Tag: marriage

Why Personality Tests Matter

You can take the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, Strength-Finders, and the DISC test. There’s an endless amount of these personality tests. Each one of them provides their own unique insight into how a person sees the world and acts in community.

Skeptics can argue that people assign their type based on what they hope to be, rather than reality. Also, some people manipulate the results to box a person into certain behaviors. At some level, these tools can amplify narcissistic tendencies that make individuals the center of attention.

Why do these personality tests matter? Why should you and I engage these tools with those close to us in our lives?

One reason is that we need more bridges to connect us to our friends, family, and coworkers. Personality tests can provide the opportunity for healthy conversations. They bring us into the world of another person: seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, and thinking what they think.

In mature relationships, personality tests are less about us knowing ourselves, and more about understanding others.

  • Knowing when to give space vs. leaning in.
  • Recognizing how to encourage, rather than exacerbate.
  • Amplifying strengths instead of pointing out deficiencies.

Think about what would change your relationships if you could better understand the people around you. Personality tests create starting points for these important dialogues with others in your life.

How can you get started? Here are a few resources for you to initiate the conversation with people in your small group, coworkers, spouse, friends, and the important people in your life:

What have you learned from participating in personality tests? Share your answers in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Ben Duchac

7 Tips for Listening to Sermons

I sat across my wife, Robyn, at Sunday lunch a few weeks ago. As we started to eat, she turned to me and asked, “Could we talk more about the sermon this morning and each week?” The question seemed straightforward. Then she added, “I would like to hear what you think and some Sundays we rarely mention it after service.”

Recalling the last few Sundays at lunch with Robyn, my mind raced from the morning sermon to the next part of the day. She rightly pointed out a missed opportunity. We could share about areas God challenged us to grow in a setting both of us experienced.

Listening to a sermon invites to a community conversation and can deepen our understanding of a passage. It allows us a chance to talk to each other about spiritual matters in our lives because we can respond to a shared experience. It calls on us to process how the Bible relates to our lives.

You may want to understand the Bible in deeper and more significant ways. You might desire to have a more meaningful dialogue with others about following Jesus.  Listening to sermons can bring these opportunities to you. Here are seven tips to for listening to sermons:

1. Take Notes.

In the last couple weeks, I have started taking notes on YouVersion. This app allows churches to input the points from the speaker. I have found myself focusing on what the speaker says about the point, rather than trying to write out the point. Other people using the app like having online storage rather than paper.

Whether you use paper and pen or an app, you retain more by taking notes. You can go back to your notes during the week or in conversation.

2. Focus in on the Reading of the Passage.

When the speaker or pastor begins to read the Scripture, follow along. You may want to highlight or underline verses that you have questions. Certain words or phrases might jump off the page. I like to add a date of the sermon in the passage, so when I come back, I can recall it.

3. Recognize the Cues.

At certain points of the sermon, the speaker might signal an important insight in understanding the passage. Here a few cues to identify:

Definitions – The speaker unpacks the original meaning of a word in Greek or Hebrew.
Biblical References – Note the additional passages mention and the idea associated with them. You can go back later and re-read the passage.
Context – Consider the back story of the passage and what other events surrounded it. Why did the author write this? Who is the audience? These insights can help a passage become more relevant.

When you hear these cues, make note of it. You might even want to highlight the verse associated with it.

4. Utilize a Group Guide.

Often, churches will provide group guides for small groups. You may want to have one with you during service looking at the questions. After the sermon, you can even answer the questions personally before going to a group.

5. Post on Social Media.

Social Media invites us to a further conversation. A point or Scripture passage might have come alive. Posting can reaffirm the same point that others have heard. It adds to the community element. Share a picture on Instagram. Use the series #hashtag in a Twitter post. Check-In to the church with Facebook.

6. Re-Listen to the Sermon.

Take time to listen to a podcast or watch the video. You can do this in the office or when driving in the car.

