Saturday, February 21, 2015

Love Communicates

by Andrew Cromwell

Whenever I counsel with couples, invariably the main thing they want to improve on is their communication skills. Often when people complain about work, they mention the poor communication skills of their boss or co-workers. Communication is so fundamental to our humanity — there is a deep and fundamental need inside all of us to be heard and understood. 

But how do we get better at communication? The truth is some people love to talk, talk, talk and while they might be good with words, often their closest relationships still suffer. Then there are people who are fairly quiet, but when they speak, they do so in a way that really connects and draws people in. Communication is not just about words, it involves the heart. 

If you’re like me, you want to have deeper, more significant connection and communication with your spouse, your kids and your family. Here are three quick tips on being a better communicator.

First, be willing to invest the time. Good communication takes time. Far too often we are in such a rush to move on to the next thing that we fail to allow true connection to happen. As a father, I want to connect at a heart level with all of my children. But I have learned that they are all unique in their needs and styles of communication. One of my children simply will NOT get down to a heart level unless I get him alone and without distractions. This usually means right before bed. The very moment that I am trying to escape and have some “me” time is the moment when he wants me to sit on the edge of his bed and just be with him. It is in this moment that his heart is revealed. You have to be willing to invest the time to get to the good stuff and that might mean cutting some things out of your calendar!

Second, be willing to think about others. At first this seems obvious, but we are usually not very good at it. We tend to be self-centered and self-focused. The main principle of Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People is simply this, stop talking about yourself and start asking questions of others. Why? Because people LOVE to talk about themselves! 

If you’re going to think about others, this means that you need to adjust yourself to them, rather than forcing them to adjust to you. Have you noticed there are different kinds of people in the world? Some people are outgoing and gregarious, others are shy and dislike crowds. Some people are list makers and some people are rule breakers. Our tendency is to approach everyone the same way, but the best strategy is to approach people the way they are. This requires us to THINK about others and be willing to adjust ourselves. Try it and you might just be surprised!

Third, be willing to listen. Again, this is a tip that seems obvious. If there is one reminder that people are given in communication it is this one. The reason is that we are really LOUSY at this one! We tend to listen to the first few words that someone says and immediately think of an answer. 

In the relationships that are most significant (like our spouses or kids), as soon as they open their mouth we stop actually trying to understand them and instead position yourself for a quick response. And God forbid that they use one of those “hot button” phrases. You know the ones, we all have them in our closest relationships. They are the phrases that always result in a fight. This is because instead of listening deeply, all we can hear is the noise from the past. 

When we focus on intent rather than content, we are halfway there. Stop focusing on the exact words and phrases and listen behind the words. And if you want to go all the way, then put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective. That’s not easy, but when we do it, then we are well on the road to REALLY listening.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Does

by Tim Howard 

Today is Valentines Day and we just finished helping our grandson fill out his cards for his friends. Maybe you can remember some of the Valentine cards you received back in grammar school days?  The ones that said: “Be Mine,” “You’re Cute” or “Be My Valentine.” Giving cards is a great way for kids to express love, kindness and affection in a lighthearted way. 

St. Valentine's Day is an annual holiday that celebrates the importance of friendships on every level and is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine. If you were to describe this day with one word, many people would use the word LOVE. 

Today you will hear three words spoken thousands of times wherever Valentine’s Day is celebrated. The words are: “I Love You.” It won’t stop there, however. This day will cause thousands of cards to be purchased, dozens of flowers will be given away, millions of people will be kissed and a wide variety of gifts will be exchanged. Why? Because LOVE DOES!

Love is a verb and is activated when it does certain things and doesn’t do other things. Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13 says: If you really love someone on any level there are some things you will do and other things you won’t do. He actually gives 9 descriptions of what Love doesn’t do and 7 illustrations of what Love does.

The truth he’s conveying in that chapter is simple.  Love doesn’t remain silent. It speaks but it’s more than words. It helps, it shares, it shows itself and it gives. You can give without love but you can’t love without giving because love is an action verb – and ‘does.’

God wants you to find true love on every level. He’s willing to teach you about the different kinds of love and how to love people as He loves people. The love of emotion is based on a desire but the love of devotion is based upon a decision. Every time a mother decides to change a baby’s diaper, even though she has no desire to do so, she exercises true love.

Whenever you decide to sacrifice something for the benefit of another by putting their needs before your desires, you express true love. Lasting love is a decision that does something positive.

Loving people is as simple as the ABC’s. The ABC’s of love will teach us how to love people as you can see in this partial list.

A   ACCEPT people as they are.
B   BELIEVE people are valuable.
C   CARE for the people who hurt.
D   DESIRE what is best for them.
E   ENCOURAGE those who are discouraged.
F   FORGIVE everyone of every offense.
G   GIVE individuals a higher priority than yourself.
H   HELP those in need.
I   INVEST in those you meet.
J   JOIN people in their journey.
K   KEEP and open mind.
L   LOVE God first so you can learn how to love people.

Space doesn’t allow for A through Z but you get the idea. Love will not stand back and remain in the shadows. It will not withhold something that is needed. It can’t because Love Does!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Flowers again?

by Andrew Cromwell

What are your plans for this Valentine’s Day? If you’re like me, you’ll wait until the last minute and then either end up overpaying for ugly last minute flowers or doing nothing at all. Your loved one will be less than thrilled at your lack of planning and you will celebrate another memorable V-day. 

Valentine’s Day, like all the other holidays on our calendar, has been turned into an excuse to market things for us to buy so that our life will be better. The ads have already been running and we are being sold everything that will make our lover love us more, from cars to diamonds from lingerie to flowers. 

And while every girl wants to give her guy diamonds (for her) and every guy wants to give her lingerie (for him), these highly overpriced items, though they might lead to a special night, won’t really help your relationship much. We really want them to and I believe that is why we swipe the credit card and hope and pray that this V-day will move our relationship to a better place.

So this Valentine’s Day let me suggest that your investment not just be a relationship band-aid made out of flowers, chocolate or lace. Instead (or maybe in addition to), invest in something that will result in a better relationship over the long-term. 

Here are a few ideas:

During your V-day dinner this year, take time to plan some date nights just for the two of you.  These don’t have to be expensive dates, but could even be “stay-in” dates where you setup a picnic on the living room floor or on your bed. The key elements are: (a) no kids allowed; (b) it has to be different than your normal routine, and (c) you have to spend lots of time staring into each other’s eyes.

Buy a book on relationships and read it! And I don’t mean buy a book for your mate and tell them to read it. Some recommendations: His Needs, Her Needs by Harley, If Only He Knew (for him) and For Better or Best (for her) by Smalley, and Love Talk by Parrott.

Take an honest snapshot of your relationship and find out where you’re winning and where you need to work at it. As a counselor, I have found this tool to be incredibly helpful for couples that want to grow closer. It’s on sale the week of Valentine’s Day too! Check it out at

Go to a marriage retreat/seminar. There are many great options out there. FamilyLife ( has excellent getaways. Our church will be holding one on May 15-16 (

Whatever you do this Valentine’s Day with your love, make sure you always have their best interest in mind. So often we have twisted motivations and hidden agendas and these can lead to disappointment and distrust. The only way I know to truly deal with these twists inside of us is to get our heart right with Father God. If you haven’t done that, you will discover it is the best Valentine’s Day gift you could ever give.