Fun and Needed Marriage Advice For Men

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The man gave names to all livestock
and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.

(Genesis 2:20)

Adam names three categories of animals: livestock, birds and beasts. It says he named all of them. There are 8.7 million species named today and 30,000 more than don’t have names. For Adam, this is going to take a while. He’s going to wait for his bride for a good amount of time.

And then, in the same verse, we find one of the greatest understatements of the Bible: 

But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:20)

Here’s the hypothetical scenario going on between God and Adam:  

God: I love you, Adam, I do, but you need a wife. You need a close friend.
Adam: Whoo, yes! Let’s talk about that.
God: How about an blobfish?
Adam: No, no thank you.
God: How about a rhino?
Adam: God, it’s got horns. That’s not good.
God: How about the cow?
Adam: How about no.
God: What about a monkey? You want a monkey in white dress?
Adam: …………

God’s going to make the woman and bring her to Adam as his wife, his helper, his best friend.

What does the first woman look like? We have no idea, but, compared to the options Adam has, she’s gotta be amazing no matter what she looks like. If Adam is looking at the woman on one side and has a snapping-turtle alligator on the other side, Eve is the choice 10 times out of 10. 

Compared to the aardvark, she’s amazing.

Here’s where I’m going with this: 

Men, your standard of beauty is your wife. 

Hey husband, question for you? Who’s the most beautiful woman in the world? 

It’s your wife. 

There is not another woman on this planet more beautiful than your wife. 

With Eve, we don’t know if she’s tall, short, voluptuous, skinny, redhead, blonde, brunette, bald, light skin, dark skin, and, after sin enters the word, we don’ know if she’s loud or quiet, harsh or sweet, lazy or hard-working, vindictive or gracious. 

We don’t know what she is. We just know she’s better than the gibbons. 

Women don’t come from man, but from God. That’s why they’re great. They are God-sent. 

Now, not all women remain great. According to the book of Proverbs, some women are crowns and some women are cancers. A single guy’s prayer is to marry a crown, not a cancer. To marry a godly woman, not a selfish, angry one.

But no matter who he marries, she needs to be the standard of attractiveness to him. Not a Super Bowl halftime show, not a porn star, not a co-worker, not an old girlfriend, not a flirtatious neighbor – his wife is the standard of beauty. 

My wife will ask me, Are you going to think I’m attractive when I’m 70? 

My response: Baby, when you’re 70, I’m going to be into all things grandma. I’m only going to be about white hair and slow movements and The Price Is Right and going to Florida a lot and eating dinner at 3:30pm and taking our pills together. 

I’m gonna be all about my 70-year-old, beautifully-wrinkled, grandmother wife. No matter her age or ailment or attitude or shape or look – there is not another woman close to being more gorgeous to me than her, inside and out. 

Husband, the standard of beauty is your wife. 

God’s answer to Adam is, You don’t like the goat or the anteater as a choice for a lifelong partner? Okay, I’ll make you a lady. 

To bring Adam his fitted mate, God chloroforms him.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall
upon the man, and while he slept took one of
his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

(Genesis 2:21)

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s head to show the woman is above him. God isn’t a feminist. 

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s foot to show the woman is under him. God isn’t a chauvinist. 

God takes out a rib to show the woman is a helper alongside to him as he will be a helper alongside her. God is showing that any relationship worth having is one that involves mutual sacrifice. 

The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man
he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2:22)

There are 8.7 million different species of animals. Adam names them all. That’s exhausting physically but what’s more exhausting was the emotional toll of Adam searching for his best friend and being disappointed 8.7 million times. 

And then God brings her to him (cue the R&B music). 

God creates the first woman, which means God makes the first marriage.

This is the first wedding because it feels like God the Father is walking Eve down the aisle toward Adam. Some of you didn’t have a godly father – neither did Eve. But Eve had God, who is a Father to the fatherless.

God walks her down the aisle like the father, and He gives her away. He officiates as the first pastor at the first wedding ceremony. It’s perfection. The man needs to say something, though. Adam needs to say something. He needs to comfort his wife. He needs to show her he will be there for her. 

The reason Adam needs to speak? Eve has had a big day She got created. She meets God. She’s naked and is going to her wedding. For most girls, that’s too much for one day. Most girls would pass out. 

She’s going to meet her husband. First person she’s ever met. He’s going to need to say something. 

Here’s what Adam does: He sings to her.

Women love guys who can sing. Trust me. We lived in Nashville for 7 years. If the guy can sing, the girl is blind to a lot of his flaws. He could have a criminal record, live in a tent, be illiterate and the girl still says, But he played me a song. I love him so much.

It works every time. 

Adam sings a love song to Eve in the Hebrew language. The first recorded words we have in human history before sin enters the world is song. Some have the theory (it’s just a theory) that humans sang every word until sin came. We didn’t start talking until we sinned. Maybe that’s why people are so moved at musicals, because we were meant to sing through life. Maybe that’s why children sing and hum while they play. We were meant to sing through life. 

In your Bible, what Adam says is in compositional form. It’s poetry, and in Hebrew, this song rhymes.

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:23)

Men need to be careful what they call their wives, what they call their daughters. If a man degrades his wife with mean names, not good. If he chooses to uplift her with corny monikers, it’s sweet and life-giving. I call my wife Baby Cakes. I call her, Gorgeous. If you call her those things, they’ll never find your body. Those are names for me to call her to uplift her. 

Adam sings, At last! At last! After going through all of those animals and not finding someone to be with and love and play and laugh – I’ve waited through all the animals, at last! She’s here!

Men, on your wedding day you were saying, At last! 

Men need to go back to that time when they were acting head over heels in love. God brought you your wife, at last! Speaking of weddings, here’s a familiar verse:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and
his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they
shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife
were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:24-25)

First thing for a single person to do: leave your mother and father. 

Next, get married. 

Marriage is for men, not for boys.

A lot of immature males think, If I get married, that’ll make me a man. Nope, it won’t. Be a man first. Prepare yourself now. Read your Bible. Pray. Work hard. Give generously. Serve others. Then, get married. 

The big things in this verse are: move out of your parents home, get married, and have sex in marriage. Jesus said this. Paul reaffirmed it. Moses wrote these verses in Genesis. Those are three big guns: Jesus, Paul and Moses. They all three tell boys to move out of home, marry wisely and then have sexual union. 

Human history began with a wedding. In Revelation, at the second coming of Christ, Jesus is our groom is coming for us, His bride. History began with a wedding and it will end with a wedding, and in the middle, our weddings and our kids’ weddings are the closest we get to the picture of what eternity with God will be like for those who believe in Jesus.

Weddings done in a godly way have affection, commitment, hope, joy, song, laughter, celebration, feasting, friends, dancing. That’s heaven. 

It’s why we love to go to weddings. Don’t you love it when people who love each other get married? Isn’t it a great day and a great party? There’s something in us that just loves that moment. It’s because that’s where we come from, that’s where we’re going.

Some of your marriages are not good. They are not Genesis 2. They’re more Genesis 3. You’re more roommates than you are best friends. There’s little trust. There’s little forgiveness. There’s no singing. There’s little laughter. Pray and figure it out because marriage is amazing when sin is dead in our hearts. It’s up to you to lean on God for a better marriage.

It’s up to single people to be pure and grow up and marry wisely and it’s up to married people to become one and forgive. It’s up to you. Just as God was saying to Adam and Eve, Here’s your choice, life or death. You make the call. It’s up to you.

Thank for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Practical Steps for Thriving Relationships

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Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.

Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us. 

Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.  

We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.

I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen. 

(1) I will act, not react.

We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful. 

Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down. 

I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking. 

Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying. 

This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM. 

But he wasn’t going to talk to her. 

He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning. 

In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM. 

He’s missed his flight. 

He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up. 

Point for the wife. 

Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]

It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react? 

Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?

Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Apologizing.
Asking clarifying questions.
Speaking calmly. 

When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them. 

Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always 

These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident. 

And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell. 

Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently. 

Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical. 

It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago. 

As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical. 

In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume. 

All of this is acting, not reacting. 

(2) I will focus on the good things in you. 

Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person. 

Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life. 

Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship. 

We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it? 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [Philippians 4:8]

Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse. 

In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up. 

Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.

This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:

Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become. 

The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them. 

(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.

We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us. 

One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.

Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount. 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]

As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person. 

If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.

People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them. 

Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others. 

Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like. 

I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me. 

Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Practical Ways a Father Can Have a Lasting Legacy

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Let’s do a bit of an exercise. At first, it’ll seem a bit morbid, but hang with me because I think it’s eye-opening.

This exercise isn’t something I came up with, it’s been around for a while. It’s called The Eulogy Exercise. It comes from the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey walks the reader through this hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you are going to a funeral. 

You pull up to the parking lot where the funeral location is (a church building or a funeral home ). You park, get out of the car, walk into the building as other people who are dressed up are walking in. You smell fresh cut flowers as you enter into the lobby. There’s a fresh aroma sprayed all over the room. You take a free mint offered. 