7. Discuss the Sermon.

Just like Robyn encouraged me to do, talk about the sermon. You might listen to the sermon with a family member or friend. Use this opportunity to share and hear from them. Small groups give you an opportunity process the passage together. You can use these two questions to start a conversation:

What questions did you have?
What point stuck out the most?
What challenged you?
How will you respond to this passage?

What tip would you offer for listening to a sermon? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Aaron Burden.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down

I heard this verse frequently recited growing up. A person in a wise, gentle tone would say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 sounded like idyllic relational advice. You can imagine a couple of fifty years of marriage mentioning this verse as advice. Scripture passages like this make sense until you find yourself in the heat of the moment.

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Anger rarely meets us at predictable times. We experience frustrations for a variety of reasons. Our plans get re-routed. People say hurtful words. You and I can get forgotten or overlooked. A simple gaze of the political banter on social media can inflict rage on us.

The question for us has less to do with, “Will we get angry?” but rather, “How we will respond to the anger?”

Paul in Ephesians communicates the realities of Christ with us. The Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, revolutionize our relationships. Through the grace He has offered us in forgiveness, we can extend the love He has offered to us to each other. The Gospel transforms our reaction to anger.

I sometimes think we make assumptions about verses like Ephesians 4:26 without unpacking what it means for our lives. Klyne Snodgrass in his Commentary on Ephesians makes this observation:

The text (Eph. 4:25-27) assumes that people will make us angry, but anger must not take up residence. If given a place, it infects and mutates into further resentment and hostility. If given the place, it becomes the avenue the devil uses to cause sin. For that reason, it must be shown the door rather quickly.

The passage does not deny our experience of anger; rather it calls us not to let anger fester. As one of my professors Dr. Ron Hall would say, “We deal with these issues as close to the occurrence as possible.”

Anger left unchecked in our lives can lead us to other sins:
Holding a grudge and remaining bitter towards another.
Taking revenge.
Gossiping about other people.
Lacking kindness in our response to other people.
Often, it can place our interests above others.

So what does it look like to not let anger fester? I used to make the assumption that I had to resolve conflicts right at the moment. Sometimes that makes sense to applying this verse.

Other times though not letting the sun go down on your anger means taking space in the heat of the argument. Instead of further escalation, we recognize that we cannot resolve the issue in our current situation. Both people realize that they need time to calm down and then continue the discussion on a resolution.

The wisdom of this verse requires us recognizing our pattern of anger. Christ’s grace helps us not give into our adverse reactions and passive aggressiveness. On the contrary, knowing the truth about ourselves especially what jolts us halts us from making poor decisions. We can ask Christ and trusted friends to help see the situation clearly as opposed to being swayed by our emotions.

What anger has festered in your life? How has Christ challenged you not to let the sun go down on your anger? You may want to take the time to read and reflect on Ephesians 4:25-26.

Photo credit by Kasper Bertelsen.

Reads of the Week | 01/16/2016

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

My Real Life Hosea Story by Craig Keener

Keener shares the compelling story of his divorce. His experience gave him insight into the prophet of Hosea and God’s love for us.

Biblical Hospitality: What Happened When Our Christian Family Stopped Inviting Our Church Friends to Dinner by Sara Barton

Here’s just a little of a phenomenal reflection from Barton:

It’s like God wants us to follow all these breadcrumbs strewn throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

From manna in the wilderness to the last supper, we’re supposed understand God’s kind of table. Breaking bread, sharing life, building community across the boundaries humans erect, is a non-negotiable for God’s people.

Going Into the Dark Places of the Soul by Seth Haines

Haine’s article comes from an excerpt of his book Coming Clean. He steps into the darkness of our souls and pointing us to God at work.

Actor and Activist Tim Robbins on the Life-Changing Power of Empathy by David Zax

David Zax of Fast Company interviews Tim Robbins about his new movie, A Perfect Day. The film follows aid workers in the Balkans in 1995.

