious toward each other. Don’t expect perfection. Changing habits takes time. Some days are better than others.

As with every post in this series, there’s much more in Dr. Gottman’s book, including inventories and exercises to help you grasp the seven principles and put them into action.

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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

Are Your Relationship Conflicts Unsolvable? (b201)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is a break in the series of the seven principles, but is still drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous four principles I’ve covered in my blog (click on the title to read the post):

Problems can be divided into all sorts of categories, but perhaps the most basic of all is this:

Solvable and Perpetual

Identifying which is which and dealing with each according to its kind is important. You will waste time, energy and emotion trying to solve a perpetual problem. You will continue fighting needlessly when you don’t move toward resolution on a solvable problem.

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, 69% of marital conflicts fall into the “perpetual” category. Couples he has studied come back years later and are still having the same conflicts. The difference for the satisfied couples is how they treat their perpetual conflicts. He writes:

These couples intuitively understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. (p. 131)

Perpetual conflicts arise out of personality traits such as desire, taste, thought and feelings. A person is the way a person it. For instance, hubby doesn’t really want to go to wife’s extended family dinner because he doesn’t enjoy her family’s company. This is a perpetual problem. He may never grow to enjoy her family’s company. If wife gets angry at husband every time for not wanting to go, this will fester because hubby likes what hubby likes. It’s not a problem to be solved. It is a situation to deal with.

While husband’s taste in company may be a perpetual problem, whether husband goes is a solvable problem. The way discussion plays out about husband’s attendance will reveal a great deal about the health of their marriage. Are he and she both willing to compromise? Can they creatively seek alternative solutions? Is he willing to go if it is very important to her? Etc. (The way this conflict plays out will betray the level of presence of the four horsemen of marriage apocalypse. CLICK HERE to see my blog post on the four horsemen.)

In couples that are functioning well, perpetual problems often result in good natured ribbing and jibes when they arise. In couples that are not functioning well, the perpetual difference between partners becomes a perpetual source of argument and negative emotion.

Here’s my tip (not from Dr. Gottman): Analyze your conflict. If you are arguing about a personality trait, a taste, a desire, etc., you are probably trying to solve a perpetual problem. In my case, I am never going to like asparagus. It would be foolish of my wife to get angry and argue with me about liking asparagus. She would waste her breath and add a great deal of negative emotion to the day if she tried to change my mind about my own tastes. However, if she and I can talk about it, we may find she has other concerns. Perhaps she wants me to eat a couple of sprigs of asparagus at dinner as an example to our children? That is something I can do and, in fact, would admire her for caring enough to look for ways to encourage vegetable consumption in my children.

When you have a conflict, try to tease out the solvable and perpetual parts. And practice principles 1-4 above. You will do yourself, your partner and your relationship a great service.

This chapter, like the others, includes inventories and exercises to help you learn to distinguish between perpetual and solvable problems. I encourage you to read “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”


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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

In Marriage, You Win by Yielding (b200)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the fourth principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make your marriage work, you need to:

Let Your Partner Influence You

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous three principles that I covered in my previous three #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

The word here is partnership.

Here is the dictionary definition of “partner”:

“one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together”

There is no partnership if there is no influence. There is no “together” without being affected by your partner’s thoughts and feelings. In what sense can you call your spouse a “partner” if you don’t take his or her thoughts into account. To be married is to choose not to be an island.

In his research, Dr. Gottman found that:

Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct. (p. 100)

Dr. Gottman isn’t intentionally singling men out. Partnership runs both ways. But his research indicates that most women, even in troubled marriages, are sharing power with their spouse.

The idea of letting your partner influence you cuts across all religious systems, including those teaching that the man is the head of the house. This principle is about respecting your partner rather than ignoring their thoughts or bullying them into submission.

From Dr. Gottman’s research, men often don’t realize they are refusing to be influenced by their spouse.

In many cases, I suspect, men who resist letting their wives influence them are not even aware of this tendency. There are men who consider themselves feminists who interact with their wives in ways that belie this label. (p. 103)

This refusal to be influenced leads to all sorts of consequences that make marriages less satisfying and less likely to succeed in the long term. Spouses who don’t feel like partners can turn to nagging as a means of influence. Conflicts that could be peacefully resolved often blow up because of the constant negative relational pressure experienced by the spouse who doesn’t feel like a partner. Couples engage in power moves to get their way instead of partner talk to meet everyone’s needs.

