The Power of Positive Praise

I came across some interesting statistics in my life coaching course:

  • The number one reason people leave a job is that they don’t feel appreciated.
  • In the past year, 65% of the workforce in the US received no praise.
  • The frequency of praise and recognition in the workplace should be no less than once per week.
  • For healthy relationships, the ratio of positive comments to negative comments should be  5 to 1.
  • Positive emotion can increase life expectancy by 10 years.

The power of positive praise to the human heart cannot be overstated. Have you ever known someone who believed in you, someone who frequently spoke words of encouragement and praise? The kind of person who made you feel you could do it, whatever “it” was? That’ is the kind of person God wants us to be.There are numerous verses in Scripture that encourage us to be encouragers of others:

  • “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
  • “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).
  • “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” (Proverbs 10:11)
  • “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Our words make an impact. If you are struggling to be a person of positive praise, as I am lately, refuse to accept it. We might say, “I’m just a worrier. I was born that way.” Or, “It’’s my nature to be a pessimist.” But God will have none of that. He is in the personality-changing business. He wants us to “be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). I don’t know about you but I want to be known for my encouraging words and my positive attitude. Here are some practical tips to help us bring change into this crucial area of our lives:

  1. Develop a positive thought life. Spend time in God’s Word. Meditate on  the verses that speak about encouragement. I love how Paul encourages this: “Finally…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). A lot of times, our ability to praise others starts with our thoughts. God can transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) with His thoughts.
  2. When you wake up, ask God for help. In order to be a person of praise and encouragement, we need to ask God for help first thing in the morning. It is an intentional act, saying, “Lord, I can’t do this on my own, please help me to focus on the positive today instead of the negative!” In my journal during my quiet time with the Lord each morning, I usually write out a prayer asking God for strength to be an encourager, not a criticizer, and for self-control in handling any negative emotions that come up.
  3. Monitor your remarks. It helps if we can be aware of what we are saying. One time a close friend gently remarked that I was sounding rather negative one day, more than usual. I started paying attention and realized I had adopted the habit of negative thinking and “venting” without even realizing it. When we pay more attention and have a goal of making our positive comments outweigh negative ones, soon it will become a habit.
  4. Be intentional about encouraging others. This is where a little goes a long way. Pick one person each day and decide to send either a note, a text, an email or phone call with something to encourage that person. Maybe it is a verse or something you appreciate about them. But intentionally encouraging others brings joy not only into their lives but into ours as well.

There is so much power in our words! Why not make them positive? Choose today to be an encourager.

**What practical tips have you found to be helpful in becoming a person who brings praise and encouragement to others?

Two Words That Will Make Your Marriage Thrive

There are many things that can make a marriage thrive: enjoying similar activities, having a similar sense of humor, agreeing on priorities, finding common friends, enjoying worship together, serving similar causes, etc. These are all the light and wonderful “positive” things that truly can make any marriage relationship sing. This post would stop here if it were really that easy. But….it’s not.

There is a whole other side of a marriage relationship, the not so positive side, that can make your marriage sink as fast as the Titanic. The culprit? Selfishness. Defensiveness. Anger. Annoyance. Pride. Insecurity. Unmet expectations. These are the things no one can anticipate in marriage, but as imperfect human beings they inevitably creep up and weasel their way into any marriage, no matter how good or great it is. So, what are the two words that will make your marriage thrive – in light of not just the good – but the bad and the ugly?

“I’m sorry.”

These two words have this odd paradoxical element to them. They are the most simple and yet the most difficult to eek out sometimes.

“I’m sorry.”

When was the last time you sincerely said those two little words to the person you love? Not the “I’m sorry…BUT…” combo that let’s you get in your explanation on the back-end of it (which is my classic go-to tendency). But the simple, pure, swallow your pride two word version, “I’m sorry.” Full stop. Be warned: this is NOT the easy way. Or the comfortable way. Or the “agree to disagree” kind of meet in the middle way. It is the truly difficult, gut wrenching, heart humbling, teeth gritting, pride swallowing, self interest killing way. BUT. Thankfully there is a “but” here that is both appropriate and rewarding. These two words,

“I’m sorry.”

