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I ran into a stranger as he passed by, "Oh excuse me please" was my reply. He said, "Please excuse me too; I wasn't watching for you." We were very polite, this stranger and I. We went on our way and we said goodbye. But at home a different story is told, how we treat our loved ones, young and old. Later that day, cooking the evening meal, my son stood beside me very still. When I turned, I nearly knocked him down. "Move out of the way," I said with a frown. He walked away, his little heart broken. I didn't realize how harshly I'd spoken. While I lay awake in bed, God's still small voice came to me and said, "While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use, but the family you love, you seem to abuse. Go and look on the kitchen floor, you'll find some flowers there by the door. Those are the flowers he brought for you. He picked them himself, pink, yellow and blue. He stood very quietly not to spoil the surprise, you never saw the tears that filled his little eyes. By this time, I felt very small, and now my tears began to fall. I quietly went and knelt by his bed; "Wake up, little one, wake up," I said. "Are these the flowers you picked for me?" He smiled, "I found 'em, out by the tree. I picked 'em because they're pretty like you. I knew you'd like 'em, especially the blue." I said, "Son, I'm very sorry for the way I acted today; I shouldn't have yelled at you that way." He said, "Oh, Mom, that's okay. I love you anyway." I said, "Son, I love you too, and I do like the flowers, especially the blue.

Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family we left behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than into our own family, an unwise investment indeed, don't you think? So what is behind the story?

Do you know what the word FAMILY means? Family = Father And Mother I Love You

16-Pillars of a World Class Marriage

"To have what we call a World Class Marriage, you must start by realizing that true love and 'chemistry' are important and wonderful, but marriage is a skills-based relationship and your happiness as a couple is dependant upon those skills." Patty and her husband Ralph have been teaching couples all over the world how to succeed in their relationships by teaching them the skills they need. Even though their programs are secular, we think the suggestions they teach have a lot of validity to them.

Below are the "16 Pillars" they suggest which can help you to have a "World Class Marriage". First pray before reading the list below and see if the Lord brings any of their suggestions to the forefront of your mind as ones that you could apply to your own marriage. Think about it—which of the Pillars do you need to apply most to your marriage? And then ask the Lord to help you to follow through with them. Here are 16 Pillars:

• Setting Goal: Goals help direct your energies and lead to success- both individual goals that are supported by your partner, and shared goals that you have as a couple.

• Avoiding Blame: Blame is a relationship cancer—destroying love, caring, closeness, and everything you come in contact with. The same applies to self-blame!

• Understanding the Nature of Behavior: Behavior is always goal-directed. When your partner does something that bugs you, he/she isn't deliberately trying to upset you; he's just trying to meet a need. Recognizing this helps you become more compassionate and back away from blame.

• Using Power Listening: Becoming good at this skill is the most important ingredient in fostering growth of your partner when dealing with a problem, and the growth of your relationship together.

• Giving up Tit for Tat: Retaliation just doesn't work in an intimate relationship. When your partner disappoints, non-blameful confrontation maximizes cooperation and caring.

• Assuming Self-Responsibility: Your spouse is only an “assistant need-meeter” in your life, and you can minimize a lot of problems when you remember that you are your own primary need-meeter—about matters both large and small.

• Avoiding Cool Talk: Sarcasm, cool and trendy language is fun when you see them on television, but they aren't the stuff of marital closeness and caring.

• Changing Behaviors, Not Your Partner: Confrontation through non-blameful language allows your partner the freedom to initiate change because of consideration for your needs. And it ups the chances of cooperation.

• Knowing When to Surrender: When you've tried confronting, or nagging, and nothing works—your partner still leaves clothes on the floor, consider looking for the capacity to accept it as so.

• Giving Caring the Way that It Matter: Find out how to deliver your caring in the way that has the most meaning for your partner. Don't spin your wheels with gifts if what your partner wants is loving words, time alone with you, a backrub or some help with chores.

• Handling Hot Topic: Remember, what matters most in discussing any hot topic like sex, money, or childrearing, is keeping that "Heart to Heart Connection" between the two of you.

• Resolving Conflicts and Disagreement: Through Win-Win Problem Solving, both of you are happy with the way things work out and no resentment builds up in the relationship.

• Giving Apology and Forgiveness: You have to be willing to admit you made a mistake which you regret—without trying to justify yourself. And when your partner apologizes, you have to be willing to let go and forgive.

• Growing Yourself: Expanding your capacities as a human being enriches your life and brings excitement to the relationship, while meanwhile taking pressure off of your partner.

• Forging a Bond: Engaging in “In-it together” activities is one of the ways to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

• Nurturing the Honeymoon: Recognize that your relationship needs and deserves TLC (tender loving care) so give yourselves regular doses of alone-together-having-fun times.

