Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The 30 secrets of happily married couples

After reading a couple of Christian books on this topic, I thought it would be interesting to read a secular book. I came across, The 30 secrets of happily married couples by Paul Coleman (Adams Media, 2006), at the library where I work.

Coleman gives us fifteen positive steps couples should take to increase marital happiness and fifteen negative behaviours and attitudes that should be reduced. Many of suggestions are small and simple, yet surprisingly effective. Things like, tap into the power of small talk, give the benefit of the doubt, don't allow arguments to escalate, reduce conversation killers and stop arguing about problems that will never go away completely.

Coleman is a psychologist and uses his background in solving relationship difficulties in his book. This means Coleman has the advantage of using different personality types in his examples rather than just his own and his wife's (which was the case in the previous book I reviewed on this topic). Many of the chapters start with a conversation between a husband and a wife. These give a realistic feel to the book and add weight to his ideas. He also includes a few short quizzes, a what to do section and a summary of the main points at the end of each chapter. These touches make it easier to retain and apply the concepts.

I found the book easy to read and very encouraging as Coleman shows it doesn't take a lot to improve the overall tone of your marriage.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Devotional thought : 2 Kings 6:17

And Elisha prayed, 'O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17

A few months ago my daughter gave me some good advice. She knows I suffer from motion sickness and told me if I was feeling unwell while traveling I should either shut my eyes or focus on the movement. Research has shown that motion sickness is caused by the brain receiving conflicting information from the eyes and ears. (The ears control our sense of balance.) Shutting my eyes removes the conflict. I have found this remedy quite successful.

It suggests an interesting spiritual parallel. Sometimes our eyes do not give us an accurate picture or all the information that we need. In this passage from Kings, the city where Elisha was staying was surrounded by enemy forces. The servant reported this to Elisha. "'Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.'" God opened the servant's eyes and he saw God's protection.

Our eyes do not give us the complete picture. Even pilots are taught to rely on their instruments and not trust their senses. Our senses can deceive us. Therefore we need to 'shut our eyes' to the way we feel about ourselves and believe God's true picture of ourselves and our world. God sees us as His chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12); as saints (Ephesians 1:1); and as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14). God sees our world as temporary and passing away (2 Corinthians 4:18, 1 Corinthians 7:27). This is the true picture all else is a false impression and can make us spiritually unwell.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday's lighter note

On our twentieth wedding anniversary, my husband and I were cuddling in front of a cosy fire. In the throes of a passionate kiss. I noticed that the living-room blinds were open. "Just a minute," I said, leaving my man's embrace to close the blinds. "Now," I asked coyly, "where were we?"

"Apparently looking out of the window," he replied.

- Carol Packer (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Book Review : Fit to be Tied

While this book, Fit to be tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels (Zondervan, 1991), contained lots of good material for those contemplating marriage, I had a few problems with it. Bill and Lynne had a surprising number of difficulties in their marriage considering that they both came from stable Christian families and had known each other for five years. Much of the book is biographical, yet depressing. The Hybels completed the book only a couple of years after working through many of their martial problems and I wished they had waited longer. Time would have tested some of their conclusions a bit more thoroughly.

Nevertheless the message that Bill and Lynne share needs to be aired. They cover issues such as the influence of family background, temperament and handling conflict. They address these issues, not from the theoretical point of view, but rather the personal viewpoint, including many stories that reveal their humanness. Their honesty is commendable. However if they want engaged couples to be helped they need to lighten the material. Personally if I had read it when I was engaged I would not have finished it, as it is too discouraging. Alternatively they could pitch the material at those already married.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Devotional thought : Amos 7:14-15

Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, "Go prophesy to my people Israel." Amos 7:14-15

We don't hear a lot about Amos. He lived shortly after Jonah who we often hear about. Amos was obedient to God's call whereas initially Jonah was not.

Amos came from Tekoa in Judah to Israel to bring God's message. Tekoa was a small mountain village south of Jerusalem. He had a tough task. Every king of Israel since Solomon had been evil and Amos' messages were not well received. Israel was enjoying a time of prosperity. Archaeological digs have since revealed that prosperity was accompanied by an unprecedented level of social corruption. However the people were not interested in listening to Amos warning them of God's judgments. They expected everything to continue as it was. History tells that Israel did not repent and were eventually taken captive and sent into exile.

Amos could have given a lot of reasons why he shouldn't prophesy to Israel. He was not a prophet. He was from "the hills". Israel wouldn't listen anyway. Still nowhere do we see Amos complaining or running in the other direction like Jonah. He was faithful in the task that God gave him to do. He didn't get a lot of applause, not then and not now.

Amos is a quiet achiever and a great encouragement to us. Sometimes God asks us to do things that are not our "calling" and we may think that someone else would be better at it. Nevertheless as we fulfill the job God has for us we learn to trust Him and we experience His enabling.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday's lighter note

It seemed appropriate to have a lighter moment about a wedding:

On my wedding day, I knew I had an ally in my mother-in-law. The 5 pm staring time came and went as all the guests waited in the church. Someone went up to my mother-in-law to explain the delay. "They forgot the ring," he whispered.

"That boy!" she exclaimed. "He'd forget his head if it wasn't screwed on!"

"Oh, no," he corrected her. "It was Kelly who forgot the ring."

"That poor dear," my mother-in-law sighed. "She's had so much on her mind!"

- Kelly Conley (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Book Review : I love you, but why are we so different

Curently I have two chldren who are engaged so a number of pre-marriage books have come across my path. Interestingly I don't remember any of these sort of books being around when I got married. I'm sure I would have read them if there were. I have found it slightly odd reading books about marriage by people who haven't been married as long as I have! Still you are never too old to learn something new.