The Most-Edited Wikipedia Pages Over The Last 15 Years by Andrew Flowers and Carl Bialik

Wikipedia turns 15 today. Check out the most edited pages on this article.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

Comparison

A friend provided a powerful observation. He said, “I realized I was not (Insert the name of a famous leader).” On the surface, a comment like that can sound disappointing. If you heard him say it, you could sense his freedom. That comment relieves unrealistic expectations.

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Comparison defeats us before we start. It causes us to procrastinate because we never add up to others. It can cause us to wallow in our self-critique. Consider these statements we say to ourselves:
I’ll never change the world like that person.
That mom has it all together, and I can barely keep up with my kids.
Their marriage is so in sync while my spouse and I nitpick.
They influence way more people than I ever could.
It comes so easy to them.
I’ll never be as talented or skilled as that person.

Worst of all, comparison blinds us to the grace of Christ. God created you with gifts. The Greek word for gifts in the New Testament is charismata (I Peter 4:7), literally meaning “grace-gift.” Why does that matter? Every ability, talent, and resource we have results from Christ’s work in us.

The Gospel frees us from the lies of comparison. Our worth shifts with our evaluation with others. When we recognize Christ’s grace, we can begin to realize His unconditional love for us and others. No longer do we have to feel the trap of adding up. We can accept who Christ has made us to be. This acceptance allows see the opportunities in front of us to serve and love others.

How do we being to move past comparison? I think it starts with the statement my friend made. Fill in this blank:

I realize I am not (Insert Person’s Name You Compare Yourself).

That awareness brings us to ask God, “What have You called me to do?” We can then begin to identify how Christ has gifted us. In using those gifts, others around us can experience God’s grace. What would change in our lives if we accepted the gifts God has given us and the place He has called us? I think we would recognize His presence and the opportunities He has put in front of us.

A freedom from comparison leads us to collaborate rather than isolate. We no longer have to look others as competitors. Rather we can recognize God’s gifting in them. In understanding how God has created us, we can even ask them for assistance in our weak areas. A community marked by grace empowers others.

What would change in your life if you didn’t compare yourself with others? How has God gifted you? What opportunities has He given you today to experience His grace?

Photo credit by Matthew Weibe.

Reads of the Week | 11/28/2015

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I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This installment of Reads of the Week feature the five guest bloggers. Each one of these posts provided a remarkable insight into gratitude, perspective, and relationships. If you missed any of them, click the links below to check them out.

The Tin Man Drops His Axe by Janna Moss

Your Life Will Never be the Same by Elaine Englert

What Do You Say? by John Iamaio

A Thanksgiving Reflection by Michael Keys

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really! by Robyn Englert

What were your reads of the week? Share the link below in the comment section.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

A Thanksgiving Reflection | Guest Post by Mike Keys

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Mike Keys. He’s married and a father of three. You can find him mentoring young leaders at Browncroft Community Church and cheering on the Buffalo Bills.

What an incredible year. Our sons will finish college. Our daughter got married to a remarkable young man, and my son Jeremy will get married this spring! So much to be thankful for, so much to look back on and so much ahead. I often reflect on the past and see the twists and turns my family and myself have experienced.

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The hand of God is everywhere once we start looking. Many decisions along the way have shaped, prepared, and changed me through the twists and turns of life. What college to attend, who to date, who to marry, drugs or no drugs, what career path.

What is most amazing is how at each turn there were significant people in my life to guide me and influence me and help me find the right path. To think all these individuals were coincidental is just fantasy. God providentially placed them in my path at each critical juncture to move me along.

It is for these individuals that I am most grateful. Their support, their honesty, the way they lived their lives.
At 12 it was a man named Bill who told me never to feel sorry for myself.
At 15 it was Herb, my biology teacher, friend and mentor. He took the time to know me and included me in his family. His influence kept me out of trouble when trouble was everywhere around me.
At 18 it was Mr. LaPre, another teacher. He believed I would do great things and told me so. He had more faith in me than I did at the time.
At 21 it was my two closest friends Andy and Andy, yes both my best friends are named Andy. They encouraged me to take chances with my career and gave me the confidence to follow my dreams instead of what I always knew.
At 25 it was my bride, supporting me as a young father to get more involved with our children. 

