Monday, September 21, 2009

Marriage in Paradise?

Marital bliss, we’d all like to be there. But can it be a reality? Can we really get there? I suppose that depends on how you define marital paradise, bliss, nirvana etc…

The truth is paradise in marriage is not a destination constantly lit by a warm glow and filled with tummy tingles. While those things do exist they are not what most happily married couples would say keep them together after ten or more years of marriage. Once the hormones of the honeymoon are gone we have to actually work hard not to lose that loving feeling. Now that may seem obvious to many, but then why is our divorce rate so high? People really believe and say that they have fallen out of love! They actually expect to have the feelings of love forever. Sorry to be a killjoy, but in practice love is more of a verb than a noun.

So where is paradise found in marriage? Here is a short list-
When disagreements and simple conflicts don’t escalate to verbal warfare.
When we say or do something hurtful to our spouse and wish to apologize immediately.
When we’re genuinely interested in what our spouse has to say.
When being with our spouse is fun regardless of the activity.
When the things that once bugged us about them become meaningless.
When there seems to be a warm glow everywhere, and our tummy tingles… oops! I got carried away.

How do we get there as couples? I like to keep this list short, just two items-
Be a forgiver. If we believe that our spouse’s faults are bigger than our own; it is likely that we are not a good forgiver.
Be happily incompatible. Realize that the differences that we have actually benefits us. If we don’t embrace our differences as individuals we’re being self-centered.

My wife Tracy says that marriage is like a home improvement project that never ends. I like that for two reasons; the words improvement and never ends. Marriage is not the money pit home improvement project that sucks the life out of us. Like a good wine or investment it is something that improves over time. With the right attitude and some genuine effort we can have paradise in marriage. So bring on the tummy tingles ‘cause I’m all in!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Every Marriage Needs a Little Salsa

Sunset, mango salsa, live Latin music, my wife Tracy. These are the ingredients for a perfect date for me. Yes, I’m a man; and yes most of the time a woman would be more inclined to describe a perfect date with these ingredients. Except for the wife bit… But the truth is, and every married man that takes his wife dancing knows what I’m about to say, husbands that dance get more…, well you fill in the blank. Honestly, this one activity incorporated into date night exponentially helps my wife feel more loved. And that leads to a number of fringe benefits.

My wife and I have taught ballroom dancing as a vocation, and currently as an avocation, for many years. We became professionals with the Arthur Murray Studios in our 20s and have never lost the love that we have for teaching dance. And after all these years we continue to see that couples who dance together generally have better relationships and deeper intimacy. Not only that, but just about every couple we’ve taught proclaims that learning to dance together parallels learning to have a better relationship. And it’s true, the couples that look the best on the dance floor have learned to be better partners. They understand their individual roles and know how to enhance their partnership. “They move as one” is often how you hear their dancing described. “Moving as one” is a great way for a marriage or significant relationship to be described. And just like learning to dance, it isn’t easy. It takes understanding and intentionality to become a better partner. It also takes practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect but it does make permanent.

If you’re looking for a way to light the fire in your relationship or simply turn up the heat; I recommend that you add the right ingredients. Swing, Salsa, Tango, Rumba and Waltz mix very well together! But don’t forget to add the other romantic touches as well. Your commitment will be well rewarded. We’ll see you on the dance floor, and at the marriage retreat!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Diving Deep into the Lord

Free divers with no means of propulsion assistance swim to depths of 88 meters (over 288 feet) and return to the surface in one breath requiring the diver to hold that breath 4-5 minutes. Under normal conditions permanent damage to the brain can occur in as little as three minutes without oxygen. The physiological changes required in the body to accomplish these amazing feats are extraordinary. The heart rate slows as low as 25-30bpm, blood vessels shrink, additional red blood cells are released carrying more oxygen, blood flow is limited to the arms and legs, and most importantly blood plasma fills up blood vessels in the lung to reduce residual volume. Without this adaptation the lung would wrap into itself becoming permanently damaged. The body also adapts to the increased carbon-dioxide levels. The typical training plan for free divers often includes walking 400 meters (nearly a quarter mile) or climbing numerous flights of stairs in a single breath.

Clearly this extreme sport requires incredible mental and physical discipline. The element of risk that exists is also very high in this sport while having a very small margin for error. However, because of this intense discipline free divers are able to accomplish with little risk what is impossible to you or me. At the same time, these well prepared and equipped athletes explore the deep blue of creation seeing and doing things that you or I will never experience, like hitching a ride on a beluga whale or staring eye-to-eye with a 6-foot 300lbs yellowfin tuna 200 feet below the water’s surface.

As believers in Christ we have access to the deep things of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinth 2:10). However, in order to create this depth of intimacy we must put into practice intense and focused training similar to that of the free diver. As we passionately pursue Jesus, the Way, the Truth & the Life, we our conditioning our spirit man. When we endeavor to be still and release the burdens of the day, or take control over our body by fasting, or commit to extended periods of prayer and listening for the Lord we are training our mind and body to do what is not natural. These and other spiritual disciplines will lead us to the deep things of the Father. Then just like the free diver we will experience amazing wonders so incredible they captivate people’s attention when we describe them.