You look around and you begin to recognize people. And not just acquaintances, but close friends and family members who are also at the funeral. 

It’s visitation hours, so people are in line to walk by the casket of the deceased to pay their respects. You get up to the casket and when you look down, it’s you that is laying there, dead.

You are attending your own funeral. 

The date on the program isn’t 50 years from now. This funeral, your funeral, is just three years from today.

You go into the sanctuary where people are sitting awaiting for the ceremony to begin and as you look on the program, there are going to be four people who will be speaking at your funeral.

Four people will be sharing about you and how you lived your life. 

Person #1: A family member

The first person that is going to speak at your funeral is a family member. It could be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling. It will be a family member who knew you very well. 

Person #2: A close friend

The second person that is going to speak is going to be one of your close friends. Maybe a childhood friend or a friend from high school, a college roommate, a friend from the neighborhood. They’ve spent time with you and know you. They’ve been through the ups and downs with you. 

Person #3: Someone from work

The third person speaking will be someone from your job, or if still in school, a teacher or a coach. It’s someone who sees you during the week. They’ve seen how you celebrate and encourage others. They see how you handle stress.

Person #4: Someone from church

The fourth person to speak is someone from your church, if you have a church family. They see how much you choose to attend. They see how you serve. They’ve watched how you worship. 

Four people.
A family member.
A close friend.
A co-worker.
Someone who was in the same church as you. 

And the big question is: What would you like each of these people to say about you?

This is the point of the exercise: Covey coined it as this: Beginning with the end in mind. 

If we think of what we would want those in our daily lives to say about us when we return to dust, we then can look at how we are living in the present to go after that desired legacy. 

Here are some practical steps every dad can take to cement a life-changing, positive legacy with his children: 

Smile in photos taken with the family. 

What is it with dads not smiling in family photos? Dad looks grumpy with his wife. He looks serious with his kids. How he feels towards his loved one is not how he shows it in pictures. Sure he loves them, but in pictures it doesn’t seem that way. 

I don’t care if dad was in the military, or still thinks he’s taking a football team picture, or if he thinks he has bad teeth or if his favorite team just lost or if he’s had a bad day – smile. 

Send the message from your heart of love towards these people to your mouth when pictures are being taken. 

Because, when dad dies, his kids will only have pictures to look at to remember him. If those pictures look like dad was serious or harsh because he didn’t smile, that’s the legacy he’s going to write long after he’s gone. 

Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.

Life is full. Life is packed. Kids grow fast. When the child gets off the bus or when dad gets home from work, there isn’t much time together. 

What a dad can do is carve out intentional, one-on-one time with the child. 

Whether it’s father-son or daddy-daughter, nights out or date nights need to be set and kept. 

Every year, 12 times a year, once a month, I take each of my children out separately. Just me and them. Sometimes it’s dinner when we get dressed up and all fancy. Sometimes it’s ice cream. Sometimes you go bowling with them. Sometimes I surprise them at their school and have lunch with them. Sometimes it’s a long walk so we can talk and catch up on their view of the family, of God, of life, of their emotions. 

When I am just with them, we’ll laugh and talk about our day, but, there are also some heart-to-heart questions that I ask. 

How are you feeling being a part of this family?
Do you feel included?
Do you feel heard?
How is school going?
Is there anything challenging happening?
Are there any frustrations in your life right now that I can offer some advise on or pray about? 

And you let them talk. And after you are gone, dad, they’ll remember the time spent and the wisdom shared. Your legacy will live on. 

As best as possible at night, ignore screens until the kids are asleep. 

If children are great at one thing, they are great at exaggerating. Children naturally use words like always and never. 

So, if dad is on his phone for work or for fun, when a child wants to talk to dad or play with dad, all it takes is two instances where the kid sees dad looking at a phone and then the child thinks, Dad never plays with me (even when he does), or, Dad is always on his phone (even though he’s not).

Perception is reality to them. 

My family and I attended a volleyball game at a junior high school a few months ago. Some friends of ours were playing in and attending the game. We were there to cheer them on. 

Two rows in front of my wife and I was a father of a child playing in the volleyball game. And for the majority of the game, he was watching on his phone his favorite college football team play their game. 

And I saw his daughter look at him multiple times as he was looking at a screen. She saw that he would rather watch strangers play a game than his daughter play in hers. 

Dad, be present. 

Yes there is work. Yes there are emails. Yes there are fun things to watch on TV. Yes we have the habit of checking social media every five minutes. Those can all wait (they might be highjacking your legacy at home). 

From the time you get home to the time they are finally asleep, try to look at them, not a screen. 

Treat his wife with kindness and respect. 

The way dad consistently treats his wife shows any son he has how to treat women and any daughter he has how to be treated by a man. You’ve heard that. 

But, in addition, when there is unrest in the home, the children internalize it. They invite the stress of a marriage into their life and it goes with them into their school, activities and relationships. 

It’s when dad yells at his wife. It’s when dad puts down his wife. It’s when dad is giving the cold shoulder to his wife. It’s when dad would rather have nights out with his buddies than take his wife out. The children see this. They feel it. They think it’s normal even though they don’t like it. 

Dad needs to serve his wife. He needs to uplift her with words of encouragement. He needs to thank her in front of the children for all she does in the family and in the home. He needs to come alongside her when she makes decisions for the children. He needs to take her out on dates and text her romantic stuff during the day because a happy wife and mother also has a key impact on the children. Dad can help with that. 

[Sidenote: If dad is divorced/unmarried to the child’s mother, he must not speak ill of her. Even if she takes the low road when speaking of him. Without her, dad doesn’t have the joy of loving his children, so even when difficult, uplift the child’s mother.]

Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

After dad has died, it leaves a hole in the heart of a child that never fully heals. It is difficult to lose a parent. You think about it every day. You miss them every day. For me, with a father gone for over 6 years, the only thing that has gotten me through it is leaning on God, my heavenly Father. 

I have that relationship with God because my father did first. My father wasn’t the person of love he was because of his self-effort. He was loving toward me because of God changing his heart and working through him to effectively serve and graciously care for us kids. 

God is first in our household. I am not the leader of our home. God is. I am not the decision-maker of our home. God is. When we are hurt, we pray. When we are stressed, we open the Bible and write verses on our bathroom mirrors to calm our anxiety. When we are afraid, we remind each other to trust God. 

Our schedule doesn’t get in the way of family dinners where we pray and talk about what we’re grateful to God about. Our hobbies do not get in the way of worship on Sunday mornings. As a family, we actively serve in the church we are involved in. Our children know that my wife and I read our Bibles each morning. 

After dad is gone, his legacy of how he leaned on God daily in his life will be the driving force they need to press on into the life God has in store for them without dad. 

Smile in photos taken with the family.
Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.
As best as possible, no screens until the kids are asleep.
Treat his wife with kindness and respect.
Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

Doing these things consistently, by beginning with the end in mind, allows dad’s legacy to be a positive one that outlives his physical life into generations of his family. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

The Four Areas of Unity Your Church Leadership Should Have

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Jesus prayed that you and I in the church would be unified. This is His prayer on the night of His arrest – 

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. (John 17:21)

Simply stated, God’s people are called to have unity. It’s something Jesus prays for.

A step more serious is that leaders of God’s people are called to have unity. A reason it’s important for church leadership to be unified is because:

If the leaders in the church aren’t unified, then the people in the church won’t be unified. 

What we see historically, and sadly too often today, is that when division happens in the church it’s not because people know or vote based on facts and data, or even rely on prayer, rather, they weigh in based on whether or not they like the person. 

Their decisions aren’t objective, they’re subjective. 

I liked this person, so I’m taking their side. This person has served with me, so I’m with them. I’ve known this person longer, so I’ll join them. And what can begin as a personal issue quickly spreads into a division in the church.

Another reason why unity is vital in the church, from leadership down, is because it keeps the entire church focused on what’s important – Jesus and loving others. 

If there is division, then the conversations aren’t about Jesus, they aren’t about God’s vision, they aren’t about loving others. Instead, they’re about: Have you heard this gossip lately? Well, I heard this. Well, I believe this person did this. Well, they must’ve! Here’s my opinion, here’s how I think it’s going down. 

And all of the sudden, because of a distraction and a divisive spirit, loving Jesus and loving others exits out of the conversations and out of the church’s mission. 

Just as there are things that help unity, there are things that harm it as well. 

Sometimes it’s obvious, visible sin like sexual sin, or stealing money, or what led to divorce, or laziness, or complaining. Many times it’s deceit. 

Sometimes the sin that kills unity is more subtle, like bitterness or jealousy towards others. Many times it’s pride. 

Sometimes division is caused by heresy (teaching truths outside of the Bible to be as authoritative as truths in the Scriptures). 

Sometimes disunity is caused by legalism, where people make a list of rules, judge others by those rules, they show up in a black and white striped shirt and a whistle – you’re religious. Sometimes division occurs when there’s confusion between what is a primary issue and a secondary issue. 

Another reason for division is distrust. The larger a church gets numerically the more she’s going to have to trust one another. 