How does one identify this problem and begin to move in a better direction?

Introspection and dialog are good ways to begin. Can you name a specific time recently when:

  1. You and your spouse disagreed on the best course of action, and you chose to act on your spouse’s idea rather than yours?
  2. You disagreed with your spouse, voiced your disagreement, and felt heard?

You can grow as a couple in sharing power by practicing habits 1, 2 & 3 (see above). Remember there may be ways to meet both your needs or meet in the middle somewhere. You will never know this if you don’t talk through issues with a realistic expectation of sharing power.

Letting your partner influence you will yield relational dividends every day. Your relationship will be smoother. Your conflicts will resolve more smoothly. It may seem paradoxical but, as Dr. Gottman writes, when you allow your partner to influence you, you are:

Yielding to win

Look for ways to compromise. Seek out points at which you can yield. Recognize that your relationship is so vital that some of your personal interests are rightly sacrificed to the good of the marriage.

And men, just put the toilet seat down when you are done. (or, better yet, close the lid, too.)

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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

One Little Habit That Will Nurture Health (and Romance!) in your Marriage (b199)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the third principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make you marriage work, you need to learn to

Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous two principles that I covered in my previous two #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

This idea of turning toward each other is really important. The entertainment industry uses dramatic moments to drive the plot forward. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that dramatic moments are not where love is nurtured and grown.

Love grows in the little moments of daily life. Dr. Gottman writes of love:

It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. (p. 80)

Real life love is built in the little connections of everyday life. Marriage is nurtured each time you connect with your spouse even in the smallest way.

The classic example is when a one person is sitting in a room reading and the partner walks in. Does the reader look up or not? It’s a small moment that turns out to be highly indicative of the state — and more importantly, the direction —  of the relationship.

Turning toward each other is the way you live every day. It’s sharing how your night’s sleep was. “Did you have any dreams?” It’s noticing possible needs of your spouse, no matter how small. “I’m going to the store, do you need anything?” It’s all the little moments in which you turn toward your spouse.

I was riding in a car with a friend on the way to spending the evening at his house. We decided to rend a movie. I suggested that we call his wife to ask her what she might like to watch. He said that she would say whatever he wanted to watch was fine. I suggested that he call her anyway because he communicates care by calling even if he’s pretty sure he knows what she’ll say. It turns out we were both right. She did say, “Whatever you want is fine,” and Dr. Gottman (whom I had not read yet) confirmed my instincts about turning toward your spouse.

These little moments add to the emotional bank account the couple shares. They create cushion for when conflict arises. But they do something else.

Surprisingly, Dr. Gottman found that these moments are also key to keeping romance alive. A walk on the beach can fan the flames of romance for a moment, but only if the emotional bank account is already full from the partners daily turning toward each other.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that Kelly and I try to sit down for a few minutes of face-to-face conversation every morning and every evening. As I’ve written before, we usually do a devotion in the morning and pray together in the evening. But much of it is small talk. How did you sleep? What’s on your schedule today? How was your day?

Dr. Gottman has practical advice and some personal/relationship tests you can take to gauge your level of turning toward each other. He also has noticed that couples who ignore each other’s emotional needs usually do so out of mindlessness, not malice.

So maybe this is your wake-up call to be more intentional about turning toward your spouse. It’s a simple habit, but it’s like compound interest for your relationship.

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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

3 Bible Verses You Need the Day After the Election (b198)

3-bible-versesThis post is directed mostly at my Christian brothers and sisters, but much of it holds true for anyone willing to accept it.

One things is a near certainty on Wednesday, November 9. In our seriously divided country, approximately half of the people will see their candidate headed for the White House and half the people will see their candidate giving a concession speech.


Whether your candidate wins or loses, the people to whom you will be talking are still God’s dearly beloved. As such, the way we you like to be treated is the best gauge for how you treat them.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

Do you like it when people gloat over you? Then don’t be a gloating winner. Do you enjoy people being sore and bitter losers? Then don’t be one.

We are all still citizens of one country. After this election season, we still have to live together. Following the “Golden Rule” is one of the best ways to live together in peace.