The world of free diving is a small and extremely tight knit family. They share extraordinary abilities and have unbelievable testimonies. So too is the family of believers whose passion and zeal for the Lord can offer these same qualities. But the extraordinary abilities and unbelievable testimonies we experience will be radical salvations and astonishing miracles! As true followers of Jesus we aren’t called to simply tread water, we are called to dive deep! So grab your gear, for deep calls unto deep.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Your Great Adventure, Part 2

"The man (or woman) who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he (or she) decides, never decides." - Henri Frédéric Amiel

In making your life a great adventure you may experience moments of indecision. Times when you just can’t see how the reward in the end could possibly outweigh the uncertainty of the end. These speed bumps on your road to freedom can often impede or even paralyze your forward progress by placing you in an endless analysis loop, hence the phrase analysis paralysis. You desire change but are too caught up in considering the outcome possibilities to choose a direction. This pattern can be attributed to a variety of potential causes of which a lack of trust may possibly be the most common. Most of us unfortunately have experienced how fragile trust can be, and we’ve seen our share of betrayal and know the power the lingering feelings have.

However, if we are to live a truly great adventure we must reconcile our issues with trust. Letting yesterday's betrayel control today's opportunities would be wrong. I personally do not believe that any one of us is so frail that we would crumble from one or even a number of poor decisions. Not for a minute do I believe that. While a poor decision can lead to difficult consequences, we can still choose how we're going to respond. Some of my dumbest life decisions have ended up being the catalyst for my deepest personal growth.

Whether your next courageous decision leads to triumph or defeat is not nearly as important as the act of choosing. Not choosing will most certainly lead to "what if" regret; and you can always recover from the choice that leads to a rocky road.

Vive le choix!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How is Your Great Adventure?

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." — Helen Keller

Adventurers appear to share a few common traits. They have a genuine curiosity to explore what is not known and seemingly have no regard for fear. When I was younger I thought I was pretty courageous and an adventurer at heart. I had a passion for speed, loved to explore unfamiliar woods alone, always went on the most radical amusement rides etc… There are a lot of people that probably feel the same way. They relish those exhilarating moments of being somewhat out of control and on the edge. As I look at those activities now however, I might categorize them differently, labeling them more as thrill seeking or risk taking versus being adventurous.

Being an adventurer looks different to me today. It isn’t about seeking exhilaration or elation, although some of that still calls to me. The great adventure of my life today is more about being myself without fearing rejection, pursuing my passions without concern for being judged, looking deep inside to facedown my misplaced motives, caring as if the act of caring is all that matters, and living determined to finish life without regret knowing that all of the unknown in my life is just waiting for me to discover it.

When my life ends will people close to me say, “He had so much unrealized potential” or “Life with Stuart was a great adventure”.

How is your great adventure?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Facebook, Asset or Liability?

I'm sure I'll offend someone and get reprimanded for this post, but I need to vent about how much idle chatter happens on Facebook and the various other social networking platforms. I'll be accused of being a sour-puss (or worse), or an idealist, or maybe my comments will just be ignored like most of what gets posted in cyberspace. On the other hand maybe someone will find value in my venting. Yes value, I like that word. Something of worth, high quality, intrinsically desirable, to rate or scale in importance...

What I value from these social utility websites is the convenience of receiving updates from family and friends in real-time. I also like knowing that "the crisis response team" is on standby should anything arise. Unfortunately, I'm required to weed through so much that isn't valuable that I tend to stay away from these sites because they are HUGE time suckers. Does anyone really have that much "spare" time that they can participate in endless polls, quizzes, and other seemingly mindless behavior? (That is the statement that will get me in trouble) I'm not saying that I don't appreciate some of my more humorous friends brightening my day with silliness. And I'm not so tight-necked to miss the concept of light-hearted banter being exchanged. However, are we somehow missing the boat on the value these tools can bring to our lives?

I'm going to try an experiment during the next few weeks. My goal is to increase the volume and value of my posts on Facebook. You'll see inspiring quotes, encouraging news, and more interaction that I hope will be valuable. However, if my network doesn't find value in these posts I’ll submit to Facebook continuing as it is, and I won’t say another word.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Of Bricks, Crisis and Leadership

“A successful (person) is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at (them).” Each and every one of us has these metaphorical bricks being hurled at us, and sometimes it feels like the frequency, volume and velocity are ever increasing. If it isn’t our coworkers it’s the competition, if not the competition it’s our clients. And currently we face a new, and potentially more lethal, cluster of bricks in the form of this financial crisis. Enough all ready! The truth is, in business and in life we will always face difficulties. Our perspective will determine whether we see opportunity or an insurmountable obstacle. As leaders we must choose to build a strong foundation, and that is even more vital during crisis. But it isn’t just our own foundation that needs constructing; we need to be building the foundation of our team, our department, our company and especially our community.

Whether you’re just looking to begin the construction phase of your building project or maybe you’re planning some remodeling, I encourage you to consider bringing a seasoned “general contractor” on board who has experience walking with your peers through similar endeavors.