Leadership has to trust their small group and ministry leaders. Leadership needs to train and trust that each small group and ministry are staying focused on Jesus. Leadership must trust they are encouraging people to lean on God and not on self, to hold people who are in sin accountable to God. 

When anyone teaches a class in the church, the leadership must trust that the teacher has diligently prepared and prayed over their lesson. When a new person or a new couple bravely walks into the lobby and into this big scary room, I have to trust that they will be loved on, talked to, sat with – by you. 

In any type of church, if we don’t have trust, then we don’t have unity. 

Visible sin, subtle sin, heresy, legalism and distrust are places where unity won’t be found.

Unity in the church (and anywhere else) is something that is gained slowly, and lost quickly.

So what is unity? 

If we don’t have a working definition of unity, then we can’t work towards it as a church. 

I’ve learned to define unity in the church 4 ways – 

Theological Unity

This means we agree on the things of God that matter. 

There are things that Christians (especially Christian leaders) will have to fundamentally agree on, go to battle for, not let go of, ever.

We fight for the Bible as God’s Word. We fight for the two sacraments of baptism and communion. We fight for the God Who is Three in One. We believe Jesus is God, born to a virgin, lived with no sin, died on a cross, that He rose from death, is alive today, is coming back soon and is the only way to salvation. He’s good, we’re bad, hell is hot, forever is a long time, and you should have a good sense of humor (not an exhaustive list).

These are the things that we’re going to fight for. These are very important to have unity on. 

And then there are things we won’t fight over or for.

Any conversation about the rapture, how old the earth is, home-schooling vs. public schooling, Democrat vs. Republican, speaking in tongues, women in leadership, etc.

We’re not going to fight over some things. 

The earth didn’t come with a birth certificate so I don’t worry about how old the earth is. We can argue about it, that would be a cute waste of time. I would rather hold fast to things that matter. 

We’re not supposed to fight for everything. Our identity is in Christ not in winning arguments that the Bible isn’t concerned with.

Secondly, as a church we must have, 

Philosophical Unity 

This typically comes down to style and what are the best methods for each local church to reach the culture they are providentially placed in. 

At a previous church I was grateful to serve in, I had a couple new to the church meet me in my office and inform me that they would join the church on the condition that their kids would be able play their hand choir bells before service. Every week. I told them that wasn’t our church’s philosophy, that we want people to join the church – not to uplift their kids but – to uplift Jesus. 

And they left. Not just my office, but the church. 

A church’s philosophy when it comes to singing could be contemporary it’s not hardcore, it’s instrumental, there are hymns sometimes.  Sometimes it’s too loud, sometimes they go acoustic.

Sometimes a church’s philosophy when it comes to the next generation is to keep them out of sight, out of mind, in their own section of the church building, stating, they’re the church of tomorrow. Or, a church’s philosophy could be to let God work through children right now; letting them be the church at their current age.

A church’s appearance could be come as you are. It could be dress fancy. It could be hosting online services where you worship in your underwear. If you want to wear a suit and tie or a dress to church, please do. And if you want to wear a t-shirt and jeans with flip-flops, please do. Just be sure your toenails are cut appropriately. 

I believe diversity in the church is a great thing, but some people want to go to a church where everyone is Republican, married and dressed in robes. And there are churches like that. I’m not sure that’s the church Jesus is praying for in John 17.

A good philosophy I recommend is being serious about God and the Bible and the next generation and being relaxed about music and attire and political affiliation.

The church should hold onto big things like saving the lost, maturing the saved. She should host fast to arguing over little things, like, what people wear, what color the carpet is in the nursery, did Adam and Eve have belly buttons or not.

Relational Unity  

In the church, we need to find unity in one another. It’s there, we need to seek it out. 

This means we are kind to one another, respectful, uplifting. We don’t tear each other down on a serious, condescending level. We might poke fun at ourselves and our sensitive to how our comments about others come across. 

We’re family, so we acknowledge each other when we walk into the room and we love and reach out when needed. We reply to texts/voicemails/emails promptly and prayerfully. 

We forgive one another, and, by one another I don’t just mean the people active in a church, but we also forgive those who have left a church with a sour taste in their mouths. We also seek out if there’s anything we can humbly apologize for. 

Missional Unity

At every core of families, companies, sports teams, and churches, they all only care about one thing. They all focus on one particular thing. Their one thing is something they’re passionate about. Something they can’t stop thinking of. 

What is your one thing going to be? 

Is your one thing in life making money? Is it appeasing customers? Is it winning? Is it raising godly kids? Is it obsessed with being in shape? Each person and leadership has their one thing. 

Hopefully each church’s one thing is to be Jesus. That’s it. At the end of the day, the reason why your local church exists is because they should want people to fall in love with Jesus, grow to be like Jesus, worship Jesus, follow Jesus, trust Jesus, talk about Jesus, die for Jesus, and live with Jesus forever. That’s what Christians must be all about. Jesus! 

We need to find unity in this, because the rest of what happens in church leadership is secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary. If we lose sight of loving Jesus and loving others as our mission, there will be division. If we’re going to work towards unity, we have to work on all those fronts – Theologically, Philosophically, Relationally, and Missionally. And if we are united on these things, then our family, this thing we call church, it will be a God-honoring, life-changing, kingdom-building, very exciting experience. 

To repeat, unity is gained slowly and it is lost quickly. If it’s something Jesus prayed for each Christian and each church leadership to have, then prayer and conversations and focus on unity should be continual. 

It might be a good idea to ask gentle, inquiring questions of how your local church grooms new eldership, hires ministry staff, vets out and trains volunteer leaders and how they handle conflict in their meetings. If forgotten about, quickly or haphazardly done, it’ll damage unity.

Feel free to reach out to your church leadership to make sure they are unified on these four areas and, at the same time, pray for unity for them as Jesus does. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How Do We Relate to Bullies? (Why President Trump is so Influential)

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As a second grader currently, my daughter daily is coming home bearing the hurtful comments and actions of her schoolmates. Each night around the dinner table and before bedtime my wife and I are untying the knots of damaging lies said to her by others and, then, instilling the truth of who she is in God’s eyes and in her parents eyes. 

For whatever anger/loneliness/emptiness that is inside the kids choosing to verbally attack her, this is what she has heard:

Your hair is ugly.
Why would you wear that to school?
How could you get that question wrong?
You can’t play with us, you’re a girl.
Your teeth look messed up.
 

It’s only a few kids who say these hurtful comments to her, and to others. 

Last month our daughter’s class wrote on a poster board about why they love her. She brought the poster board home and we hung it up for her to see each day.  Some comments written are:

Thank you for helping me with my school work.
I like it when you hug me and say nice things about me.
Thank you for inviting me to play with you at recess.
Thank you for including me at lunchtime.
I like you because you stick up for me. 

So it seems that she’s popular. 

Not popular in the sense because someone is pretty or smart or athletic or rich, then they’re liked. Rather, popular in the sense of both sides of the aisle know her. The bullies know her and choose to degrade and those bullied notice her and choose to be grateful. 

She has influence. And influence polarizes. 

Each day she is coming home with these contradicting feelings of loving others and hating bullies. 

Some of the unraveling of the untruths bullies say to her is also unraveling the untruth of her feelings that she should hate bullies. 

Her confusion is this: Why are bullies popular? 

She’s chewing on the conundrum that bullies gain influence through being bullies, but they also grow in influence when others try to bully them. They get worse when you treat them like they treat others. So how do you deal with someone abusive like this? It’s a lose-lose if you submit to them or if you fight them. 

With a high sensitivity toward American politics and with limited context to where my beliefs and values are and where yours are, just a few clarifiers: 

I am not siding with one political party or another. This post is not to get people more hyper or more irate about politics.  This is not a post against President Trump.

The goal of this post is to try to answer this question: 

Why do bullies grow in influence by treating people the way that they do?  

Some words that people have used to describe President Trump as are: bombastic, arrogant, insensitive, condescending, sexist, racist.

Other words to describe him have been: patriotic, brave, outlier, savior, Christian. 

Depending on how you view him (and only God knows the heart even when we see the tweets and hear the speeches) how do we explain his meteoric rise to him being so popular?

(Again to use the word popular doesn’t mean he is liked by so many people, but that he is polarizing, that everyone knows of him and his actions.) 

Have you thought about how President Trump became President Trump? 

Some attribute to it that Trump is/has been a successful businessman. At a young age he became involved in some of the largest and most profitable business projects in Manhattan, being labeled as the Big Apple’s best known developer of New York City.

Others will say Trump’s rise in popularity will be because he’s got money out of his ears, supposedly, and he can bank roll his own campaign without having any major donors tell him what to say or how to vote.

Though it’s being disputed on whether or not his claim to be worth 10 billion dollars is true , no one is disputing that he has an enormous treasure chest at his disposal to fund his own political career. 

Others will comment on President Trump’s rise because he’s a master-self-promoter. Not only has he made the Trump brand into the reality TV shows, The Apprentice, and The Celebrity Apprentice, but President Trump’s name is everywhere. Hotels, golf courses, steaks, ice skating rings before politics his name was everywhere.

