Monday, October 25, 2010

Change Begin wth Choice

Any day we wish; we can discipline ourselves to change it all. Any day we wish; we can open the book that will open our mind to new knowledge. Any day we wish; we can start a new activity. Any day we wish; we can start the process of life change. We can do it immediately, or next week, or next month, or next year.

We can also do nothing. We can pretend rather than perform. And if the idea of having to change ourselves makes us uncomfortable, we can remain as we are. We can choose rest over labor, entertainment over education, delusion over truth, and doubt over confidence. The choices are ours to make. But while we curse the effect, we continue to nourish the cause. As Shakespeare uniquely observed, "The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves." We created our circumstances by our past choices. We have both the ability and the responsibility to make better choices beginning today. Those who are in search of the good life do not need more answers or more time to think things over to reach better conclusions. They need the truth. They need the whole truth. And they need nothing but the truth.

We cannot allow our errors in judgment, repeated every day, to lead us down the wrong path. We must keep coming back to those basics that make the biggest difference in how our life works out. And then we must make the very choices that will bring life, happiness and joy into our daily lives.

And if I may be so bold to offer my last piece of advice for someone seeking and needing to make changes in their life—If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. You have the ability to totally transform every area in your life—and it all begins with your very own power of choice.

To Your Success,

Jim Rohn

Finish Every Day

By: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Being Self-Reliant

By: Dr. Denis Waitley

To be self-reliant adults,
we need to set some guidelines:

Be different, if it means higher personal
and professional standards.

Be different, if it means being more gracious
and considerate to others.

Be different, if it means being cleaner, neater
and better groomed than the group.

Be different, if it means putting more time
and effort into all you do.

And be different,
if it means taking the calculated risk.

The Seeds of Greatness Treasury

Attainment of Success and Happiness

By: Jim Rohn

All of the books that we will ever need to make us as rich, as healthy, as happy, as powerful, as sophisticated and as successful as we want to be have already been written.

People from all walks of life, people with some of the most incredible life experiences, people that have gone from pennies to fortune and from failure to success have taken the time to write down their experiences so that we might share in their wealth of knowledge. They have offered their wisdom and experience so that we can be inspired by it and instructed by it, and so that we can amend our philosophy by it. Their contributions enable us to reset our sail based upon their experiences. They have handed us the gift of their insights so that we can change our plans, if need be, in order to avoid their errors. We can rearrange our lives based on their wise advice.

All of the insights that we might ever need have already been captured by others in books. The important question is this: In the last ninety days, with this treasure of information that could change our lives, our fortunes, our relationships, our health, our children and our careers for the better, how many books have we read?

Why do we neglect to read the books that can change our lives? Why do we complain but remain the same? Why do so many of us curse the effect but nourish the cause? How do we explain the fact that only three percent of our entire national population possess a library card - a card that would give us access to all of the answers to success and happiness we could ever want? Those who wish for the better life cannot permit themselves to miss the books that could have a major impact on how their lives turn out. The book they miss will not help!

And the issue is not that books are too expensive! If a person concludes that the price of buying the book is too great, wait until he must pay the price for not buying it. Wait until he receives the bill for continued and prolonged ignorance.

There is very little difference between someone who cannot read and someone who will not read. The result of either is ignorance. Those who are serious seekers of personal development must remove the self-imposed limitations they have placed on their reading skills and their reading habits. There is a multitude of classes being taught on how to be a good reader and there are thousands of books on the shelves of the public libraries just waiting to be read. Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. We must not permit anything to stand between us and the book that could change our lives.

A little reading each day will result in a wealth of valuable information in a very short period of time. But if we fail to set aside the time, if we fail to pick up the book, if we fail to exercise the discipline, then ignorance will quickly move in to fill the void.

Those who seek a better life must first become a better person. They must continually seek after self-mastery for the purpose of developing a balanced philosophy of life, and then live in accordance with the dictates of that philosophy. The habit of reading is a major stepping stone in the development of a sound philosophical foundation. And in my opinion it is one of the fundamentals required for the attainment of success and happiness.

To Your Success,
Jim Rohn

Autograph Your Career And Your Life With Your Life Excellence

By: Dr. Denis Waitley

In 1644, a child was born. He lived to be 93 at a time in history when the average life span was but 35 to 40. He taught himself his trade and began his career. He often worked alone with primitive tools, but his focus every day was to put the best he had into his work. The man made violins. He labored over each and every process and step to ensure that he had "autographed" them with excellence and the best that was in him. He created his own personal standard of excellence for his craft, and he actually signed his name on each instrument that passed the test.

