Honouring the Family Members

 

As my daughter and my husband were returning home after securing admission for her, I cleaned her room, made her bed with clean sheets. There is nothing new in doing these. But this time I did so being conscious of doing this with a spirit of honoring her. I experienced a new sense of delight and pleasure not the attitude of doing my mundane chores.

It is quiet easy to honor and even overlook an offense if the person is our guest or a person of honor. We may go an extra mile to honor such people. It is important to practice the biblical principle of being hospitable.

Yet, how often we have the same attitude towards our family members, our acquaintances, and those whom we see all the time. As my mother died during my mid-teen years, I have learned not to take our dear ones for granted. I learned to cherish my time with my family and extended family.  I made sincere efforts to let my children meet their extended family.

Still honoring is different from not taking someone for granted.  How is it different? To take someone for granted means to appreciate the ways by which a person enhances and contributes to the quality of your life and the relationship. Honoring also involves appreciation but it is to value the person not just valuing the person for his/her contributions.

As I began to think more about this after listening to last week’s sermon of the visiting pastor, I realized that it is a perspectival shift which leads to practice shift. I am able to appreciate my dear ones as those whom God gave me to cherish and love not just because of their contributions. This naturally leads to not to take them for granted. But the starting point is honoring not the other way.

Imagine extending this perspective to all whom we come across. What a solace we would experience and smile we are able to bring in the hearts of those we meet! But let us begin this in our family.

posted June 3, 2104

Setting Godly Boundaries for Your Marriage

Boundaries are well-defined and clearly identified in land deals. This helps owners to know their limits of ownership. Respecting the limits allows neighbors not to encroach into other’s space. In any organization, job descriptions, rules and regulations have the same effect. Effectiveness and productivity of the organization rest upon respecting each other’s boundaries of space and work.
311af-th1.jpgIf respect of the other is the basis of functioning within the set boundaries in the above instances, growing in love with each other is the basis for setting boundaries in marriage. Or to develop oneness in spirit, mind, and body is the goal rather than controlling each other or to force the other into your mold.


In the first stage of marriage, namely romance, even when boundaries are not well defined, this stage will care for itself as the newness the couple enjoy, may cause them to focus on loving each other. Here the couple ignores each other’s faults thus getting along and pleasing each other become their priorities. Brain also comes in our aid as it releases chemicals like Oxytocin, Phenylethylamine and Dopamine which set one’s heart thumping thus feeling similar to being “high on drugs.”


However, it is necessary to set boundaries in Romance stage itself. Just like all other stones in a foundation will be set in reference to the cornerstone in a foundation, some key patterns of words and deeds set during this stage will further guide couple’s life. Setting of boundaries may not naturally evolve. It needs deliberateness from both partners but either of the two can take the initiative. Thus it is neither an autocratic process nor just the interest of one person. Even in the midst of enjoying each other’s company both husband and wife can create a list of boundaries to steer their life together. This may not be an exhaustive list but surely it is the cornerstone.


As there is an urge in pleasing each other during Romance stage, the couple may be willing to do anything for each other. This is the stage in which they have certain high ideals about one’s marriage. Thus it is easier to set boundaries during this stage. One limitation may come from the fact that couple sees each other only through the beautiful, rose coloured glass which can create fuzzy vision. Yet with little effort realities can be brought to one’s perception. Besides this is just the initial attempt, the beginning of listing boundaries of their married life.


Boundaries can be set during any stage in marriage. Yet newlyweds have an added advantage. From the beginning itself they can avoid causing damage to their relationship and others. Yet for others who have been married for some time, it is better late than never. If the couple has the intention of creating oneness, let a new chapter emerge in life with clearly defined boundaries. While past issues are to be resolved they can avoid creating further damage in and through them.


What are some common boundaries that couples usually set? Family will pray together twice/once a day. Settle all disagreements before sleep. Always sleep in the same bed even when there is disagreement. Discuss disagreements not in anger. Not to use words like “divorce” and “suicide” in family discussion. Not to hit each other or use foul language. Not to discipline children in anger. Family will have at least one meal together. The family will visit their parents once a week/month/year. Never tease each other before others. Never to place one in a vulnerable situation where one is mentally/emotionally/physically attracted or attached to someone else other than one’s spouse. Take money from each other’s purse only with mutual understanding.

The list can go on. It is to be tailored according to context of one’s family but with the aim of growing in oneness in spirit, mind, and body. One life to live, why don’t we live life to the fullest and enable others to do so!

photo courtesy http://www.ladiesflight.com

First posted May 2, 2014

Taking Risk to Build Our Homes

Hannah is a unique woman in the Bible. She was dearly loved by her husband Elkanah. Yet she also lived with his other wife who provoked her to irritate her. This misery intensified during the family visit to the house of the Lord. The reason was her childlessness. Her response to this dilemma was not quarrel, jealousy, retaliation, or gossip but just tears. Her husband tried to comfort her through words and action. Yet none of these could not pacify her. This scenario went on for years.