And yet, there have been successful businessmen and businesswomen in the past trying to run for president who have not been nearly as popular as he is (Ross Perot, Mitt Romney, Carly Fiorina, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and others). Bloomberg is 17 times richer than President Trump is. 

How can Trump’s popularity be explained?

Maybe I can share a reason no one I’ve heard is talking about. 

In 2011, a psychological study was published in the journal, Social, Psychological Personality Science.

What researchers did is they asked the participants to watch videos where people went about their daily activities, like working in a cubicle, being in a meeting, working on a task at home, taking a coffee break, catching up with a friend over lunch – lots of things people do in everyday life – the participants in this study watched people living their every day life. 

After watching these exact scenarios, the participants were asked, from top to bottom, which people they watched should get to make decisions and get crowds of people to listen to what they have to say.

In one study, customers were shown going into a new office, pouring themselves a cup of coffee from a coffee maker that had the label, Employee Coffee Only on it – compared to those walking into the same office, pouring themselves a cup of coffee from a coffee maker that was for the general public. So one customer walks into a new office and breaks code by getting coffee from an employees only coffee maker and another customer walks into the new office and gets coffee from the general coffee maker. 

The participants were asked to rate those who did not break the rules verses those who did. This was their perspective: 

Rule breakers were described as being “more in control” and “more powerful” when compared to people who didn’t steal the coffee or break accounting rules.

In a follow-up experiment, participants watched a man who sat outside at a table of a small business café, putting his feet up on a chair, tapping cigarette ashes all over the ground as he barks at the servers taking his order and those who are entering in and out of the café who accidentally bump into him.

The participants viewed this inconsiderate man as someone who would be, “more likely to get decisions made and able to get to people to listen to what he said,” – compared to the participants who saw the video of the same man in a separate video who was being pleasant and friendly outside of the café.

The concluding evidence the study found this:

People who are willing to be rude, condescending, and mean towards other people are considered, on average, to be more powerful and more likely to get things done as a leader. (Breaking the Rules to Rise to Power”, Social, Science and Personality Journal, January 26th, 2011)

I think this explains, more in part, why our current President, or your domineering boss, or your harsh spouse or the bully at school is liked by many people and yet is also despised by others. 

Either way, it’s why they have influence. 

Remember the moment back in the 2016 election debates when Republican candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign ended? It was during a summer debate when Jeb stooped to Trump’s level and began personally attacking him. That wasn’t who Jeb was. Jeb was known as a gracious candidate and I think maybe more people would’ve rallied around him after being attacked by Trump if he had taken the high road. 

Stooping to Trump’s level is also what the Democratic Party is currently doing gearing up for the 2020 election. 

And it’s not going to work for the goals they have. 

This is more than just advice in the political world.

Our instinct when we are made to feel little and less-than is to fight back with words when we’re attacked. My motto in high school, since I weighed 100 pounds wet, I was going to talk big and have bigger friends. If someone wanted to beat me up for how I made fun of them, then my big friends would be the bouncers I needed. 

As adults and hopefully as mature Christ-followers, we have got to know by now that you don’t beat bullies at their own game. You don’t beat a bully by out-bullying the bully and you don’t help a bully by allowing them to run all over you whenever they want. 

With all of the anxiousness over politics, I still think the Christians and the church in this nation, we are going to do the right thing and trust God, honor our leaders, pray for them and extend a hand of help for those in need. I still believe Americans will do the right thing when they are called to step up.  

Just ask Sherriff Jim Clark, who on March 7, 1965, almost 55 years ago, unleashed dogs, tear gas and officers with clubs against 600 unarmed pacifists who were on the edge of the Edmund Tettison Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, Alabama.

Unfortunately for Clark, unlike all of the other days where he brutally, violently commanded his men to beat innocent people who were African-American descent, this time the world was watching. The Civil Rights movement, a Christian movement, did not win because of a display of power and aggression. 

People come around when a light is shone on the bully and the world is watching and sees who the bullies really are.

What Jesus would say about how to relate to any abusive person in power is the same thing He would’ve said about what happened at Selma:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:38-39

Jesus is the wisest human ever to live and He tells us to turn the other cheek, to model Him when He stood before Pilate and was silent, suggestive on what to do when speaking with Judas, respective next to Heord, truthful with Pharisees – because Jesus knows you never out-bully a bully.

If you think President Trump has influence, compare him to Jesus’ influence. Both are polarizing, both have been accused of being helpful and harmful, and yet One of them was inclusive in love.  

Christians are called to out-surrender bullies in love and endurance, and then, in the light, with the eyes of others on you, as their hearts are changed from stone to pity, they will stand up for you, against the bully, as they are inspired by the steadfastness and resolve that you have.

No political candidate/boss/parent/spouse/classmate is Jesus. All have flaws. But as we encourage each other on how to deal with overbearing people, the bully is simply a bigger personality able to knock every single person off who stoops to their level. They do this not with love, not with grace, not with kindness, but with their steamroller ways of divisiveness and isolation. 

In the church by-laws of where I serve and worship, this is our statement when it comes to bullying: 

In relating to each other and others during the week, God does not provide grounds for bigotry, bullying or hate, as we fully believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect and dignity, regardless of his or her lifestyle. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated as sinful and are not in accordance with the Scriptures nor the doctrines this church.

Instead of being a bully and instead of being quiet when bullies choose to press their power over others, we choose inclusiveness. We find common ground and agree. We see different ground and we love anyway. 

Ask my 2nd grade daughter. She knows these two truths: 

Being kind is greater than being insolent when it comes to being noticed. 

Being kind is great than being insolent when it comes to having a legacy.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

6 Questions to Ask in Order to Become Great This Year.

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Today, and for as long as history records, the goal of each person is to make as much money and have as much power as they possibly can so that everyone would serve them and they wouldn’t have to serve others.

Some examples?

Baristas.

I’m pretty certain “barista” is the Greek word for “punching bag”. 

What happens is, people who otherwise have no power walk into a coffee shop, and all of a sudden they are King Coffee. And they treat the barista like a slave. Have you listened to how people treat the barista? They just make demands. “I said 90 degrees! This is 92!” There’s some weird mocha Pharisees out there!

Have you ever been to a bank and just see how people talk to the teller? Or at a waitress at the restaurant? It’s angry people who aren’t powerful in their daily life lording power over people in serving positions.

That’s not greatness.

Here’s what Jesus teaches: 

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. (Luke 22:26)  

Some of us have real powerful positions, some of us don’t, but occasionally we get to be a powerful position person, meaning someone’s our servant and we’re going to give orders to them. Jesus says, Be a leader, pursue greatness, but not like that.

It’s not a sin to make money, it’s not a sin to have a title, it’s not a sin to be in authority But here’s the big idea: 

Greatness is simply service. 

Greatness is simply service. Beautiful, godly character development is humbly serving. What makes a great leader, someone worth following, is how deeply they believe in serving others. 

Say you go to a really nice restaurant and the banquet room is reserved full with all kinds of top level people. There are politicians, business executives, athletes and celebrities. You say to yourself, “Wow, look at all those amazing people at this really nice restaurant. 

All the servants and all the waiters and all the waitresses are waiting on these “amazing” people. You and I would look at the room and say, “Those people sitting down are great people. 

Jesus says, “The waiter, the waitress, if they’re humbly serving, they are great.

Jesus tells us, “I came to the earth, not to sit at the table, but to be the waiter. And I invite you to do the same.

I’m guessing right now, many of us still prefer to sit at the table (because that’s where we wrongly assume greatness sit). But greatness gets up. Greatness is simply service. 

Here are six questions that will help deepen the quality of greatness in our character development.

#1 Do you allow others to serve you?

Some of you say, “I like to serve; I don’t like to be served.” And so you’re hard to serve. 

People say, “Oh, let me get that for you.” and you say, “No, no, no, no, I got it.” “Let me buy that for you.” “No, no, no, no, I’ll pay for it.” Or they do something for you and then you have to do something for them. You can’t just receive. 

One of the ways we serve is by allowing others to serve us.

True or false: In his life, did Jesus allowed others to serve him?

His friends Mary, Martha, Lazarus, often had Jesus over at their home. He would let them take care of him. They’d give him a place to sleep, they’d cook him a meal. He allowed them to serve him.

Before Jesus goes to the cross, Jesus allows a woman to serve him. She’s a woman who comes to him, repenting of her sin, brokenhearted. She brings all of this perfume. Very expensive. She breaks it and she pours it over him. And the disciples and those who are present, they say, “That’s too much, that’s too lavish, that’s too expensive. 

Jesus says, “I receive it. This woman wants to serve, I’m going to allow her to serve.

Do you allow others to serve you?

#2 Do you serve others with selfless motives? 

We never have entirely pure motives, right? But when you serve, is it, I’m going to get noticed! I’m going to get a raise! I’m going to get a boy/girlfriend! I’m going to get some sort of award! I’m going to get recognition! I’m going to get a thank-you card!