Today, some three hundred years later, the name of this craftsman who was committed to excellence is the benchmark for the best in musical instruments. His name? Antonio Stradivari! His Stradivarius violins sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars because they are the best.

When Stradivari labored, he did not know of the legacy he was creating. He was doing his best, day in and day out, to reach his standard of excellence. He didn’t spend the extra time and care to get the accolades of upper management or to be the top producer in the company. He did it because excellence was part of his focus, mission, and obsession.

It is easy to do world-class work when a boss is looking or a supervisor is around. But the test is in what you do when no one is looking. High achievers have developed the ability to stay focused when no one else is around. Does your quality or performance fluctuate based on who is in the office or which customer you are serving? Excellence is not something that you can just turn on and off whenever you feel you need it. It is a habit rooted in your attitude about your life and career.

Are you just going through the motions day to day, or are you creating a masterpiece? Autographs are valuable because they are rare and are tied to excellent performance. In today’s world, superior effort and service are becoming endangered species. Is the autograph you place on your work and service each day a Stradivarius or a Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods? Or is it unknown, with little value? Autograph your career and your life with excellence.

Having a firm commitment to excellence, like Stradivari, has an amazing effect on your achievement motivation. When people who are simply going through the motions or who are just working for a paycheck hit a challenge or obstacle, they often run to their boss and get him or her to do it, or they procrastinate by getting a cup of coffee or shuffling the papers on their desk. On the other hand, when individuals who are committed to excellence hit a similar challenge, they immediately bounce back with energy, and they are actually exhilarated by the chance to stretch themselves to overcome the problem. A commitment to excellence will create focus, and focus will assist you in maintaining your positive motivation and in creating a balanced life.

Do You Use These Alibis

By: Dr. Napoleon Hill

People who do not succeed have one distinguishing trait in common. They know all the reasons for failure and have what they believe to sir-tight alibis to explain away their own lack of achievement.

*If only I had time…
*If times were better…
*If other people understood…
*If conditions around me were only different…
*If I could live my life over again…
*If I did not fear what "They" would say…
*If I had been given a chance…
*If I were only younger…
*If I had the talent that some people have…
*If I dared assert myself…
*If only I had someone to help me…
*If I could just get started…
*If my talents were known…
*If I could just get a "break"…
*If I didn't have so many worries…
*If I were sure of myself…
*If luck were not against me…
*If I didn't have to work so hard…
*If I didn't have a past…
*If other people would only listen to me…
*If—and this is the greatest of them all—if I had the courage to see myself as I really am…

Building alibis with which to explain away failure is a national pastime. The habit is as old as the human race and is fatal to success!

Life's 10 Principles of Success

By: Dennis Gaskill

As with any subjective list, there could be points you believe are missing and perhaps points you believe don't belong here. I'm under no illusion that everyone will agree with everything I say, so take what you can use and leave the rest behind.
Live Thoughtfully

When I was a very young man I tended to live for myself. I thought I was thoughtful at the time because I would help my friends, remember my mom's birthday, hold the door open for people and things like that. But I really wasn't very thoughtful. I confused being polite and being helpful with being thoughtful. I didn't think too far ahead. I didn't look for ways to make people feel good about themselves. In truth, something would have to be very obviously wrong with someone before I'd even notice it.

When we're that wrapped up in ourselves we really don't make a very impressive package. I can say that with hindsight. We really need to live for more than our own benefit and comfort. If we just take the time to find ways to add sweetness and light to the lives of others our own joy will increase.

Live Reflectively

Great philosophers from antiquity to modern times have encouraged us to live an examined life. To mark the growth and decay of our soul, as George Herbert put it, is to let go of ego attachments and learn what we can from our daily living. The idea is simple—learn what we can about ourselves from each day so we can be better tomorrow. Hard to argue with that.

Live with Integrity

Integrity means moral soundness, and I mean it in that way, but I also have a deeper meaning in mind for living with integrity. It's also being true to yourself. It's standing up for what you believe in. It's not compromising your deeply held beliefs for the sake of convenience, profit, or to gain an unfair advantage over others. It's also respecting others as your equal, and yourself as the equal to others.

