Here’s A Perfect Valentine’s Day Idea For YOU!

Here is a simple observation: most couples love each other, but don’t know how to show it when they experience difficulties in their relationship. What do we do when we are at odds? How do we respond when hurt by the other? How are we supposed to react when we are angry?

Madly In Love

These and other such questions were the very reason I wrote the book: The PLEDGE of a Lifetime, Her Hope for Connection, His Guide Through Conflict. It has been one year since its publication. I have heard story after story from those who have read it how much they learned and how it has helped their relationships.

One person spoke of how she has read the book, and is now re-reading it because there is so much to grasp.

Many others have purchased multiple copies to give to their grown children to help in their marriages.

What do we do? How do we respond? How should we react? These and similar questions are all clearly answered in my book.

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When You Can’t Trust Your Spouse

I have heard it from both sides: “I can’t trust him – not after he hurt me like he did.” OR, “No way, I could never trust her again – not after what she did!”

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Much is said about how and when to trust again. Genuine repentance over a wrong done is a necessary beginning step. There is also a goodness in overlooking some things as we give each other grace. I am so thankful how many times my wife has “forgiven” me for not getting everything at the store as I said I would.

My focus in this post however, is to understand how three components of trust are necessary to bring healing to a relationship.

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5 Steps To Excelling in 2016

Towards the end of last year, I found myself troubled about the level of stress and frustration I was experiencing in life more often than not. I decided to do something about it and made a personal commitment to seek counsel. I’m glad I did. I gained some important insights about myself and some of the internal motivations that were driving me. Keeping what I learned in mind is helping me begin the New Year in a better way.

Madly In Love

How about YOU? I have an idea…

As we start off 2016, what is going well in your life right now? And what is not going well? Where are you hurting? In which areas of life do you find yourself most anxious and frustrated? Where would you like to excel? Consider taking some time to do what I did and seek counsel. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you do:

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The Wonder Of His Love

I see it quite often as I counsel with people. I am aware of its affect on me daily. It is an experience we all long for, and yet are most afraid of. It is the desire to be known–fully known, and still accepted. The more we are known and accepted, the more we feel safe and loved.

Madly In Love

It is true of me however, as I am sure it is just as true of you. There are parts of me I don’t want to be seen or known because I am afraid of how you might respond. Will you roll your eyes, tell me you don’t understand, tire of my struggles, or walk away in disgust? Or will you listen to know me, identify with my struggles, and thank me for sharing? Those are the questions and fears we encounter in our relationships every day.

We want to relax and know that even in the midst of all the good and bad we see in ourselves, that we are still loved. We grow weary of hiding behind walls. But we are afraid.

In our fear, we dance out of step in our relationships, just enough to keep anyone from getting too close. We want to be known but we don’t.

Soon we will be celebrating Christmas. I love Christmas for a host of reasons including the joy of giving and receiving gifts. Another reason is because of the name–Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” Every year I get lost in amazement over that name of Jesus.

There was a time, all the way back in the beginning, when God was with man–in the Garden of Eden. We don’t know how long it lasted, but we do know it ended. Adam and Eve made a decision to walk in a direction other than God wished for them. The result was separation. God remained in the Garden. Mankind was set outside. They were no longer with each other.

From that day until now, man has felt an aloneness he was never meant to experience. And from that day until now, God’s heart has been to reunite us with Him.

We saw it first in the beginning of the Bible when God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle wherein He could meet with Moses. God said: “I will live among the people of Israel and be their God.” (Exodus 29:45) Do you see? God longed to be with His people. Immanuel, God with us.

Then we see it later in the Bible where Jesus–who was God in flesh–came so He could live and make His home among us. (John 1:14) Immanuel!!

Think about it. What leader of a country or King of any nation has ever wanted to live among his people? And yet God–the King of all Kings–longs to do that very thing! IMMANUEL!

It gets even better. Jesus called His followers “friends.” (John 15:15)

You and I are invited to follow Jesus so that He might call us friends! He wants to know us and for us to know Him.

Recently I was talking with a friend about how much we enjoy our relationship. My wife and I regularly talk about how much we enjoy being with each other. Wonderful and rich experiences, and yet I am lost in amazement that God Himself wants to know and enjoy us!

This Christmas season, take some time to reflect on the idea that God wants you close to Him. He wants to be with you. That is why He sent Jesus to earth. He really does love you and me! God wants to be your friend. He wants to be known by you. Through Him, we can experience the satisfaction of the greatest longing of our hearts–to be fully known and yet fully loved.

Remember IMMANUEL!

Beyond Marriage

Using PLEDGE In Your Family

One of the questions we are inevitably asked each time we teach the Madly in Love PLEDGE Conference is: Can we use these principles in other relationships than in our marriage? Can we use them for example with our kids or extended family?

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And we always respond with a resounding: YES!!!

Here is what one of our our recent attendees said when she went home from the conference and began teaching her 4 and 7 year old:

“We started implementing this in our marriage, AND with our four young children, right away. My seven and six-year-olds are already responding positively when they see me do the pause sign during the conflict between them! Thank you for this new tool!

This same person said even further: “Even after such a short time, I’ll hear my seven-year-old son comment to himself, pause and shift, when he gets frustrated with his sister!”