I knew this high school student who went to a teen conference one summer. At the conference they passed out anonymous envelopes with assigned sacrificial acts of service. This high school student received a card that said, “Help out at your church’s children ministry.” 

He came up to me and showed me the card, asking what should he do. I simply read the card back to him, stating that he should serve in the children’s ministry at his church, that he should reach out to the leaders over that ministry to see where he would be a fit. 

His response to seeing was this question: “Is it a paid position?”

My response was: “No. We’re one of the weird churches who don’t pay our volunteers.” 

Money was motivating the service, and that’s not the greatness Jesus is talking about. 

There will be times that people, should have said thank you, and they won’t. Or they should acknowledge your contribution, and they don’t. These are opportunities for the essence of our character, our true heart, to be revealed.

This is why even an unpaid ministry or serving in the community or running a household with chores and meals and being there for family is really different than a paid job. How many of you, if you went to work tomorrow, your boss comes up to you and says, “I have bad news and I have good news. 

You say, “Okay, give me the bad news first.
Boss: “We cannot afford to pay you anymore.
You: “Okay, what’s the good news?
Boss: “You can still have your job.
You’d say, “No thanks. 

But if you love Jesus and you love his people and God’s placed a desire to help some people on your heart, you walk into the church or into a non-profit or into a home in need of some TLC and you say, “I want to help. Give me a place to help. 

#3 Are you willing to do menial tasks? 

You know what a good mom does? A good mom does whatever needs to be done. Wipe the nose, clean the diaper, burp the kid, feed the kid, change the kid, get puked on by the kid, repeat the whole process. That’s what a mom does. Three in the morning, she gets up. She doesn’t say to the young child, “Hello, I work 9–5, it’s 3 a.m.. I can’t help you.” A mom does whatever needs to be done. The essence of motherhood is the essence of service.

That’s where you know if you’re a servant, right? If it’s public and if it’s praise-worthy and if it’s a big deal, it’s not so hard. The menial stuff is for the godly servant.

Right now you can do some tasks around you home, around your school, around your place of work to clean-up while no one is watching you. Practice on doing menial tasks. 

#4 Are you a lazy or disorganized person? 

If your answer to this question is, “I don’t know” then your real answer is yes. 

If you’re lazy, you’re not going to be a good servant? You’re just not. If you’re lazy, you’re not going to inconvenience yourself and go the extra mile.

Just like negative Christians don’t exist, and unforgiving Christians don’t exist, there is no such thing as a lazy Christian. 

You may be thinking you’re helping a lot of people but not very effectively. You may be doing a lot of things, but maybe not the right things. Your priorities are out of order. One way you can serve better is by not being lazy, repenting of that if it’s a sin for you, and getting organized. “Okay God, who am I and what am I supposed to do and where do you want me to focus my energies?

#5 Do you choose to be happy for others when they experience what you can’t? 

What gets you happiest? What motivates you most? Is it what you get to experience and boast about or is it also what you see others getting to experience?

Last week a guy told me he stays off social media during the holiday season because he doesn’t want to see all the posts of people traveling and being with loved ones and all the smiling faces of what others are getting to do that he can’t.

He can’t stomach the happiness of others. And I’m pretty sure on Christmas Eve three ghosts of Christmas past visited him in his sleep.

It’s the girl who is truly happy when her friend gets engaged and she’s not, her life is marked by giving. It’s the family with financial struggles who is happy for their friends who get to go on vacations all the time. 

For most people it’s all about getting. Are you consumed and primarily motivated by what you get? Or are you primarily motivated by giving? 

#6 Would you rather achieve a status or make a difference? 

Achieve a status or make a difference? If you had to pick one legacy, which one? 

It’s not a sin to become a leader, to be called the president or the pastor of something, or the CEO or the director or whatever it is. It’s not a sin, but there’s something more important than achieving a title, and that’s making a difference.

During his earthly life, Jesus never held a political office, He was never the head of a company, He never ran any official organization. He never achieved or accomplished a particular degree from an educational institution. He never wrote a book. He didn’t achieve a status, but you know what He did, right? Of course you do, He made a difference. Has he made a difference in your life?

If it’s all about making a difference, helping people, making an impact in their life, you may or may not get the title. But you will get greatness.

#1 Do you allow others to serve you?
#2 Do you serve others with selfless motives?
#3 Are you willing to do menial tasks?
#4 Are you a lazy or disorganized person?
#5 Do you choose to be happy for others when they experience what you can’t?
#6 Would you rather achieve a status or make a difference? 

Your role today is to not make your name known, it’s to make the name of Jesus known and to lift others up without care of people noticing. God sees it. And you’ll be great.   

Thanks for reading, you are loved. 

Z

Ending Loneliness: The Power of Relational Connection

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There’s an academic peer review journal called, The Journal of Happiness Studies. Researchers for the journal are trying to figure what is it that makes a human life flourish. What produces joy? What makes a life content? 

When looking at what distinguishes very happy people from less happy people, they find that there is the one factor, one difference, that consistently separates those two groups.

What’s the one difference that distinguishes more happy from less happy people?

It’s not income.
It’s not the size of the home one lives in.
It is not health.
It’s not what kind of shape one’s body is in. 
It’s not attractiveness.
It is not IQ.
It is not career success.

What distinguishes consistently happier people from less happy people is the ongoing presence of rich, deep, meaningful relationships with other human beings.

If you look at the mission of the church, we want to connect people to Jesus, and we want to connect them to other Christians and we want to connect them to the community. At her basic core, the church’s mission is to make sure no one around us is lonely. 

The neighborhoods we live in should be a places where the word lonely doesn’t exist. Yet, loneliness is an epidemic. It’s a growing concern. 

There’s a book entitled, “Bowling Alone”. It’s written by Robert Putnam, a professor at the Harvard Business School, so we assume he knows what he’s talking about. The book is about the decline of relationships and close friendships, and the increasing rate of loneliness in the United States, over the past 25 years.

Where we all were 25 years ago is a different world today.
Some stats in this book are this:  

Family dinners are down 33%. 

Active families tend to eat without dad because he’s working a lot, or they eat food cooked by a 16 year old after ordering it through a drive-thru window and then it’s off to practice for the kids. Instead of being intentional with our evenings, we watch television while eating. We could be catching up on how our loved one’s day went. 

Having the neighbors over for dinner or dessert or coffee or for a game or for a walk, it’s down 33% than what it was 25 years ago. 

How many of us know our neighbors? Not just their name or what kind of dog they have. Not just a friendly wave. Do you know them closely? Or are they lonely because you haven’t invited them over yet? 

I was convicted a few years ago and my wife and I put our home up for sale. We had an open house that we weren’t present for but our realtor told us that the neighbors on our street came to the open house. They weren’t interested in buying our home, they were just curious to see what it looked like on the inside.

Because we had never had them over for dinner. 

Having friends over to the home just to be with one another is down 45%. 

I hope we as Christians are people who practice hospitality and enjoy the company of one another to the point that weekly we have people we love and care about over to our home just to hang out. No agenda but to check in.

Playing cards together is down 25%. 

Playing cards is not about winning, it’s about catching up and laughing and catching up with one another.

The readiness to make friends by the average American is down 33%.  

Our children are young in age, but a simple principle I am encouraging to engrave in their thoughts and habits is if they see someone at school alone – at lunch, on the playground, on the bus – that they are the ones who should initiate a conversation and befriend that child who’s alone. I want them to be includers.

People want closeness, they want friends, they want to be social, but because they’re afraid or not as confident, they become isolated and lonely from the world. 

Everyone craves to have a friend but no one wants to take the first step. Everyone deep down wants to be honest and loved for who they really are but no one wants to be vulnerable. 

In 1995 Americans had 3 close friends. Now, today, they have 2. In a matter of time they’ll have one and then it will just be them. Alone. By themselves. 

25% of Americans have no one to confide in. 

When life is hard and the stress is high and the pain is overwhelming, what happens when a person with all of that weight feels unloved and believes they have no one to go to?

If people are lonely and they’re created for relationships and they feel like they have no one to confide in, who are they going to turn to? 

All it takes for a girl to trust a guy is the fact that he listens to her, because she’s got no one to confide in. He’ll listen to her, and then take advantage of her. 

If people have no one to trust, they turn to just anyone around them and that gets them onto a dangerous path. 

Or, the lonely person with no one to share their struggle with will turn to drinking, or pornography, or binge on Netflix or take sleeping pills. 

Go to a coffee house and observe the increase of isolation in our community. Count the amount of people by themselves verses people enjoying one another’s company. More and more, coffee houses are places where you buy mediocre coffee, open up your laptop, listen to some music on your headphones and ignore the people sitting close to you. 

That’s not why coffee houses were started. They were supposed to be a place of community.

It’s also not why the church started. The church is supposed to be a place of community. 

What I’m pointing through statistics is that people are more lonely than ever. 

Some of you are lonely. You’re married, but you feel lonely. You have beautiful kids, but you’re lonely. You have a job that provides, but you’re lonely. You’re retired, and lonely. You’re broken-hearted and lonely.