Own Your Life

In an age where it's popular to blame our parents, the government, our teachers, religion, lack of religion, and everyone or anything but ourselves for our troubles, it may seem odd to say we have to take responsibility for our own life and everything in it, but that's how it is.

Until we come to that point, where we own our lives and all the results we get from living it, we'll never have the kind of life we want. Being a victim, however legitimate or illegitimate the claim, just does not produce happiness and prosperity. Playing the victim role is antithetical to happiness and prosperity. Until we accept responsibility for all we do and say, and for all the outcomes of what we do and say, we will never be in charge of our own evolution. We cannot assign blame to someone without also giving up some of our power and promise.

Live with Intent

The difference between living with intent and just living can be subtle. Living with intent is having a passion for life and choosing our course, while just living is going through the motions needed to get by. Perhaps most of us are not called to do great things, but we can all do small things in a great way.

Living with intent is also choosing the direction your life takes as much as possible, as opposed to taking the path of least resistance. We are not made strong by being washed downstream by every passing influence. We are made strong by choosing our own course and standing against the tide when it isn't flowing in our chosen direction.

Be Willing to Pay the Price

Success is never guaranteed, but if you want to succeed, we have to be willing to pay the price. The "price" depends on what we want to succeed at: it could mean years of education, years of developing a skill or skills, years of sacrifice, years of failure, or any number of things.

Paying the price may also mean being willing to make changes. These changes could be in our self, in our environment, in our location, or even in who we associate with if they are detrimental to our success. This trips up a lot of people. We humans like our comfort zones. The trouble is, we grow very little within our comfort zones. We must step outside of the familiar and safe and into the unknown in order to become more than we already are.

Have Finishing Power

Fortitude is having the strength of mind to endure adversity with courage. Focus is the ability to concentrate our attention where it's needed. Having the fortitude and focus to keep working toward our goals in the midst of difficulties, distractions, obstacles, and opposition will give you the finishing power that carries you past any hindrances and into the rarified air of high achievement. Finishing what they start sets the winners apart from those who shrink away in laziness or defeat.

Live in the Now

Someday never gets here, it is always now. Don't put off your goals because it isn't the ideal time, or you lack funds, or lack time. You can work toward your goals in spite of all those excuses. The time will never be right if you aren't prepared for it, so prepare! You can prepare while you save money as well. As for not having the time, a person that says they have no time for something usually does find time to do other things that aren't necessary, such as watching television for example. In most cases, it's really a matter of where we place our priorities.…

Never Stop Learning

The more knowledge and wisdom you possess, the better the mental resources you have to draw upon for problem solving, brainstorming, product development, creativity, and a host of other needs. It's been proven that learning helps keep us young, and some studies indicate learning helps stave of diseases…And then there's the way Dr. Albert Einstein put it, "Once you stop learning, you start dying."…

Be a Goal Setter

We can have all kinds of marvelous ideas, but until we set them down on paper as goals we aren't likely to act on them. If we don't set them down on paper we are more likely to give up on them in the face of difficulties. By putting our goals down on paper and making an action plan to achieve them, it sinks into our mind better. We will be more likely to follow through.

Writing our goals down also serves notice to our subconscious that these ideas are important because we made the effort to separate them from the thousands of other ideas that flow through our consciousness on a daily basis. That tells our subconscious mind these are the ideas to go to work on, on our behalf, bringing ideas and intuition to us that will help us achieve our goals.

There you have my ten principles to success. I firmly believe you can succeed at anything you care enough about.

Treat Yourself With Respect

* Live your life on the basis of what is possible, right and good for you instead of what you or others think you should do.

* Find out what you want and what you are good at, value those, and take actions designed to fulfill your potential.

* Respect your own needs. Identify what really fulfills you – not just immediate gratification. Respecting your deeper needs will increase your sense of worth and well-being.

* Make decisions. Practice making and implementing positive choices flexibly but firmly, and trust yourself to deal with the consequences.

To Be Successful - Have A Mentor

By: Dr. Sheila Murray Bethel

During my first years as a speaker and author, the most important factor in my success was the wisdom and experience of my mentors. It would have taken years of research and experience to acquire all the minute details involved in the success I was seeking. Instead, I cut my learning time by at least one half through the guidance of my mentors. The late Cavett Roberts, the dean of professional speaking and founder of the National Speakers' Association, originated the quote, "O.P.E." (Other People's Experience). That's what the mentor-protégés relationship is based upon: other people's experience.