Imagine similar experiences in your home:

A mother stops what she is doing when her angry daughter speaks to her. She turns towards her daughter with the intent of really listening. As the mother seeks to understand her heart, the daughter feels loved and her heart softens. Mom disarms the conflict by validating her daughter’s hurt and angry feelings. Both feel closer, thankful for the connection they experience. As the tension in the room subsides, the daughter expresses more of an openness to hear what mom has to say in response.

That same daughter begins to note the destructive nature of her words towards her mother. Convicted, she learns to pause before she speaks. She considers more carefully her words and how to express her anger, but in a loving way.

In another family, two children are playing when a conflict occurs over who grabbed the new toy first. Mom is about to intervene before either hurts the other, but before she can say anything, the older child uses a hand motion to signal they need to pause. Moments later, the children agree to give each other a turn rather than fight.

As the kids get older, each family member learns to listen well and understand each other when communicating. Each one reflects on what the other is saying, clarifying wherever needed, and valuing what is said. Imagine a family where felt love is more common than not because of the way each member relates to the other.

You say: “Is that really possible?” More than you think.

It will not be easy. It will take work. More specifically it will require that you first put the principles into action in the way you relate to your spouse and your children. After doing so, you then teach and train your children to follow after you.

There is no greater joy or satisfaction or calling than pursuing a life of love!

Learn more of the PLEDGE process and how it can positively affect and deepen your relationships here.

Thank YOU!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, I am aware of being thankful for so many things in my life beginning with a God who is for me, and a wife and family that are too. In this post however, I want to highlight one thing in particular that I am especially thankful for.

Madly In Love

There are a number of couples and individuals who come to mind that I have known or worked with over the last few years, who refused to give up on their marriage, even when only one spouse was interested in doing the work. Rather than stay in a mindset of anger and bitterness, they did what they could do to change and grow personally.

In some situations, it made all the difference in the marriage, as the other spouse responded positively to the changes. Sadly, in some cases the other spouse still refused to take necessary steps of change themselves. It is to YOU–who have done all you could do–that I want to say “thank you!”

I thank each and every individual and couple who has stayed the course in their marriage and family even when the course was tough. Here’s why:

You are an encouragement to me and all those around you! There are many like you as well as Zerrin and I, who are continuing to run the race and want to do it well to the end. And when you run hard and do what you can to stay the course, it keeps us encouraged and strengthened to do the same. So I say thank you!  THANK YOU to each and every one of you!

May we all keep our eyes on the finish line with the anticipation of one day soon hearing the words from God Himself:  “Well done!”

Zerrin and I pray that you will enjoy a wonderful time of Giving Thanks this week!

I Married An Optimist!

It is one of the many reasons I married my wife. She is an eternal optimist. No doubt it is because of her dad. Never in my life have I met someone so positive. To this day I am convinced he is the Father of Optimism!

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One of the ways my wife and her father express their optimism, is through gratitude.

Think: grateful attitude.

Gratitude.

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A Simple Way To Increase Connection in Your Marriage & Family

You and I both learned an important lesson in life at a very early age:

Take Turns!

Madly In Love

We see the need to teach it whenever we’re around children. One is playing with a toy, when another child comes along and grabs it because he wants to play with it. The first child cries or reacts in anger as she grabs the toy back, and a fight quickly ensues. As fast as we can, we  jump in between the children and say: “you guys need to take turns!”

The same is true for you and I in our marriages.

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One Thing That Will Make Resolving Conflict Easy(er)

I can think of a number of occasions when I was in a disagreement with my wife, my kids, or a friend. No doubt you can too. Recall the discomfort you felt, the tension in your body, the lack of certainty of what to do next.

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It is very difficult to feel any differently when conflict happens because of the fight, flight, or freeze button activated in our brains. There is however, one thing we can do to lessen those reactions and make resolving conflict easy(er).

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Ministry Update

In place of the blog this week, I wanted to take the opportunity to give you an update on some things we’re working on behind the scenes. I’m excited about what God is doing and where He’s taking our ministry.

First, one of the things I am most excited about is our conference schedule. We are in the process of planning several upcoming conferences. Here’s a preview—put one of them on your calendar and plan now to join us!

  • October 30, 2015 in Wichita, KS: This is a Friday night only shortened version of the Madly In Love marriage conference, that is specifically designed for all Pastors or ministry leaders. This is a great opportunity to be introduced to our ministry to churches, hear our core message, and learn the PLEDGE process for working through conflict with your spouse, your staff, and others!
  • February 19-20, 2016; Lighthouse Community Church; Wichita, KS: A full version of the conference open to all. Ticket and registration info coming soon.

Secondly, Zerrin, Danielle, and I have been praying, researching, and talking about ways in which to attract and reach more people with the PLEDGE message. We have a few ideas in mind for 2016 that we’re really excited about! Would you pray with us that God continues to lead us in new ideas, strategic partnerships, and fresh creativity?

Thirdly, several churches have asked if we would develop some material to teach PLEDGE in a small group format. We have a very brief guide available here, but we are also working on an expanded version that would be perfect for a church small group. We’re hoping to have this available early 2016.

Phew! With all that said, I’m spending more and more time connecting with pastors and developing new formats of content and have less time for the weekly blog so will start blogging twice a month rather than weekly. Now I’ll have more time to respond to your comments – so keep reading!

As always, thank you so much for praying with us and praying for us, we appreciate you so much!

Exciting things ahead!

Mark & Zerrin