If your candidate does not win, it is not an irredeemable calamity. All governmental structures and elections are temporary. Nations are temporary. Life, itself, is temporary. God is still at work in this world and in your life.

God is still fulfilling what Christians trust to be true:

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)

So do not give in to moping, depression or anxiety. Our lives, our souls and our God are all much bigger than this election.


The job of the Christian will not have changed regardless of who becomes president. Further, the circumstances of our Christian work are going to continue to change even if your preferred candidate gets to sit in the oval office for the next four years.

The circumstances of our country and culture may change the way Christians go about their work, but the focus of the work does not change:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, — Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

How will you live out your Christian faith if Hillary Clinton is elected? How will you live out your Christian faith if Donald Trump is elected? How will you live out your Christian faith if nobody gets 270 electoral college votes and the House of Representatives chooses Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to serve as president?

Regardless of who wins the election, our earthly assignment continues. We continue to love God and love others so that by any means we might win people over to following Jesus.

So, my friends, rest in peace. If this was helpful, share it.



One Crucial Key for Healing – and Growing – a Marriage (b197)

Last week I wrote about the importance of enhancing your “love maps” in your marriage. (CLICK HERE for that blog post.) This series of #marriagemondays blog posts is drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

This week I would like to introduce you to principle #2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration.

On first glance, this seems odd. My intuition tells me that I am either fond of my mate or not. I admire my spouse or I don’t.

Dr. Gottman’s research tells a different story.

As a marriage grows more challenging, the fondness and admiration people feel for each other can get lost in the haze of difficulty, disagreement and disappointment.

Couples who are having difficulty often forget how fond they were and how they admired each other. It’s difficult to put real effort into healing a relationship with someone for whom you have no fondness or admiration. Reconnecting with that fondness and admiration is crucial to healing struggling marriages. It can also fan the flame of love in healthy marriages.

The good news is that most couples can reconnect with feelings of fondness and admiration for each other. Much of the work involves how couples remember their history.

Dr. Gottman writes:

I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help. (p. 641)

Everything you experience is a mixed bag. Do you choose to remember the good things or do you hang onto things you can complain about?

One of the great privileges of being human is the ability to choose what one thinks about. In the case of struggling marriages, choosing to call to mind instances of fondness and admiration for your spouse can make all the difference.

Here are some abbreviated versions of Dr. Gottman’s recommended exercises from the book:

  1. Think of a characteristic of your partner that you are fond of or admire. Write down an incident that illustrations that characteristic.
  2. Recall, relive or relate two or three happy or fulfilling times you’ve had with your partner. The times need not be recent. You can go all the way back to your wedding or when you first started dating.
  3. Talk with each other about marriage as a concept. What do you expect marriage to do in your life? What about your parents’ marriages do you want to emulate? Avoid? Together, chart and discuss the ups and downs of your marriage.

In his book, Dr. Gottman includes seven weeks of thoughts and tasks to build fondness and admiration. They aren’t large and difficult things. Week one starts like this:


  • Thought: I am genuinely fond of my partner.
  • Task: List one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.


  • Thought: I can easily speak of the good times in our marriage.
  • Task: Pick one good time and write a sentence about it.


  • Thought: I can easily remember romantic, special times in our marriage.
  • Task: Pick one such time and think about it.

This isn’t rocket science. Nor is it trickery or mental manipulation.

By building a pattern of positive thoughts, you very likely will find your fondness and admiration for your partner growing for real because you will be specifically thinking about how you are fond of and admire your partner.

Fondness and admiration aren’t the only things needed to heal a hurting relationship. But, reconnecting with the fondness and admiration that drew you together in the first place is a vital part of a healthy, healing, growing relationship.

Here’s something you can try if you haven’t gotten ahold of Dr. Gottman’s book (his book includes many exercises): Keep a fondness and admiration journal for a month (or just start with a week). Every morning or evening (one time might be easier than the other), write down something positive about your partner: a fond memory, an admirable character trait. At the beginning of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner. Then, at the end of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner and compare it to the beginning of the month.

I’ve betting you will notice a difference in just one month (probably even a week!). I’d love to hear about it in the comments below this blog if you’d care to share. 🙂

Next Monday: Principle #3.

I hope you are enjoying #marriagemondays. I know I am!


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


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

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.


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

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

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)