I've found that most people who have become successful in life and/or business are proud to share their knowledge and experience. If you find someone who can act as your mentor, it would be a wonderful experience for both of you. I now act as a mentor for several people. Having discussed mentorship with several friends who are also mentors, we have agreed that there are some tips on the mentor-protégé relationship that would be helpful to pass on. I have listed them in the hopes that you can make the most of one of the best resources available to you—a mentor!

1. As defined by Webster's, a mentor is an adviser, coach/teacher–not a partner or replacement for your active participation. Look upon your mentor as a source of inspiration and information, not a replacement for action.

2. Be very careful of your mentor's time. The quickest way to alienate a mentor is to be on the telephone, e-mail or in his or her office for repeated information and unimportant details. On the other hand, don't be afraid to ask what you may think is a dumb question. There are no dumb questions, only uninformed, unprepared people. If you have already covered the material or problem and you still have questions, make sure you aren't just being lazy. If you do need further clarification and help, then certainly contact your mentor.

3. When working with a mentor take careful notes so you don't have to go back for repeated information. Always take notes; they will help you in preparing intelligent, meaningful questions and in retaining the information.

4.If you are asking advice of a mentor—take it! Proteges, in their enthusiasm, often ask advice and then argue the point. Don't reinvent the wheel.

5. When you receive advice and suggestions from you mentor, report back on the results or action taken. Your mentor may see that you need a slight adjustment or correction. Small game- plan refinements can be extremely helpful. If you are proceeding correctly and all is well, you need to know that also. Reporting to your mentor will give you this knowledge.

Finally, once you have had a mentor, pass on the legacy. It is a wonderful and rewarding endeavor. One of the fastest ways to go from success to significance is to be a mentor to someone else!

© Bethel Institute 2000

12 Elements That Make Great Service Possible

There are 12 elements that make great service possible. None of which have ever been taught in school.

1. Establishing and maintaining a positive attitude;

2. Establishing and achieving goals;

3. Understanding yourself, your co-workers and your customer;

4. Having pride in yourself, your company and what you do;

5. Taking responsibility for your actions, what happens to you, and the
success of your company;

6. Listening with the intent to understand;

7. Communicating to be understood;

8. Embracing change as a natural progression of things and of life;

9. Establishing, building and maintaining relationships;

10. Gaining the ability to make effective decisions (which means taking risks);

11. Learning to serve others in a memorable way, and,

12. Working as a team to make everyone more productive.

In order to serve—you must be prepared to serve. How important are each of these subjects in your success? Have you ever taken a course in any of these subjects?

Jeffrey Gitomer

Author of The Sales Bible, Knock Your Socks Off Selling and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

May God protect you…

May God protect you…
From scary nights,
from hasty flights;

From too much food,
from a somber mood;

From ringing bells,
from self-made hells;

From sickish pains,
from dishonest gains;

From excessive needs,
from tricky deeds;

From foolish quarrels,
from resting on laurels;

From silly fears,
from idle tears;

From forgotten lines,
And from all bad times.

We pray,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

from The Irish, p.55
by Fr. Andrew Greeley

Wedding Prayer of Spouses for Each Other

LORD JESUS, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony.

MAY we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.

MAY the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection.


A Prayer for Husbands and Wives

Lord Jesus Christ our God Who taught us to pray continually for one another, thus fulfilling Your commandment and manifesting our desire for Your mercy, in Your compassion watch over and protect us from all seen and unseen enemies.

Grant us health and complete wisdom so that we may fulfill all our obligations according to Your will and commandments. Protect us from all temptations which we do not have the strength to resist. Strengthen us in the right faith and in perfect love, that we may live together in virtue, and direct our lives according to Your precepts.

We implore You, O merciful Lord: Help us to remember that marriage is indeed holy, and strengthen the sanctity, of our union. Shower Your grace upon us so that we may live our lives in true faithfulness and love. Help us to understand and trust each other fully, keeping quarrels and arguments far from us. Bestow Your blessings upon us, and in Your mercy, count us worthy of Your kingdom, for You are our sanctification, and we offer glory to You: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and ever and unto ages of ages.