When used in generous amounts, in the most heated moments, against your own strong will….WORK. They somehow have the power to:

  • Knock down walls of pride.
  • Melt the ice of resentment.
  • Lift the weight of tension.
  • Smooth the rough edges of cruelty.
  • Burst through the barriers of self-preservation.
  • And pave the way for fresh encounters with your spouse or loved one once again.

It really is the most mysterious phenomenon. But. It. Works.

I can’t tell you how many times in my young marriage these words have saved us from spiraling into days of funk and fury. And I can’t tell you how many times I WISH I would have just had the courage, the humility, the wisdom to eek out these two tiny words much sooner than I did. We’re all learning. We’re all growing. We’re all on our own journey to wholeness and holiness. But by golly these two little words can make your marriage thrive in ways you’d never expect.

One verse I return to over and over again that challenges me to the core and motivates me in using these two words more often, especially when it comes to my marriage, is Philippines 2:3 (NASB):

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…”

I am convinced that when we allow this verse to seep into the depths of our hearts, minds and souls, saying the two little words, “I’m sorry” become a regular and ever-present part of our vocabulary. It’s not about being a perfect person, or a perfect spouse who never messes up. Our relationships WILL be messy. That’s a given. But I think it is the ability to admit when we’ve messed up that is the difference between a marriage that sings and a marriage that sinks.

Which will you choose?

What other tips do you have for making a marriage or any relationship thrive? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

 

Faith or Fear?

I came across a quote the other day by John Maxwell that said this:

“People who focus on their fears don’t grow. They become paralyzed.”

Although it is easy to tell ourselves we are not going to focus on our fears, it is equally as easy to give into fears whenever we face adversity, uncertainty or unexpected changes in our lives. Perhaps it is a loved one getting sick or a family member going through mental illness or a loss of a job or a struggle in marriage. We cannot always predict what will set off fear in our lives and we often feel like we cannot always control fear once it has made its home in our hearts and minds.

The question I have been asking myself lately, and perhaps you have asked too, is:

What difference does being a child of God make?

In this fear-based, fear-inducing world where there is no guarantee of health, safety and protection from danger, disease and disaster, what difference does it really make that we are people of faith? How can faith help us overcome our fears?

As a Christian life coach in training, I am learning some practical tools to help in overcoming fear that I’d like to share here:

1. Facing Our Fears. First, it is important to acknowledge that fear is a normal part of life. Perhaps that is why there are so many Bible verses telling us not to be troubled and afraid (see Joshua 1, Luke 1:30, John 14:27). We will never come to a place of overcoming all our fears, but we can learn to cope with them better when they come.

2. Naming Our Fears. Sometimes it is helpful to list out our fears one by one. If I am feeling particularly fearful about something, I’ll begin my quiet time listing them out in a journal and I picture “lifting them up” to God. Something about that helps me to release them and reminds me I am not alone and that God is there with me to help me deal with my fears. Some examples of naming our fears could be fear of:

  • Failure
  • Looking stupid
  • Rejection
  • Change
  • The unknown
  • Getting older
  • Losing a job
  • Fears about confrontation
  • Struggling to pay the bills
  • Loss of health

What are some fears you are currently facing?

3. Using Our Fears for Motivation. By facing and naming our fears, instead of allowing them to paralyze us, we can use them to motivate  us into action. For example, whenever I am feeling afraid, it propels me to seek God more than any other time. I know that He is the only one that can set me free from my fear. As Psalm 34:4 states:

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Other ways our fears can motivate us into action are choosing to take steps to counter each fear. For example,

  • If a loved one is sick, choose to appreciate them being here today and call them up on the phone to tell them.
  • If you are struggling financially, brainstorm with a friend how you can increase your income.
  • If you are facing unexpected change, write down three things that you can see as positive about this change.
  • If you are feeling paralyzed by fear, pick a verse in Scripture to meditate on slowly until His peace floods your heart once again.

Fears, without a doubt, can be crippling. They are real. And life can certainly be scary at times. But the difference we can hold onto as children of God is that we have a Father in heaven who knows, sees, cares and will act on our behalf. We can go to Him in prayer and ask Him to help loosen the paralyzing grip of our fears by enabling us to live a 1 John 4:18 kind of life, which says:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

Friend, whatever fears you and I are living with today, let’s be reminded that we can choose faith. When we do, peace, joy and freedom are ours in Christ.