If you really want to keep your "Honeymoon" alive or maybe even revive it - keep in mind that marriage is a living picture of Christ's love for the church. So strive to make your marriage a "World Class Marriage" – the best it can be – a TRUE reflection of the love of Christ! So what are at least three "pillars" you can do to nurture your marital relationship?

The 22-Minute Date

You may think you don't have the time to date any more. You're working too many long hours. There are too many demands on your family to be able to squeeze out a "date night", so you can just be a couple. Dr James Dobson said, "We must work to protect 'what God has joined together' with all the creativity and passion we can pour into it. That's done (in part) by taking time for romantic activities despite pressing obligations and over-committed schedules."

So, what can we do if we're over-committed and stretched financially? How can we carve out time to be together? Cindy and I came across something a few years ago in a magazine article that we found to be highly successful in giving us some "quality" date time. It's called the "22 Minute Date".

This was based on an experiment that was conducted with a number of couples who were "happily married" but said they needed a "boost" in their relationship. Can you relate? Here's how it worked:

The couples agreed to take the time they might have spent watching a TV sitcom a day (22 minutes when you subtract the commercials) and instead, talk.

They were to make eye contact and converse. There were to be no children present.

There was to be no radio in the background and of course, no TV. There was to be no dinner and no dinner dishes.

They were told to turn on the answering machine.

They were to focus on what's positive in their lives—this wasn't the time to bring up past hurts.

They were to do this for one month.

At the end of the month the couples said this was more rewarding than they'd ever dreamed possible. They also admitted that it seemed awkward at first and found themselves looking at the clock a lot, but after awhile they began enjoying the time and found the 22 minutes flew by. (Cindy and I find this to be true in our own "22 minute" dating times.)

We believe one of the tragedies in marriages today is that many couples talk "at" each other without listening to what the other person's saying. We found the 22 Minute Date a great way to re-connect and begin to listen to each other. So now what we're asking of you is to "try it— you may like it".

To make this easier on you we want you to know there are some wonderful resources available today designed to be "conversation starters". One of them is a small book published by Focus on the Family entitled, "Creative Conversation Starters for Couples". It has questions in it ranging from light-hearted and friendly, to questions that are more intimate, and personal. They're aimed at helping you to connect (or re-connect) with each other.

You may be surprised by how much you can learn about each other by asking a few "simple" questions. It works best if each of you answers the same question. So, here are some starter questions for you that came from this book:

What was the most memorable date we ever had?

If you and I went on a date together and we only had $10 to spend,
what would you like to do?

In what ways are you different from your parents and siblings?

In what ways do you think our parents' marriages have affected our own?

If you could have the autograph of any living person in the world, whom would you choose?

What are your three greatest strengths? What do you feel are my three greatest strengths?

In your opinion, what are the five most important things a man needs to understand about a woman and her needs?... vice versa?

If you could personally witness any event in history, which one would you choose?

Work It Out

I heard a story about one woman who seemed to have no reason behind her anger. The story goes like this:

A man read, in the want ads, of a sports car for sale. It had only 3,000 miles. "Like new," the ad boasted. "Mint condition.$75.00."

He laughed to himself, and he said, "There goes the newspaper, making another mistake." But he decided to call the number anyway and he asked the woman who answered about the car.

"Is it really brand new?" "Yes," she replied. "Three thousand miles?" "Yes." "The price?" "Seventy-five dollars," she answered. "Lady, what's wrong with it?" he asked. "Nothing is wrong with it. You're the first to call. I supposed nobody else believes the ad."

He decided to look at it. She let him take a test drive. The car looked exquisite and ran perfectly. He just couldn't believe his luck!

"The car is yours for $75.00," the woman said emphatically, "on one condition. I want the money now and I want you to drive it away so I never have to see it again."

He paid her and took the keys. "Please tell me, lady," he persisted. "You could have sold this car for thirty thousand dollars. What is going on?"

She told her story: "I bought this car for my husband on our fortieth wedding anniversary. Two weeks later he ran off with somebody else. Last week I got a card from him. They are in a resort in Miami Beach, Florida. The card said, 'Need money, sell car, send cash.' I did."

You may smile at her way of expressing anger. But what do you do when you are angry?

Some people "act it out." They break something. Or they say something they later regret. They strike back.

Other people "take it out." They kick the dog or scream at the kids. They lash out at the next unlucky person they come across.

Still others "talk it out." They find someone who will listen. They know they have to bring it up if they want to get it out. And after they've talked it out they usually know what to do and generally feel better.

ACT IT OUT and your actions will become a block to good communication.

TAKE IT OUT and you cause more hurt and anger.

TALK IT OUT and you can GET IT OUT.

Once you GET IT OUT you can WORK IT OUT and your relationship will work for you!

Steve Goodier

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