Hints for Happy Marriages

Interview with
Father Michael Ryan, L.C.
Philosophy Dean

ROME, APRIL 16, 2006 ( Within a happy marriage the positive comments should outnumber the negative about 5 to 1, says an experienced marriage counselor.

Legionary Father Michael Ryan, who is also dean of philosophy at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, spells out other points of advice in his book, "The Last Straw: Ways to Overcome the Stumbling Blocks in Communication Towards a Stronger and Happier Marriage" (Circle Press).

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Ryan touched on some of the advice he gives married couples.

Q: In your book you say that many marriages break up because of misunderstandings and comparatively small things which could have been avoided. What are these things and what should be done in order to resolve them in time?

Father Ryan: Marriages break up when there is hurting going on in the relationship. It is very difficult to persevere in the company of somebody who is sour and unpleasant.

In a nutshell I would say that we must avoid in every way possible hurting others with words or actions. Second, we must foster the atmosphere in which one can express to the other what is hurting. And, finally, we must accept the fact that we can hurt others even when we don’t intend to do so.

As a general rule we must monitor frequently our relationship in order to cure as soon as possible any problem that may arise, even in spite of our good will. Each person is different and the sensitivity of each person is different.

Therefore, there is no set list of things that can cause problems to a marriage. Each man and women must become aware of what hurts a spouse.

The dangerous aspect of all this consists in the fact that we can hurt others without us realizing that we are doing so. This leads to the accumulation of pain which then can easily spill over.

Q: How can married persons cultivate a form of dialogue necessary for addressing problems or disagreements in an open but delicate way? When is the right time to speak about difficulties? How can you say the truth without hurting another?

Father Ryan: First, we should not be "complaining" all the time about everything. It is important to reserve our complaints for really important issues or for issues that have hurt us in a special way.

Remember that the proportion between positive and negative moments in marriage must be always about 5 to 1. For each negative moment, for each criticism I allow myself to issue, there should be another five positive inputs. Our toleration for negativity is very short.

Then, when I must address a negative subject I should always begin stating my love for the other person. This is like stretching a safety net below us before we begin our delicate act of complaining, opening a bleeding issue.

With this I am saying that however we may get engaged in a discussion, there must be no doubt about our love for each other. That will not be touched.

Third, we should treat one subject at a time. Sometimes when we get angry we spit out many issues and this only confuses the whole relationship. One critical issue at a time!

Finally, try not to get personal in the sense of accusations. Try to use what is called the "I messages." Instead of saying that "you are a horrible person," say, "I feel that you are a horrible person."

The difference might seem small, but the second way is much better because you are stating what you feel and not hammering the other on the head directly.

Q: Love and pain go together. The more one loves, the more one gets hurt if the loved one doesn’t seem to react in the expected way. How can love prevail over pain? How can each other’s understanding become more sensitive? How can one stop being selfish and egoistic?

Father Ryan: This is certainly the greatest challenge for love. I don’t think it is always a question of being selfish or egoistic.

It is a fact that we can love others when we feel that we too are loved. Even with God this is the way and this is what St. John says to us in his Letter: It is God that loves us first.

Q: But how do we get beyond this vicious circle, when love in the other is lacking?

Father Ryan: If we were only instinct, then there would be no way out. But we are also intellect and we can understand what the good of the other person means and we can love that good for him or for her.

But we will be able to overcome our own pain more fully if we get inspiration for love from above, from the source of love. This reminds us of what John Paul II says in his "Letter to Families": If we want to love, we must be united to the source of Love, with the big "L."

Q: How can the deep feelings for each other felt in the beginnings keep growing instead of dying down? How can they transform into true love?

Father Ryan: The couple must become aware of the phenomena of change and growth. It is very important to get off to a good start.

This means that the first years of marriage must be intense and full of loving commitment. Then they should renew their commitment often, every year or at least every time that life is going to change in an important way.

In other words, they should prepare for each stage of marriage: the arrival of children, the long years of raising the family, the seven-year itch period, when their children are adolescent and the couple are midway in their lives, etc.

Each stage should sum up the positives and negatives of the previous stage, make new commitments, let go of certain things that will never be, and strive to be interdependent in a healthy way.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the real secret of happy marriages?

Father Ryan: To answer that question I refer to the results of an extensive inquiry made in more that 20 countries, with more than 40 researchers asking questions to more that 17,000 families.