 

 

How to Deal with Aggravations in Marriage

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My husband and I recently had dinner with our friends who are newly married. We were asking them how things were going and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn toward those “little things” that were starting to flare up in their marriage, such as who cooks and who cleans, who snores louder, which one wakes up earlier, who makes the other person late…and the list goes on. My husband and I – who have only been at this marriage thing for one year – looked at each other and chuckled. Why? Because hearing their little quirks and aggravations with each other reminded us of our own when we first started out. For example, one little thing that drove me nuts in our first few months was that my husband would brush his teeth in the living room. Yeah, the living room! He would walk around and brush brush brush as if it was no big deal. For whatever reason, that really started to get under my skin. Needless to say, there were things I did that aggravated him too. For example, when I got out of bed in the morning, apparently my steps were really loud like I was stomping around. I had no idea I was doing it, but it drove Noah up the wall! Other little aggravations I have heard from friends are things like:

  • “He leaves the kitchen cabinets open all the time.”
  • “She interrupts me constantly.”
  • “Wet towels on the bed…seriously?”
  • “Can’t he just clean his own dishes?”

Often the challenge in marriage – especially when you’re just starting out – is how to tell your spouse something they do is bothering you. It could be the littlest thing and you have no idea why it bugs you, but it just does. Well, I don’t have it all figured out, but I wanted to share something that we started doing this past year that has done wonders in our marriage. We created a template for a “family meeting” that would take place every other week to give us time not only to connect in an intentional way, but also to check in with each other about various areas of our lives that don’t always naturally come up in conversation, such as sex, spirituality and stewardship. The meeting also entails a time and space to voice the little things that might be bugging you, as well as the things you most appreciate about your partner.

What we try to do is schedule our family meeting every 2 weeks. We put it on the calendar and treat it as a priority. The reason why it has helped us deal with aggravations is because we don’t have to voice them all the time and potentially hurt the other person. When you know that meeting is coming, where there will be a carved out space for you to share anything that is aggravating you, then you can hold onto it and share it at the appropriate time. That way you are both ready for it and you know its coming!

Okay, this may all sound a little cheesy, but we have found it has helped us to keep “short accounts” with each other and be as open and honest as we can, especially about the little things. It keeps us from bottling things up so that our marriage can stay fresh and resentment-free. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when my husband makes the effort to change something he knows aggravates me. And I hope he can say the same about me. We are both committed to meeting each other in the middle and doing what’s best for our relationship, even if that means changing our own little habits here and there.

This little exercise has helped us and blessed us immensely, but it isn’t always easy. Perhaps you and your partner can try it and be blessed (and challenged) by it too. See the template below and make any adjustments to suit your own style.

Feel free to comment with any more questions on how to implement this or with any other strategies that have worked for you and your spouse in strengthening your marriage. We’re all in it together!

 

Team Kennedy Connect

Family Meeting Agenda:

Start with prayer, asking God to be with you in the meeting and bless your time together.

Dive into the five “A’s”:

(1) Appreciation: What is something or some things you are particularly appreciative of regarding your spouse this week? Any acts of kindness you are grateful for?

(2) Aggravation(s): Are there any irritations or annoyances regarding your spouse’s habits, mannerisms, behaviors that you would like to bring up?

(3) Accountability: Review the following areas regarding your own life and share openly where you’re at with each. Are you struggling with something? Do you need prayer or encouragement? Rate 1-10.

  • Spiritual Disciplines: How is your relationship with God? Quality of quiet times? Desire for God, Word, prayer?
  • Service: How is your consideration of others? Do you have a servant heart toward your spouse?
  • Sex: Are your needs being met? Are you seeking to meet your partner’s needs? Are you connecting physically and regularly?
  • Stewardship: How was your spending this week? Did you make any sacrifices that were for the good of the family?
  • Self-Care: Are you getting enough sleep? Exercise? Eating well?
  • Sin Confession: Are there any areas of sin or temptation you need to confess? What might you need prayer for this coming week?

(4) Action Items: What can you change to improve yourself and strengthen your marriage? (based on above answers)

(5) Admin: To-do’s, home care, grocery, etc.