And if not you, the people around you are lonely. They are close to you in proximity but they are far away from others relationally.

What is the answer to our loneliness and the loneliness of the people around us? 

It’s the power of connection.

A friend of mine was telling me about their dog and cat. The dog and the cat didn’t like each other. They seemed to fight for 10 years. Then, one year, the cat died and afterwards the dog didn’t want to eat. For 6 weeks the dog wouldn’t eat. 6 weeks after the cat died, the dog died. 

That’s the power of relational connection.

Earlier this month a couple in Michigan who were married for 70 years to each other died minutes apart.

That’s the power of relational connection.

People who are socially disconnected are between 2 and 5 times more likely to die earlier than those who have close ties to family and friend relationships. 

That’s the power of relational connection. 

People who have bad health habits like cigarette smoking, overeating, elevated blood pressure, physical inactivity, these people live longer when connected to others.  

People with bad health habits but that are connected, live longer than people who have great health habits but are disconnected and isolated.

The poster boy for this is Winston Churchill. 

Churchill was deeply connected with friends and family. He had a wonderful marriage with his wife, connected to his extended family, connected to his friends and his nation and those at his work. 

His health habits were terrible. 

His diet was awful. He smoked cigars all the time. He drank too much, had erratic sleeping habits and was completely sedentary but he lived to be ninety-one years old. 

Somebody asked him one time, “Winston Churchill, do you ever exercise? 

His response, “The only exercise I get is serving as a pallbearer for my friends who died while they were exercising. 

Now, I’m not advocating that if you have close relationships then you can smoke and eat and drink as much as you want. I am advocating that the best way to take care of yourself above eating right and sleeping right and exercising is to have close relationships.

Community takes a “don’t give up” spirit because it isn’t easy or natural. God will help us but still it is not easy. If you’re not in a little community of one anothers, for whatever reason, there are Christians around you who would love to help you move towards that connectedness. 

Putnam writes further, “As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but you decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”

It’s’ the power of relational connection.

So, for a husband and wife, each side of the marriage needs to be vulnerable. They need to share what is stressing them out. They need to share what’s disappointing them. They need to pray together. 

For a parent-child dynamic, mom and dad need to be daily checking in with their child’s thoughts. What are they afraid of? Did something happen in the day that hurt them? How do their friendships look? Are they deep or shallow? 

For our friendships, it’s so much more than having a girls night out or playing poker with the guys. It’s one-on-one conversations where we visit with a friend and ask them questions like, Is there anything you need prayer for? Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to share? Is there something keeping you up at night? 

For our neighbors, (as Christians, we do not believe in coincidence, we live in the place we live on purpose, meaning, we live by the people we do for a reason) we need to invite these people over. 

Have them over for dinner. Have them over for a game night. Invite them to come with you to a community event. As you grow closer, ask them if you can help take care of their pet if they’ve traveling or babysit their child if they need a night away. See if there’s a talent you have that they don’t that you can help them out with (finances, yard work, cooking). Buy new neighbors a house-warming gift with a card of encouragement. Don’t let anyone in church sit alone. 

Anything little to start a loving relationship so that they don’t feel alone and you don’t either. 

Every life needs to be a part of another life. It starts with you. Overcome the fear of being rejected when you invite someone into your life or when you courageously decide to ask for help. Overcome the busyness of your schedule and the lackadaisical approach you have allowed your evenings and weekends to be, and invite people into your home. 

Your life and their life might depend on an act of kindness just to grow closer. 

Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. (Hebrews 10:25)

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How You Can and Can’t Help Someone Who is Struggling.

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Charles Schulz’s famed character, Charlie Brown, tells his friend Linus this: 

I think there must be something wrong with me. Christmas is coming, but i’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. – Charlie Brown

The chances are very good and providential that at some point this Christmas season, you will be around someone who is struggling. You’ll notice it because Christmas has a way of making people vulnerable. These people struggling might be immediate or extended family, friends, co-workers, classmates or neighbors. 

Their struggle could be an addiction they keep succumbing to. It could be a sin they have been blind to. It could be a trial that weighs heavy on them. It could be the loss of something like a job or a marriage or a loved one. It could be loneliness. It could be they are struggling with how difficult this year has been and how little hope there is for the new year. 

But, you notice them and their struggle. And in your heart you have compassion and want to help them experience love and joy and peace. How can you help them? 

In the first century, in Jerusalem, there was a pool named Bethesda. In fact, the pool is still available to see today and has received an A+ grade for what it actually looked like 2,000 years ago. 

Anyone in the first century who was sick or lame or blind, they would lay near the porches of this pool because there was a mythical assumption that if you could just touch the water, it would heal them. 

Just like today, people in need of some kind of hope just about believe anything will help them. 

In the biblical book of John, chapter 5, there is a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. And just as you might find yourself around someone who is struggling, Jesus happens to cross paths with this crippled man. 

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6)  

That’s what Jesus asks this man? Would you like to get well?

Jesus does goes on to miraculously heal this man, because that’s what Jesus does, but I used to think this was such an unnecessary question.

Would you like to get well?

This guy has been crippled for four decades. He lays by a pool hoping one person on one day would pick him up and put him in the water because he thinks that will heal him, and no one has. He’s been ostracize from the marketplace. He’s been rejected by loved ones and strangers. If only he could be healed he could begin to build a life that gives him purpose and dignity and legacy. 

Of course he wants to get well. It feels like an unnecessary question by Jesus. 

But, let’s not forget Jesus never wasted one word He spoke. Nothing He did was unnecessary. The longer I am around broken people the more I see this is not a dumb question by Jesus. 

Wanting to get well is important. Some people don’t want to get better. 

When you have a loved one with an issue they are struggling with, you need to ask them this question, Do you want to get better? Human nature is that we will not change until the fear of the damage the issue is causing us is greater than the fear of changing our habits.

What’s also counter to human nature is humility. We have to admit we need help and we have to admit we are the ones that cannot change ourselves.

We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

There is power in powerlessness.

That’s Christmas. How dependent Jesus was on Joseph and Mary that night in Bethlehem as he was laid in an animal feeding trough? Jesus had no power to display as an infant and yet what results in Jesus conquering over death.

When you and I admit our weakness and admit we can’t do it on our own, that’s when God’s strength has the permission to flow through us. 

This Christmas and next year your loved ones might continue to be great an image-management. They appear put together and great and that nothing is wrong. But if they’re ever going to be healed, if they’re ever going to change or be free or have joy, they have to admit they can’t do it and that God can. 

They have to believe there is power in powerlessness. 

The day after Christmas a few years ago I got a call from friends who were married to each other and they needed to meet with me right away. On December 26th we met at my office.

It came out that the wife had found pictures of her husband and a female co-worker of his in a hotel room, and you can fill in the blanks. The wife found these scandalous pictures on the family iPad. And she found these pictures on Christmas Day.

With me probing a bit for further context, it also came out that the wife had cheated on her husband a couple years earlier in their marriage. 

These were church-going people. They had worshipped God their entire lives.

The reason there was pain in their marriage was because they were masters of image-management. Neither one wanted to admit they were powerless to change and that they were going to be fine. 

I didn’t berate them. That’s not what friends do, it’s not what leaders do. I told them that God’s power could change them and heal them if they were willing to let Him. I simply wanted to see if they wanted to get well. 

Then I told them there is one thing in this world greater than the power of God.

There is one thing greater than the power of God. It’s the love of God.

If they wanted their marriage to heal, if they wanted to forgive each other, if they wanted to change, God’s power could do that. But until they saw God’s love for them in their mess, whether they wanted to change or not, they wouldn’t want to change. 

It’s why Jesus asks, Do you want to get well? 

It’s the double-edged sword of free will. If we choose to seek after God He will heal us but if we choose to not seek after God, He can’t heal us. He still loves us and He still will pursue us, but for change or healing becomes a reality – surrender needs to happen. There is power in powerlessness.

There’s a book called, Generation Me, written by Jean Twenge. Dr. Twenge has a PhD, does a lot of research, and her book is all about the ever-increasing growing epidemic of narcissism in our culture. She writes,

Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone. This is the downside of the focus on the self. When we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” – Dr. Jean Twenge

This is how people without Jesus think. They either focus on themselves and how great they are or they focus on their problems and how bad things are.

The answer to being humble in our success and to be transformed in our trial is to focus our life on Jesus. It’s so easy to veer our thoughts to ourselves and to our problems.

Y’all know the movies that Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell did? Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty? – If not watched, I can think of myself as, Zach Almighty. I love talking about Zach. My theme song can be Toby Keith’s,  I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about I, I want to talk about number one, me, my, oh-my. 

I can tend to sound like the annoying seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo: Mine. Mine. Mine Mine. 

I love the idea of Santa and how excited children get because as adults we lose some of that wonder and imagination, but, why are kids excited about Santa? 

He brings them gifts. They get presents.
Are we excited about Santa if he doesn’t brings us gifts?