The results tells us that a happy marriage has the following characteristics: The couple spend time together, in quantity and quality; they know how to express their affection for each other; they show commitment to family life; they know how to discuss in a constructive way; they have shared spiritual values.

This is the recipe I would give any couple who want to build a happy future.

Q: What’s the difference between a Christian marriage and other ones?

Father Ryan: I would say that it is the horizon that the Christian faith gives to marriage -- a horizon that help me understand the design of God the Creator when he instituted marriage.

The knowledge of this design tells us that we are created in the image of God, with the capacity of love. Faith also tells us that we have the grace of a sacrament to help us live our lives in love.

When marriage or families express all this in their prayer life, then they can feel its efficacy. It is shown that the practice of religion is an important factor in keeping families together and growing in plenitude.

Q: What’s the meaning and the significance of the sacrament of marriage?

Father Ryan: When a man loves a woman he will surely feel that he is not capable by himself of giving that woman all he would like for her in terms of complete happiness. Then he asks God for help.

Then God says to him: How nice, you and I love that same woman; we must make an alliance, a pact, to love her together.

This is the sacrament: God joins his love to our love. In this way every husband and every wife can say to each other: "I love you, with my human love, with all the characteristics proper to a human and sexual love, but my love has been enriched by the love that God has for you."

Q: What’s the will of God for married persons?

Father Ryan: I would like to summarize in the following way: To care for each other in the everyday things live, to make that person as happy as humanly possible, to raise a family, and to help each other and their children to strive for and reach the final destination of heaven.

Q: What can the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph tell a wife and husband?

Father Ryan: That life is made up of the small things but that these ordinary things can be lived in an extraordinary way.

Q: What would you advise young couples heading for a new form of life with each other?

Father Ryan: I would tell them to make sure that they begin their married life well. I believe in the saying that a good start is half the journey.

Therefore they must be aware that the wedding is only the beginning. From that moment onward they must build a new unity, gradually leaving behind many of the things to which they were accustomed.

They must be very sincere and tell one another what is happening in their hearts, especially if they perceive any clouds on the horizon. They should not be frightened if such clouds appear, because it is natural to find some difficulties on the way.

Finally, if any couple has a problem that they are not solving satisfactorily, then they should look for external help as early as possible.

Many a marriage could have been saved if they had looked for help in a timely fashion. To look for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of wisdom.

Cloth Your Marriage With...

Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect. Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.

Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another, Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs. Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12–17 (NAB)

Three Gems To Polish Your Marriage

Strong marriages take work.
But, with these tips, it can become a labor of love

by Susan Yates
Condensed From A House Full of Friends

NEXT to our relationship with God, our relationship with our mate is the most important one of all. A solid marriage friendship sets the tone for building other healthy relationships within the family.

If we want our children to have strong marriages, then they need to see us taking time to cultivate our own marriages. Strong marriage friendships take work. And as our children see us working on ours, they will have a realistic picture for their own marriages. In seeking to build a strong marriage friendship, there are three gems to polish.

1. Express Gratitude. If each day we thank God for one or two specific things we appreciate about our mate, our hearts will be filled with gratitude rather than criticism. In addition, tell your mate, each day, something you appreciate.
My husband, John, has always been incredibly disciplined about getting up early to prepare for the day, to pray, and to read the Bible for guidance. He prays for specific things in each of our children's lives and in my life. Recently, I realized I should tell him how much it means to me. When I did, he was pleased and I was filled with a fresh sense of gratitude for John.

For years, I've been in a prayer group with my friend Holly. Each time we pray, Holly prays for our husbands, thanking God that they work hard to support us and that they want to be good husbands and fathers. She also asks God to bless them. Her prayers remind all of us to have a thankful spirit.

Titus 2:4 says that older women are to teach younger women to love their husbands. Holly's prayers do this; so does her counsel to younger women. A thankful heart doesn't mean, "Everything's fine because we just praise the Lord." Things may be rotten. Loving, honest confrontation may be needed. Counseling may be crucial. But day in and day out, we are going to build a strong marriage only if we choose to cultivate a thankful spirit.

2. Create on Accepting Atmosphere. Our homes should, above all, be a place of acceptance—a place where we are loved simply because we belong. A simple greeting at the end of the day can set the tone for the rest of the evening. An enthusiastic greeting at the front door says, "I'm so glad you are here." That's acceptance.