I could go on and on and on. These people and many others have significantly impacted my life. Someday I will write a book about My Great Friends.

Yes, it is people at the end of the day that I am most grateful. It is people that motivate me to be better but more important they motivate me to invest in others. I am at my best when I am pursuing relationships and encouraging others.

My hope for each of us today is that we begin to see all the gifts God has bestowed upon us through others. God Bless you. Happy Thanksgiving, Mike.

Photo credit by Abigail Keenan.

Slow Down

How do you navigate conversations with a large group of people? Early in our marriage, I realized my wife Robyn, and I had different approaches. She would engage one person at a time offering them her undivided attention. I tended to move from person to person five minutes at a time. What I began to notice, people left discussions with my wife feeling a sense of significance and value.

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The way my wife engages conversations has a lot to do with the way she lives life. Unlike me, who either rushes 60 miles an hour or sleeps, Robyn takes her time, especially with people. She challenges me to slow down.

That means giving more time to people even when the conversation seems to go nowhere particular. Sometimes it means holding a question or comment back so a person can finish their story. Lots of time, it means being okay with silence because others might need a little more time to gather their thoughts.

We live in a time when we run towards the next best thing. Many people throw their energy into an activity without the patience to finish. I think we sometimes do this to people. If they don’t move fast enough for us, then we don’t take the time to get to know them. Instead of investing in deep relationships, we can find ourselves with a thousand acquaintances.

The Gospels record a fascinating aspect of Jesus. These writers record Jesus meeting with individuals. Often, the disciples think Jesus does not have time to talk with these people, yet He slows down for them. You can see Him with Nicodemus, the women at the well, stopping with blind Bartimaeus. The Pharisees have a conniption because Jesus has dinner with two tax collectors: Matthew and Zacchaeus.

Slowing down for others means recognizing the image of God in them. The practice of staying longer reminds us that often we can wait, and people take precedence in the view of Jesus. Grace causes us to recognize the patience of God in us so that we might give time to others.

Who will you slow down for others today?

Photo credit by Samuel Zeller.

4 Ways Life Changes When You Marry a Therapist

One year ago today, I boarded a plane to San Diego, CA. My wife Robyn was visiting family and I had hoped to surprise her with the big question. She had known about the surprise beforehand, because I had inadvertently shown her text about the surprise visit. Needless to say, she said yes and we have been married for almost four months.319470_571051167951_161979655_n

Spouses have a unique influence on each other’s lives. In the past few months, I have attempted to see in my daily life how Robyn has influenced me. Therapists understand emotions and the implications behind the words. The skills of therapy translate visibly to everyday life. So these are my observations of what I have learned from Robyn, the therapist:

1. Asking Permission

The old saying, “I’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission,” goes out the window. I use to blatantly ask possibly difficult questions. Now because of Robyn, I find myself asking, “Would it be all right, if I asked you a hard question?” This action braces a person and then gives them the opportunity to share what they really think.

2. Stop Saying “Should”

If you Google this point, they have been studies on why the word “should” carries negative connotations. Robyn has reminded me that this word implies judgment. Most people use this word as a suggestion. It can come across as an indictment.

3. Guided Images

Robyn brought together an idea to the small group a few years ago. A guided image acts as a relaxation exercise. People close their eyes and imagine themselves in a scene to calm their nerves. Right now, think of a beach with waves going back and forth…

4. Restating Content

I find myself saying, “So what you are telling me is…” Restating the content brings parties of a conversation to understand each other. I have now picked this up when Robyn says this to me. We want to seek ways that people feel heard.

As we think of the people closest to us, it might be a good idea to see their influence in our lives. What ways has your life changed from your closest relationships?

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