This is why my family reads the entire chapter of Luke 2 on Christmas morning before anything else is done. Before stockings or presents. before coffee for mom or candy for myself, we read the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 as a family tradition to remind our children that every day, even this Christmas Day, our focus in on Jesus. 

As a parent, if I permit my children to focus on themselves unchecked, they will, and then if/when they will fail, they will then focus on their problems. Their life will be a constant seesaw with a lot of pride,  look how great I am, and depression, look how bad I am.

For a couple years on Monday mornings I taught male inmates at the county prison. The curriculum I taught from was all about preparing the male prisoners to leave their life of bad desires and choices and pursue wise and life-giving desires and choices. 

You could tell a difference between the guys who wanted to be there, who wanted to change, and the guys who didn’t, but they had to be there because it looked good on their parole record if they attended the class.

I would start each class of about 20 prisoners reciting this equation,

Self-deception + Self-reliance = Self-Destruction

This equation runs true every single time. The common denominator is self – and I would tell the guys in prison that they have there choices.

  1. They can sit and think about how they are going to change themselves once they get out.  
  2. They can think how about how they blew it and how much of a loser they are.
  3. They can admit they were powerless and rely on God’s Spirit to bring love and power if they wanted permanent change. 

Your loved ones need to hear this. They are focused on themselves or their problems.

Christmas blows away the misperceptions of God that people have. 

He is a God who comes near to us.
He is a humble God.
He is a God who cares.
He’s not just loving – He is love.

I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them. Isaiah 57:18-19

God knows all about what I’ve done, what I struggle with, what harsh times I’ve gone through and He still wants to heal me and lead me to the way that is free as He comforts me when I am broken. He longs to bring peace into my soul.

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

If I feel guilty, He wants to forgive me.
I I feel lost, He wants to lead me.
If I am overwhelmed or anxious or stress out, He wants to comfort me.
If I can’t sleep – He wants to bring me rest and a peace that transcends rational explanation. 

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

You might not need recovery from addition abuse or need AA or a 12 step program but the principle is the same if you or your loved ones want healing. They have one of three options.

  1. They can focus on themselves: I can do it! 
  2. They can focus on their problems: I can’t do it! 
  3. They can focus on Jesus. He can do it. And will. And does every day. 

We are used to making your own choices. We decide what time to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, what to do at work or at school, what to do at night, where to travel to, what hobbies interest us, what to spend money on. We rule our world. We’re so used to making choices on our own constantly. 

We’ve forgotten how to be dependent on God. As an infant is fully dependent on their mother we need to be fully dependent on God. That’s the ironic message of Jesus’ birth. As dependent and humble God became on two people He created, Joseph and Mary, we need to be that dependent on God daily.

The message of Christmas is this (and what you should tell all of your relationships): 

There is a God who has an unfailing love for you, and He wants to get really close to you. 

If they let Him. If they invite Him to do so.

Open your eyes and your ears and your heart to someone near you who is struggling. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

30 Practical Ways to Love on Others this Christmas Season (and any season).

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Last Christmas season I had a friend take his two younger children to Walmart. Outside of Walmart they saw Santa Claus ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, asking for donations. Dad didn’t let his children stop to say hi, in a rush to get items mom needed for the office Christmas party. Dad promised his kids they would talk to Santa on their way out. 

Heading out of Walmart, Santa was gone and my friend’s kids were bummed. They went around the corner looking for him and they found “Santa” around the building, sitting on a turned-over bucket with his beard off, smoking a cigarette. 

The kids eyes were as big as baseballs. This Santa was a pretender. Dad was left with an awkward justification on bad Santa’s behalf.

The word Christian literally means, Christ-like, or, little Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God and, with that, we believe God is love. So, for a Christian to not be loving toward others means we are not taking our devotion to Jesus as seriously as we verbally claim 

No more pretending. No more words and actions not aligning. Will the real Christians please stand up? Because people need love to change their lives.

I know of an older woman who walked up to a younger woman who was getting into her beat up minivan in the Goodwill parking lot. With no specific need to address, the older woman gave $100 to the younger woman, someone she didn’t know, no questions asked. The older woman simply said, You are loved. 

The mini-van woman said she makes $40 too much per month to qualify for government assistance and that she’s been needing medication for a while and that the $100 gift would go to groceries and medicine for her and her family.

That’s just what Christians should do. It’s what people who think about others do.

When Christians love others radically, I think Jesus claps and cheers and whistles and shouts in a much larger way than sports fans do when their team makes a big play. When we love with no-strings attached, Jesus is high fiving angels and He’s Tiger Woods fist-pumping.

Here are 30 radical ways we can love on others this Christmas season (and any season): 

  • Leave a tip for your waiter/waitress that is double the amount of your meal. Write on the receipt, Jesus loves you, or, You are loved.
  • Bake cookies with your children or your nieces/nephews and go around the neighborhood delivering them (neighbors are more receptive to smiling children at their door). 
  • Go to an Aldi or Piggly Wiggly grocery store (or a grocery store where people have to bag their own groceries) and choose to bag groceries voluntarily for the elderly or the disabled checking their food out. While there, choose someone you can pay for their groceries, no questions asked. 
  • Go to a local laundromat, where people go in the evening to do their laundry, and hand out bags of quarters. 
  • Depending on where you live, mow the yard of an elderly neighbor or single mom, rake their leaves or plow the snow off their driveway and sidewalk. 
  • Depending on where you live, take hot chocolate or popsicles to construction workers working earnestly. 
  • Whenever you see a moving truck in your neighborhood, stop your schedule and ask if you can help unload or load items. 
  • Buy coloring books, stuffed animals, action figures and go to your local Children’s Hospital and deliver them to kids battling cancer.
  • Make homemade Christmas cards for those in nursing homes, delver them personally and sit and listen to each elderly person you visit, as very few people take time for them. 
  • Gather a group of friends and go pick up trash at your local community park. 
  • When your child talks about a friend at their school who doesn’t have much, go and buy them a new winter coat, or new gym shoes. Wrap it as a Christmas gift.
  • Walk around your local school and pray for the principals, teachers, counselors, cafeteria workers and janitors. Pray that they would love Jesus and be a positive influence on the children in that school. 
  • Blitz the police and fire stations with homemade goodies and gift cards. 
  • Get a haircut and leave a large, jaw-dropping tip. 
  • Order boxes of pizza for carry-out, get some chips and bottles of water and take them to your nearest Urgent Care waiting room around dinner time and hand out free food. You could ask anyone sick if you could pray for them. 
  • Whenever you are in the drive-thru at Starbucks or a fast-food joint, pay for the car behind you. 
  • Pursue the paperwork needed to foster a needy child in your home. 
  • Write a letter of gratitude to someone in our military serving abroad (you can also write a letter of encouragement to a missionary you know or one your church is supporting). 
  • Cook a large crockpot of your infamous chili and set up a small table near your walking trail or busy sidewalk and offer $3 for the best bowl of chili ever. Then, give the money away to a local charity.
  • Stand by your nearest bus stop, and in a non-creepy, friendly way, pass out free balloons or balloon animals already made to the kids getting off the bus. 
  • Take all of the junk in your home – the trinkets, the clothes not worn, the toys not played with, and instead of having a garage sale with price tags, have a garage sale without any price tags. Give it all away. It’s all free.  You’ll get to know your neighbors more that way. 
  • For Christmas, ask for gardening tools. Make the plans next year to till your yard, plant seeds in it, water it and grow fruit and vegetables and give that food away (or make something with it) to a low-income family. 
  • Write a hand-written letter to a teacher, thanking them genuinely for pouring their knowledge and love into the mind and heart of your child. Put flowers or a gift card to go with the letter.
  • Write a hand-written letter to someone in your past who inspired you to become who you are. 
  • Write a hand-written letter to someone who has hurt you, or you have hurt them, and either forgive or apologize, aiming for reconciliation. 
  • Sign up and get a background check to serve meals at your local homeless shelter. Smile like crazy. Encourage others non-stop. Sit down at the table and listen to the stories of those who have it difficult. 
  • Tape $1 bills to a vending machine with a note that says, Buy something for yourself, use the rest to buy treats for others around you. 
  • Leave great online reviews on Google/Angie’s List/Home Advisor/Yelp! for any local, small business you support or utilize.
  • Offer to babysit for friends who could use a much-needed date night during this busy time.
  • When you hear about a millennial who can’t afford make it home for Christmas, use your air miles or your money to get them home. 

The creative and practical ideas could go on and on. 

The issue is we can have these ideas or read the ideas of others to be a more loving person, and we leave it at that. We allow routine and the tasks at hand to take over our willingness to purposefully stop and ask, How can I radically love this person right now? Forget what I want. Forget what I need to do. How can I love this person, right now? 

A few years ago I was running late to church on a Sunday morning. It happens 50% of the time that when I’m running late, my gas tank is on empty. Frequently, I’m out of time and out of gas. 

I pulled over into a gas station and started filling up and I noticed the man behind me looked disheveled, worried, fidgety and depressed. I asked him if he was okay, and he waved me off as if to say he was fine and he’ll figure his own problems out. I still pursued because he looked troubled. Knowing I wouldn’t leave him alone while my gas pumped, he welcomed me over. 