Hannah could have been content by her husband’s love, yet she turned to God who could meet her need. I do not know why Hannah waited for many years before she decided to bring this issue before God. During one of their visits to the house of the Lord, she did something which made a difference in her life. In the midst of her weeping and prayer with bitterness of soul, she made a vow to the Lord: she would give her firstborn son to the Lord for all the days for his life. This was a risky decision as no mothers have done this before. Also she did not know whether she will have other children or if God would accept her son.
Hannah’s prayer was first of this kind! Samuel was God’s reply for her prayer and rest is history! She bore other children as well. She is a woman who was not willing to be buried in her misfortune and tears. She built her home with her trust in God. Besides, by giving her son to the house of the Lord, she decided to build God’s house with her gift. She transformed her bitterness to bless the entire Israel from Dan to Beersheba. And all Israel recognized Samuel as the prophet of God.
Many mothers want a son like Samuel, but only to a Hannah a Samuel will be born. Only in Hannah’s home Samuel can be raised. Only a mother who makes risky decisions on behalf of their children can build God’s house.
What is special about Hannah and her home? Hannah’s was not a perfect happy home that one dreams of. Hannah had a resident rival in her home who would cause irritation and tears. Yet this did not result in fight neither with her husband nor her rival. Besides, this was not a hindrance to her to express her devotion and trust in God. Also she could have tried to forget her misery in her husband’s love. Yet, she decided to end her misfortune by turning towards God-a bold step towards building her home. Thus the key to unlock the door towards the answer to her problem was in Hannah’s hands and not in anybody else.
What are somethings that bother us about our home? Are we trying to live with it thinking that it would never change? Are we waiting for some others to take a step towards the change? If change is needed, what can we do towards it?
One cannot build home alone. God is the One who builds, yet he gives us an opportunity to partner with him in building our home which necessities us to take risks with prayer, courage, wisdom, and perseverance.
Photo Courtesy: http://www.unhcr.org
March 19, 2014

For Every Hour of Every Day: Things that I learned through our marriage which I pass on to you.

To Hold and to Cherish

1. You have received a precious gift from God on your wedding day.

2. You’re married to the right person.
Allowing the thought that it is the wrong person is detrimental to your relationship. You’re married! It is too late. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” So make the best out of your marriage.

3.Your spouse is not Jesus and not perfect; only Jesus is perfect. Only Jesus can meet your deepest needs as He is the source of your life not any person or things.

4. Remember to strengthen your relationship with God. When it is there, you will have the blessing of having a good relationship with your spouse because God is a God of peace and love.

5. Find time for a “circle of two,” for prayer and Bible reading. Your family is a “miniature church.”

6. “Clean hands and a pure heart”- let this be your prayer.

7. Your first year together is only a year of romance. Years of true love are coming. So hang on. If there is no wine left, Jesus can still do miracles. He loves to give to those who ask him. He is always for you and your marriage.

8. Love is a decision, not just feelings. The commitment you make on your wedding day is to your spouse and to God.

9. To honor and love each other in words and deeds is also a decision, a daily decision may be an hourly decision. Seek opportunities to give not just receive.

10. Be determined to strive and work hard for a great marriage. If there is a will there is a way. God will give you the desires of your heart. To have a great marriage, the partners need to be authentic and transparent. So there may be differences in opinion on various issues.

11. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Control your temper and be polite when you argue.
When you discuss difficult issues, make sure to at least hold each other’s hand. Learn to solve these disagreements constructively to avoid big “blow ups” that devastates the relationships.
12. Forsake the “blame game.” It started in the Garden of Eden. It is not your spouse’s fault.

13. Forget all the hurt from the last argument. Once forgiven, its forgiven. So try to forget or ask God to help you to forget.

14. Say sorry even when you know your spouse has wronged you in the particular incident. You reap the result in great measure.

15. Never compare your spouse with anybody. Comparing is unfair. Your spouse is unique.
16. Do not take your spouse for granted for they have chosen to love you and to make your life brighter each day even by simple acts of kindness. Be thankful. It is also applicable to your family members and your friends.
17. Your spouse is your best friend next to Jesus. See that you value your relationship with your spouse in the midst of the pressures of life.
18. Listen to your mate. Communicate verbally and non-verbally.
19. Encourage each other. Next to God you are your spouse’s best cheer leader.
20. Find time to have fun and laugh. Create opportunities to reminiscence your “good old days.”
21. Let each of your “cup of love” be filled with your spouse’s love. It is a safety measure against temptation. Our efforts to participate in God’s vision will be effective when we are at peace with ourselves.
22. If you know a particular thing is God’s will for your life do not hesitate to accomplish it. It is part of being a mature person. This will only lead to fulfillment in marriage.
23. Difficult times develop pearls and rubies in your marriage. These times help one to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” It also provides fertile ground to grow in love towards each other and to appreciate how others care for us.
24. Taking time to bless your extended family, your church, and those in need is an opportunity to bring a smile in the lives of others.
I wrote the first draft of this piece of writing to give it to my youngest sister when she got married in June 1998. My daughter told told me one day “I do not want daddy to get old any more.” I explained to her the joys of getting old. One of the joys of getting old is to see the fruits of our hard work to build great marriage and familyPublished October 12, 2012