An accepting atmosphere also allows for the freedom of honesty. It enables us to deal with conflict. We remember that we are on the same team and God is on our side.
An accepting atmosphere stresses service rather than roles. "It's the woman's job to…" or "It's the man's job to…" is not the basis for a relationship. Rather, we are both called to serve each other. And, when we do, we honor our mates. Such honor causes our marriage friendships to deepen.

An accepting atmosphere is one in which mates express an interest in each other. Many wives complain that their husbands don't talk to them on a deep level. The reason: Often, we don't ask good questions. "What made you feel particularly happy today?" is a question that might lead to a deeper conversation.

Sometimes our mates don't discuss difficulties with us because we have too many answers. An exhausted mother of toddlers may tell her husband about her long day of cleaning and disciplining. She doesn't need him to respond with a plan. She needs empathy and appreciation. A husband struggling with a project doesn't necessarily want solutions from his wife. He just needs a listening ear. As mates, we must resist the tendency to fix everything in each other's lives, and pray for wisdom to know when to advise and when to listen.

3. Develop a Fresh Vision. Each marriage goes through different seasons, and each season has distinct challenges and specific blessings. Newlyweds have the challenge of considering another person's desires. But they soon discover the joys of married life as they learn to care for each other.

The arrival of a first child ushers in a different season in marriage and brings with it the challenge of sacrificing the couple's wants to care for the needs of a baby. Both mates are challenged to learn flexibility, for life with a young child is unpredictable and taxing. But there is a wonderful blessing in watching this treasure begin to respond to your love.

The season of having children at home brings many challenges. One is finding time to cultivate our marriage relationships. We are forced to reorder our priorities and determine what really matters in family life. That reordering brings blessings to our marriages.

Some seasons are more challenging than others. The benefit lies in working through the challenges and focusing on the blessings. Ask God to give you a fresh vision for the season you are in right now.

Fresh vision often comes when we recognize and develop our gifts. We want to be with those who bring out the best in us and encourage us. A blessing we can give each other is to encourage one another's gifts.

Bill was in commercial development, which he loved. But when the economy soured, his work became discouraging. His wife encouraged him to become involved in their church's new building program. With her support, he became the head of the church's multimillion-dollar building program. Encouraged by his wife, Bill used his talents to help his church; in the process, his faith blossomed, his relationships deepened, and his personal fulfillment increased.

Women who have stayed home with their children face a new season in their lives when the last child leaves home. It's a wise husband who encourages his wife to begin thinking about a new career before their children leave. Perhaps as the children get older, he could encourage her to take some classes or begin working part-time. Often when a morn has put her own interests on hold for years, she lacks confidence about re-entering the workplace. Now, more than ever, she needs her husband's loving support.

A fresh vision includes having creative fun. Life is filled with serious issues, and it can easily become an exhausting existence. "Too tired to have fun" might be an accurate statement of marriages today. What a shame! Perhaps some of these simple, fun ideas might help you polish the gems in your marriage:

• Plan a weekly date. An evening out or a breakfast date allows time to cultivate your friendship.

• Develop common hobbies. A friend recently took up tennis because her husband likes to play. She took lessons and now the two of them play together.

• Take turns planning an adventure of the month. It may be a play, an all-day hike and a picnic, or some other creative activity. Keep the activity a surprise until the day of the event.

• Spend an evening looking at old photos together.

• Enlist the children's help in honoring your spouse by serving him/her breakfast in bed, writing love notes, doing your mate's chores.

• Bake cookies or hot pretzels together. Send some to a friend.

• Put on your favorite music and dance together. Invite the kids to join in. It's guaranteed to produce laughter.

A thankful spirit, an accepting atmosphere, and a fresh vision will encourage us as we continue to cultivate friendships with our mates. We must remember, however, that we will never enjoy a perfect relationship with our partners. Author Larry Crabb contends that this is how God intended it, because our deepest longing for a totally fulfilling relationship will be met only when we are with Him in heaven.

Many people go from mate to mate looking for what they cannot find. Instead, we must rejoice in the mate God has given us, remembering that He has given us the partner we need to help us become the person He intended for us to be.

Copyright © 1995 by Susan Alexander Yates
from Positive Living
September /October 1998
pp. 27-29