I offered to pay for his gas and he started to cry. In tears he confessed to me he had been driving around aimlessly for an hour this Sunday morning looking for any reason on why he shouldn’t kill himself. 

A smile, a prayer, a hug and a free tank of gas gave this man the reason he was looking for. Its’ called hope. 

Let’s play, Would God Rather? Would God rather I ignore the man next to me at the gas station who looks troubled so I can be on time to church worship, or would God rather, I take time for the man and walk into church late? 

Do we get it? Our selfishness and our schedule and our insular instincts cannot dominate our heart this time of year. 

In my circle of friends is a young mom who took the challenge to love others radically. She told me she left a tip for a waitress, whom she found out was a single mom, that was equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries for her family. That’s quite a sacrifice. 

It didn’t end there. 

While my friend was getting in her car to leave the restaurant, a homeless woman knocked on the driver’s side window. My friend rolled down his window and this woman in need said, Do you have $5? I need money for a bus ticket, I’m stranded and I need $5 to get home to my kids. 

My friend opened her wallet and gave the needy woman $10. 

Then my friend watched the needy woman get in a running car and speed away. My friend had been taken advantage of. It would’ve been easy to judge that woman, to think that she’ll get what’s coming to her. 

Except this is what my generous friend wrote to me in an email, 

I began immediately to feel compassion for that woman. I saw her as a deprived child crying out these words, “While you’re giving out love and prayers of generosity, would you save some for me?” The time this happened in our day was around 1:00pm and I don’t know if I’ll ever see this woman again but for the past 4 days at 1:00pm I have prayed for her. And not only have I developed a more compassionate heart toward what she did, God’s Spirit of truth has shown me that I am like that woman to Him. I’m the swindler that asks God for some forgiveness and He gives graciously and freely and then I turn my back on Him and run to my sin, speeding off. I’m the beggar who asks God to provide for me and then I spend everything He gives on my wants and pleasures. Thankfully God’s mercy isn’t dependent on my actions! He forgives. He forgets. He covers me in love. The very least I can do today and every day is cover other people in love. As for me, I simply want to join and love more people in an authentic way.

What about you?

This is the time of year people’s needs are exposed and their hearts are more open to those around them providing acts of generosity and love for them. Let’s get to it. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Helping a Loved One Grieve Through Their Miscarriage

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A miscarriage can be defined as the ending of a pregnancy, spontaneously, within 20 weeks after conception.  

Miscarriage is a topic hardly ever discussed. 

The March of Dimes Foundation reports that 10-15% of pregnancies conclude in a miscarriage. If the woman carrying is over 35 years old, the rate of a miscarriage is 25%. 

Chances are, there are women you know well, women you work with, women you live by, who have miscarried and have kept that emotional weight internally because they just don’t know how to talk about it.

Experiencing a miscarriage is an event that brings a deep level of confusion and sadness. With bewilderment and grief, most people keep the loss a secret. It’s taboo to discuss with even the closest people we know. 

My wife had never been pregnant before in our 13+ years of marriage and it’s been her dream, our dream, for her to conceive and experience a full-term pregnancy. 

Unable to become naturally pregnant or try in vitro fertilization, we were thankful for scientific advances that enabled us to pursue embryonic adoption, having frozen embryos placed in the uterus. 

Fittingly so, my wife and I received medical affirmation that she was with child for the first time while we were on vacation at Disney World, the most magical place on earth.   

10 weeks after conception, she miscarried. 

To add salt to the wound, the miscarriage occurred on August 22nd, which is referred to by parents as “Rainbow Day”. Rainbow day is a national day to reflect on the babies born after there has been a miscarriage, a still birth or the death of a child. It’s a day of hope for parents to look back on and see that the miscarriage wasn’t the ending, but that life came afterwards later on. 

This miscarriage was a first for her, a first for me. The shock and the loss for words and the ongoing demands of life that propelled us to move on without being able to move on was all fresh and awkward. 

As a husband who was in pain, but not close to the pain my wife’s body, mind and heart was going through, I offer this wisdom and these practical ways to help anyone you love who is going through the same ordeal, to heal. 

Don’t analyze or counsel right away.

After my wife and I were married for five years, we found out we were infertile. Immediately after that news from the doctor, I began the paperwork toward infant-adoption as a way to start our family. 

I did not allow my wife to grieve the dream she had most of her life to become naturally pregnant. Yes, the option of adoption was a good one, but to shift over quickly to it without giving space to process the purging of her dream was not wise. 

There is something innate in us that wants to solve our loved ones problems. We think fixing is helping. But offering solutions too quickly after painful news does not allow the person to express their emotions, work through their grief in time, and even feel validated for their anguish. 

When a wife comes to a husband with her pain or guilt or fear over anything, the husband is just supposed to listen. Just listen, and not solve. The wife just wants to be heard, and husbands, or any friend with the woman, can work on that. 

Pamper her so she has space to grieve. 

When a miscarriage occurs, life does not stop to wait until the woman is ready to move on. Life moves on. Work, chores, a family’s schedule, worship, errands – they do not wait for anyone. 

A couple weeks after the miscarriage, I called a fancy hotel suite, booked a room, packed a bag for my wife and when she got home from work, sent her off to her hotel for an evening to herself. 

She relaxed in a jacuzzi in her room, ordered room service for dinner, with extra desserts and watched shows she never gets to watch due to the demands of our family.

And she cried and cried.
The time to herself allowed her to release tears. 

The next morning I scheduled a massage for her to help with how tense she had been. 

Pampering her did not heal everything in her heart, but it did give her space to stop, pause and grieve. 

Encourage her to share the miscarriage with a female friend. 

Writer Kendra Hurley for The New York Times reports that 40% of women who experience a miscarriage say that afterwards, for months, they felt very alone. 

There is a false sense of guilt that can rise up in a woman when she miscarries. All of us want to figure out why things happen the way they do, but miscarriages are so confusing and mostly unexplainable, and with the physical and emotional toll that comes with it, it can bring unnecessary, harmful shame. 

It is so difficult to have friendships that break through below the surface. Very few people have friendships they’re not related to where they can go to someone and share devastation. 

The way a friendship deepens is when one friend decides bravely to share their brokenness and the receiving friend listens, grieves with them, hugs them and checks in on them. 

Gently, just a couple times, I encouraged my wife to reach out to a friend she trusted to share the miscarriage news. She did, soon after, reach out to a close friend.

Talking about it made it real, which made it something to heal from, which deepened the friendship she already had. I am very thankful to that friend of ours who took time to simply being a friend. 

Schedule a photographer for family photos.

One of the damaging things pain can elicit is tunnel vision. Through devastating news we become so fixated on the trial that it’s all we look at, think about, dwell on. We become obsessed with it and it begins to own us.

While miscarriage pain should be acknowledged, it will only lead to more isolation and depressive moods if it’s only acknowledged. 

Meaning, there is so much to be thankful for. 

My wife and I have been infertile our entire relationship. But, through God’s hand of providence, and through the sacrificial generosity of two birth-mothers, we have two daughters we adopted from birth. We have an amazing family. Only the Lord could have knitted us all together in the way and timing He has. 

To remind my wife of that, we scheduled family photos outside on a beautiful day. We got our beautiful girls dressed up in multiple outfits and had our picture taken by a professional photographer over the course of a couple hours. 

Having those pictures printed and looked at, it brought smiles to our faces how adorably amazing our lives are. The miscarriage was a signifiant event, but it was not the only thing going on in our lives. 

If there are no children in the family where miscarriage occurs, family photos as a couple, or with a pet can also be therapeutic. 

If not a photos option, there are other creative ways to redirect the thoughts of someone who has lost a pregnancy to thoughts of gratitude. 

Pray for God to strengthen her increasingly.

A miscarriage is an event that never fully heals. It leaves a permanent scar. The high level of excitement that comes with news of being pregnant combined with the devastation of news that the pregnancy is no more is something that is unforgettable. 

But, she can be strengthened. By God. 

As Christians, people who love Jesus, my wife and I firmly believe that God works all things out  for our good. When we love God, we aren’t handed an easy life, but through suffering and heartache God promises good to come out of it. 

Our response is to wait and trust Him. 

When our daughters are afraid at night from something, or they’re in pain, my wife and I will sing this song to them while holding them closely: 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You,
I will trust in You,
I will trust in You.
When I am afraid I will trust in You,
And all my fears will wash away.  

Weeks after the miscarriage, I wrote in magic marker on our master bathroom mirror Psalm 56:3-4, which says, 

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

The healing power of God’s Spirit can begin to patch together the heart that’s been broken by a miscarriage and, simultaneously, infuse hope for dreams to remain alive and good to come out of what is broken. Pray for her. 

Thank for reading. You are loved (and, if there is love and trust in your relationships, reach out to a loved one to see if they’ve ever experienced a miscarriage and if they’d like to talk about it). 

Z