Present but Absent

Our house will be a home for us and many others
In my school days teachers regularly marked attendance by calling out students’ names. Those who were present would reply “present sir” and if anyone is absent, some other student will say “absent sir.” However, as classes began some of our minds might have wandered many places thus making us oblivious to the happenings of our classroom. These students were presentbut absentin their minds.
Is such absenteeism prevalent in our homes too? This is not about parents who stay away from their homes for employment or children who stay in boarding schools. But there are many homes were physical presence means nothing. Recently one teenager told me “I do not share any of my feelings with my parents.” Family members are physically present in such houses but some of them or all of them are emotionally absent. Then house is reduced to a stop over place. Essential aspects of family like cooking, eating meals together or praying together may be ritualistically practiced. However a mechanistic pattern of doing rituals do not give needed life support to its members. This is when we are present but absent in essence.

Machines have robbed opportunities of family members to share the workload. This has reduced the work for its members but also decreased the time families spend for a common purpose. Each of the family members have their own friends to talk to in the privacy of their own rooms and their own mobile phones. They enjoy their own favorite programs in their own gadgets. With less time spent together and less common space, family members grow distant from each other.

Who suffers the most from such distant relationships in families? I believe that each of the family members become victims of such emotionally absent but physically present life in our houses. When children are young, by nature they extend their physical and emotional touch to others. Yet as they grow older they will soon learn to adopt various distant behavior patterns. Here each of the family members live in their own worlds. They may share their joys together but pain and hurt are safely bottled up in their own lives. This is when houses become in essence lodges.

But houses can be homes where there is openness, love, acceptance, sharing, and forgiveness. It is where our good and bad experiences will find meaning. It is where one feels safe and secure. Even the very remembrance of the place makes one want to live even in the midst of despair. There is such an home in the Bible. The home of the prodigal son was not perfect but it was a home according to the above standards. Even after the son left home for his own personal happiness, his memory of his home was that of safety and abundance even for the servants which gave him the hope to live.

Who has the responsibility of making the house a home? Parents and other adults have a major role in this process. But as children grow older they are to be trained to build their home. As each member places the necessary bricks in the structure, it will become a home not only for its members but also for many others. Let each of us get to work to be always present in our homes. Remember each brick counts!

Written on March 18, 2012

Family Vision Statement

Rainbow

Family Vision Statement:

Where is your family heading to?

Once I participated in target shooting. The event made me realize that even when I aim at the center, often the arrows fell on different points on the board and sometimes flew outside the board. Then imagine shooting with no aim. This idea led me to introduce this topic—to develop a vision for the family.

Many of us are familiar with company’s vision statements. How important is a vision statement for a family? When my husband and I began traveling with the same vision for our life together, we become more productive and our life together became a blessing to us and others. It does not mean that our first few years of life were boring or less colourful. We have enjoyed each other and grew in love with each other ever since we got married with a deep desire to serve God and to raise a godly family. But a common vision gave us a focus to move forward and together cling to God in good and happy times.

Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Instead of simply living our lives together for 40 or 50 years how fulfilling it would be when we have a vision for our families! God’s desire for couples is to be one flesh which implies oneness in every aspect of life even though they are two people. A well framed vision statement will help to answer life’s great questions as far as the family is concerned. It is like a compass that guides the course of a ship in the vast ocean or in today’s term the GPS that directs us when we are unsure of the way. Imagine how meaningful it will be when everyone in the family knows and lives up to the purpose to which it exits! When followed closely, it can be one of the means to help to move forward with vigor and grace and every decisions will be a step towards your destination.

I guess you got my point. Why wait? Now let us get to work…

As a family (include children if they are old even to understand the discussion) prayerfully ask the following questions which can help you to frame a vision statement.

Why is our family here? Or What is God’s purpose for our family? This expresses the purpose of your family.

Where are we going? Or What do you want to achieve? This has to do with the vision of the family.

How will you get to the goal? This deals with means to achieve the vision.
What are your important values? This explains important values of your family.

As you answer these questions you are framing different parts of your family’s vision statement. Put all these answers together to one meaningful sentences. This may not be the final one but a start to see God’s unique purpose for your family.

You can post your family’s vision statement in your bedroom or kitchen and read it at least once a day!

Hope you will have the vision statement ready before I share my thoughts with you next thoughts. Until then may you live in peace with God and others!

Written on Feb 16, 2012