4 Warning Signs of a Marriage Headed in the Wrong Direction

I’m working on one of my 25 talks I will give when I train 100 Cuban pastors in October. I ran across this insight from John Gottman who wrote 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. He has noted 4 warning signs to look for in a marriage headed in the wrong direction.

  1. How spouses talk to each other. He can watch and decide in a few minutes a marriage’s direction based on how spouses talk to and treat each other in a conversation.
  2. Spurned attempts to right a wrong, resolve a conflict, or fix relational breach.
  3. Emotional flooding. This is when a spouse’s negativtity is so strong (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, etc.) that it leaves the other shell-shocked. 
  4. Pervasive negative thoughts about the other partner. These thoughts can get entrenched in negativity so deeply that spouses can’t even recall the good times.

On the positive side, what has helped your marriage thrive?

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Top 10 Quotes from Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit

Last week I attended my tenth Willow Creek Leadership Summit. I had the privilege to attend with about 50 leaders from the church I pastor, West Park Church. This may have been one of the best summits for me. I’ve captured below the the top 10 quotes and insights from the speakers.

Top 10 phrase written on whiteboard isolated on white

1. Make sure you keep the takers from getting on the bus. Adam Grant (Wharton prof) played off of Jim Collins’ often quoted maxim, “Made sure you get the right people on the bus.” Adam said that it’s equally important to make sure we don’t put the wrong people into our leadership structure.

2. Live for your eulogy, not for your resume-Albert Tate, pastor Fellowship Monrovia.

3. Talent may get you to the top, but only character will keep you at the top-Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch.TV.

4. You are only as strong as you are honest-Craig Groeschel.

5. Art is about learning to see-Ed Catmull, Pixar CEO.

6. You will keep your customers by doing three things: welcome them well, meet their wishes, give them a good farewell-Horst Schulze, CEO Capella Hotel Group.

7. Research tells us that we each have an average of 3.4 blind spots-Bill Hybels.

8. Great leaders (level 5 leaders) inspire others not to follow them, but to follow a cause-Jim Collins, business thinker and author.

9. Will I settle to become a good leader or will I grow to become a great leader-Jim Collins.

10. Leaders need more than just a forward gear. We need to be able to stop and sometimes to in reverse-Liz Wiseman, author and consultant.

11. (bonus quote) There area three kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. 93% of US workers feel unappreciated-Sheila Heen, author and consultant.

If you attended, what was your greatest insight?

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The Leadership Paradox: Trusting God or Trusting Others?

Every church leader (or Christian for that matter) faces a common paradox. We’re expected to trust God for our personal and ministry needs. Yet, we need the help of others. Leading is not a solo effort. So, ho do we strike the balance between trusting God and trusting others?

paradox - isolated word in vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

Recently I noticed that same paradox reflected in the choices made by two famous Biblical characters, Ezra and Nehemiah. In the Message paraphrase below each one took a different route. One just trusted God and didn’t approach the king for help. The other sought help from the king and God worked through that choice.

Ezra 8.21 I proclaimed a fast there beside the Ahava Canal, a fast to humble ourselves before our God and pray for wise guidance for our journey—all our people and possessions.  22 I was embarrassed to ask the king for a cavalry bodyguard to protect us from bandits on the road. We had just told the king, “Our God lovingly looks after all those who seek him, but turns away in disgust from those who leave him.” 23 So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.

Neh. 2.7 Then I said, “If it please the king, provide me with letters to the governors across the Euphrates that authorize my travel through to Judah;  8 and also an order to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, to supply me with timber for the beams of The Temple fortress, the wall of the city, and the house where I’ll be living.” The generous hand of my God was with me in this and the king gave them to me.  9 When I met the governors across The River (the Euphrates) I showed them the king’s letters. The king even sent along a cavalry escort.

See the difference? As contrasting as were their decisions, they both made God-honoring ones.

So, what insight can we draw from their experiences when we face a similar situation?

Here’s a thought. The next time you face a ministry choice that requires resources or help, lean in the opposite direction you usually go. If you usually just ‘pray’ and ask God to meet the need, perhaps you should ask others to help meet the need as well. If you tend to go to others first, maybe your first step should be to seek God’s provision before you ask others for their help or insight.

I’ve discovered that God often works in counter-intuitive ways, through avenues outside those most familiar  and comfortable to us.

What do you think about these two options? Do you think leaders tend to show a bias one way or the other?

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How to Plan an Effective Solo Planning Retreat

My undergrad degree is industrial engineering. So, planning comes second nature for me. Yet as a busy pastor I’ve found that I can never get adequate long-term planning done unless I carve out regular extended times away, by myself, away from the office. Here are a few tips I suggest.

Business concept. Isolated on white
  1. Schedule 2-3 personal planning times each year, preferable overnight in a place with no TV. I’ve used retreat centers and a friend’s cabin in the woods. Ideally I’m in such a location that I don’t have to talk to anybody. I’ve found it ideal to plan those times well in advance of ministry seasons (i.e., Aug/Sept for the coming year plans).
  2. Compile a list of items you want to think about on your retreats. I use Outliner on my iPhone/iPad to jot down ideas and thoughts I want to pursue later but don’t have time at the moment to think about. Another great tool across all Mac and PC platforms is Nozbe.
  3. On the retreat, prioritize what you want to plan, starting with the most important. I’ve discovered I never get to everything on my list, but I do get to the priorities.
  4. Schedule you next retreat as your first task. This allows me another block of time to address long-term planning for items I don’t get to on this retreat.
  5. Go expecting that God will guide this process.

What has helped make your planning retreats successful?

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The 10 Most Important Questions You could ever Ask Yourself

Questions reveal a lot about us. Good questions can point us in healthy directions. Great questions can save us from disaster. Several years ago I read a brief article by Donald Whitney, a pastor and seminary professor, who gave me permission to re-print his article that lists 10 important questions. It is outstanding and I’ve included it below.

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Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

What questions would you add to this list?

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Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney.

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