End with prayer, asking God to help you be faithful to the things you discussed and to give you wisdom and motivation to change the things that would improve your relationship with your spouse and overall quality of your marriage.

Schedule your next meeting together and commit to making it happen.

Pondering the Presence of the Lord

As I plow my way through the Book of Leviticus this month, I must admit, most of it is having to will myself to keep going. I mean, lets be honest, the details of how a guilt offering or a sin offering or a grain offering or a fellowship offering should take place and what kind of animal to sacrifice and what part of the animal to sacrifice for each offering are not things that bear much resonance with those of us in today’s modern word. But there was a one-liner that jumped out at me today in this fascinating book of blood and guts and ancient practices. As Moses calls over his brother Aaron and his sons (the anointed priests of Israel), as well as the appointed elders and instructs them to prepare the proper sacrifices, he says this:

“For today The Lord will appear to you.” – Leviticus 9:4

Wouldn’t that be cool if someone came to you and said, “get ready, for today the Lord is going to appear to you.” What would you do? Put on your finest clothes? Confess all wrongdoing in your life? Prepare a party? Or a quiet holy space? It’s an interesting thought.

The good news is that as people of the New Covenant, we are not required to prepare for the presence of the Lord as the people of the Old Covenant were. For if they did not conduct the sacrifices just so, coming into the presence of the Lord would not be possible. God was just too holy, too powerful, too great. But when they did do things just as as God instructed Moses, the Lord would appear in spectacular ways:

“…and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the alter.” – Lev. 9:23b-24

I can’t help but feel envious sometimes at the ways in which the Israelites experienced the undeniable presence of God. If only he would appear to us today like he did then – in a flame of fire or a cloud of smoke perhaps – then it would be easier to know God really is with us. I yearn to be able to respond as the Israelites did when they saw God appear to them in such dramatic ways:

“And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.” – Lev. 9:24b

But no matter how cool it would have been to see the glory of the Lord appear by fire, there is an even more spectacular way God chose to reveal himself to his people and that is through the human life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. How easy it is to forget how awesome this revealing act really was and still is. In fact, it is the distinguishing factor between Christianity and many of the other world religions. God revealed himself through the human person of Jesus so that when people see and come to know Jesus and believe that he is the Son of God, that is the modern day version of God appearing by fire. Except we no longer live in a Leviticus world in which intricate sacrifices were needed for the people to come into God’s presence. Jesus became the ultimate and final sacrifice so that anyone who believes in him may be able to come into the presence of God day after day after day after day… and into eternity. This is a privilege the Israelites of  the Old Testament did not know.

But this still does not answer how we can know and recognize God’s presence in today’s world and in our own lives. Here are five practical things to ponder as ways to bring about a greater awareness of God’s presence in our lives:

  1. Prayer. John 15 speaks of abiding in God and when we do that he will abide in us. So when we come to God and spend time talking to him in prayer, we can know he is there with us.
  2. Bible Reading. God’s Word is the main way we can get to know who God is. When God promised Joshua he would “be with him wherever he went,” it was coupled with the instruction to meditate on Scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8). God’s Word is God’s presence with us, and His words will be a part of us when we take the time to know what he is saying.
  3. Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to us as an “advocate” to help us and guide us into all Truth. It is the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead that comes to live in us when we put our faith and trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit reminds us always that God is with us even when we don’t see him in physical form.
  4. Corporate Worship. When two or three gather in his name, he is there with us (Matthew 18:20). God’s presence is often felt when a group of believers are gathered to worship and pray. Church is not just a good thing to do, but it is one of the main vehicles through which God appears to us.
  5. Imitating Christ. When we study the life of Jesus and allow God to transform us to become more like Christ in our daily lives, we will experience the presence of God in powerful and tangible ways. It might be through praying for others, speaking a word of encouragement, serving the poor, loving the unlovable, standing up for Truth, and pursing holiness in a world that detests it. When we live and act and think and love like Jesus, God is making himself known through us.

What would you add to the list? How have you experienced God’s presence most powerfully in your life? Please share any insights that may inspire us to hunger for, seek after and know the presence of the Lord in such a way that we, like the Israelites, may shout for joy and fall facedown.

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