The first part of: I love you, but why are we so different? by Tim LaHaye (Harvest House, 1991) is about the different temperaments – their strengths and weaknesses. Not just the four basic temperaments (sanguine, melancholy, choleric and phlegmatic) but also the temperament blends, since people usually have a primary temperament and a secondary one. LaHaye looks at how differing temperaments can cause problems in marriage. He believes people usually marry someone with the opposite temperament because we are attracted to strengths in areas where we are weak.

The second part of the book is about making adjustments when you marry. The adjustments that need to be made are similar irrespective of ones temperament and I wondered why LaHaye spent so long explaining the temperaments if this is the case. However I think it is because having a good understanding your partner is helpful anyway.

LaHaye feels selfishness is the main problem we all have since in a marriage both people cannot have their own way. The second major problem is that most people are either plagued by anger or fear or both. These are issues that also need to be dealt with in a successful marriage.

Quite a helpful book with useful insights.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Today I took storytime at the library where I work part time. It was my the first time, though it was taught in the library course I did. There were eleven children under five years old with their mums. This week was about hippos and rhinos so there were five books on this theme, I have included a picture of one of them. We also did about four rhymes/songs but it was tricky finding ones about hippos or rhinos. Then the children coloured in and cut out hippos. I would quite like to write some children's stories one day, so I think storytime is going to add to my understanding of children's literature as well as being fun.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Devotional thought : James 2:14

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?" James 2:14

I have been reading James lately as I have been doing a study on another blog and I was reminded of something I read elsewhere. It was in a collection of mainly common sense statements written by a psychologist after he retired, he said: "If someone's actions repeatedly don't line up with their words, then believe their actions not their words."

The psychologist wrote this statement in particularly to address the numerous times he had heard women in unhealthy relationships with men say things like, 'I know he treats me badly but he says he loves me'. The psychologist would state quite categorically that if someone is repeatedly treating you badly then they do not love you. Yet the statement has much broader applications and is the point that James is making. Our actions ought to confirm our words.

It is easy to say all the right Christian things, especially if we have spent a lot of time in Christian circles. It is also easy to believe someone who is articulate with Christian terminology and sounds sincere. But the true test of spirituality is not how well we speak or how much we know but rather it is our behaviour. If a person's behaviour does not over time line up with their words then their behaviour is a more accurate indicator of their beliefs than their words. It is a stiff test but one we need to apply to ourselves as well as to those who speak into our lives.

If someone was the proverbial "fly on the wall" and watched us as we lived each day, would they be convinced of our faith?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday's lighter note

When I was growing up, there wasn't the range of readymade foods available today, and mums were regarded as magic providers. How things have changed!

Recently when the packaged custard ran out, I whipped up a home-made version, to everyone's relief. "Gee, that custard is great, Mum, "enthused my teenage son. "It tastes just like the real thing!"

- Jacqui Warnock (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Book Review : Everybody's normal till you get to know them

The major message of John Ortberg's book, Everybody's normal till you get to know them (Zondervan, 2003), is that we forget that none of us is normal. We have all been damaged from living in a sinful world so we do not always act with kindness and thoughtfulness. It is not until we get to heaven that we will be 'normal'. As we grew in our understanding we will more compassion to those around us since in order to relate to us they must also show compassion towards us.

We cannot go through life avoiding those people we consider difficult because we need each other. God has made us for relationship. His intention is for us to connect with others within our church communities and for these connections to be a means of blessing and growth. Ortberg covers all the important issues that make for good community – authenticity; acceptance; empathy; conflict; forgiveness; confrontation and inclusion. Each chapter ends with application questions to think about how we can practically incorporate community into our lives. Ortberg includes stories and humorous anecdotes to his teaching which makes this an easy but thoughtful read. I enjoy Ortberg's style and find his teaching straightforward.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Devotional thought : Romans 8:28

"In all things God works for the good of those who love him" Romans 8:28

God knows Satan. He knows his every move; how he reacts under pressure; what's important to him; God knows everything about him. However Satan does not know God so well (1 Corinthians 2:8).

I was reminded of this recently when I watched Oceans Eleven, the story of a casino robbery. The reason why the robbery was successful was because the thieves knew the casino owner so well. They spent time watching his every move. They watched how he reacted under pressure. They knew what was important to him. By the time the robbery was in process the thieves were able to manoeuver the owner into being where they wanted him to be, seeing what they wanted him to see. The owner thought he had a fool proof security system but it was thwarted by the thieves' superior knowledge.

God knew that Satan would orchestrate the death of His Son. So much so that God would prophesy about it in Isaiah 53, decades before it happened. It wasn't that God initiated the death of His own Son but rather He gave Satan an opportunity.

The sun doesn't cause darkness but rather it is when the sun withdraws that we are in darkness. In a similar way sometimes God withdraws His light and Satan has an opportunity. We also see this in the book of Job when God withdraws His protection from Job.

We can live securely in the knowledge that God is never the initiator of evil. He sometimes allows evil but only if He can bring good from it. We also know that God is never taken by surprise, He never says, "Oh, I never thought of that". Our lives are safe in His hands.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday's lighter note

Having just completed a memory-training course. I was eager to demonstrate my newly acquired skill. One morning, because my wife was ill. I offered to go to the supermarket on the way home from work. After scanning her laboriously compiled list of 67 items. I tore it to shreds and proudly recited them back to her.

"How did the shopping go?" she asked when I got back home that evening. I was dumbstruck. I had forgotten to go to the supermarket.

- N. Orsmond (Readers Digest)

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