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Why I’m Still Married After 17 Years

Lisa and I just celebrated 17 years of marriage this past weekend! To tell the truth, there a lot of people I should be thanking for their investment into my wife and I. And there are a lot of reasons we’re still married today, but here are a couple of practices that have helped us get where we are. So in no particular order, here they are. Hope they help.

1. We take Vacations (just the 2 of us)

While I love my 4 kids and spending time with them. I love doing vacation with just my wife! Lisa and I have chosen to save up during every 5-year period of our marriage and do a big vacation with just the two of us every 5 years! It’s always great time with her and it’s great to pay cash and not go in debt to do it!

2. We Serve Each Other

Serving is an important and intentional discipline in our marriage. Because we’ve learned that it’s difficult to serve someone well with a bitter heart. Among other things Lisa regularly offers to make me breakfast and I can’t tell you how many dishes I’ve done over the years.

3. We made a Commitment

Lisa and I both know, love and follow Jesus. And while there a lot of good principles that go into building a great marriage, Jesus is the starting point for us. We didn’t “fall” in love, rather we chose to love each other and made a commitment to each other and to God to love each other well.

4. We got Help

When things were dark in our marriage early on, we didn’t hide. We got the professional help we needed to move towards health together. We used to joke around that “Visa saved our marriage.” We didn’t have the money for counseling when we were young, but our marriage was valuable enough to us that money wasn’t going to be an excuse.

5. We still go on Dates

Every month we have at least one date night. It may be going out to a movie, having dinner, lunch, or catching a red box movie and dinner together after the kids are down. But regardless of what it is we are intentional about spending time with each other apart from the kids. I got to know Lisa over hours together at a coffee shop in college, and we still enjoy sitting and talking over a cup of coffee all these years later.

6. We Give and Receive Forgiveness

This isn’t an easy one to learn, but learn we’ve had to. The reality is you can shrink back from conflict or you can view it as a pathway to relational intimacy. I choose the later. Every conflict is an opportunity to move towards oneness.

7. We Keep Learning

It’s been common practice in our marriage to go on marriage retreats, to marriage conferences and read a book every year or so on marriage as a springboard to evaluative conversations that we wouldn’t necessarily have on our own. In fact we just got done reading and talking about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage.


Posted in Family

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4 Things to Remember when Leading from “Here” to “There”

Simply put the purpose of leadership is movement. To move a people or organization from “here” to “there.” This past week Lisa and I moved into our new home. Better put, we moved everything into our new home…now comes the fun part of unpacking and settling in. During the move I was reminded of four leadership principles about moving people from “here” to “there.”

Preparation can Make or Break You

Once you get into the fray of executing a plan you only have what you brought with you to work with. Once the bell sounds it’s too late to practice harder or prepare better. The preparation of the move isn’t very exciting. Taking apart furniture, boxing up our stuff, patching holes where pictures used to hang and cleaning aren’t necessarily my idea of fun. Neither is acquiring boxes, tape and the like. I actually ended up spending money on the move before we actually did any real moving!

You can’t get from “Here” to “There” without a great Team

If you can lead from “here” to “there” by yourself then you’re not leading far enough or taking enough people with you. Simply put, you’re risking too little if you can do it by yourself. Fortunately I had some great guys help me in this move. It really is true…”many hands make light work.” There is no way this move would have happened as fast as it did without the help of some good friends.

Don’t Forget to Pace Yourself

When you’re moving from “here” to “there” you’ve got to understand that there are times to let off the gas and other times to step on it. There were a few moments we pushed through some really heavy lifting and got into a good rhythm loading up the truck. At other moments we sat and had a sandwich, took a break, and looked at the furniture as if it were somehow going to move itself.

Delayed Gratification Leads to Discouragement

In other words you’ve got to get there. People have to experience wins and progress or they eventually give up. The Scriptures put it this way,

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  Proverbs 13:12

A buddy of mine was gracious enough to let me borrow his truck for the week of the move. Each day I would come home from work and move more boxes and furniture over to the new house. It felt like the move would never end and that we would never get “there.” When the day came for the “big move,” renting the U-Haul & my friends helping me move the big stuff I couldn’t move in the pick up, I was already exhausted.

What other leadership principles have you run into when leading people from “here” to “there?” Leave a comment!

 


Posted in Family, Leadership

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4 Leadership Lessons I was Reminded of by the Birth of my 4th Child

A week ago we welcomed Wyatt Grant into the Alexander family! And I’m not biased or anything, but he’s absolutely incredible! While we’ve gone through this a time or three before I’m still surprised by the depth of amazement, excitement, awe, fear, and loss of control that all collide in my heart at the birth of each of my children. And while we’re playing zone defense and filling up the minivan there are four distinct leadership lessons that this experience has reminded me of…

1. Great Leaders grow accustomed to Loss

At the birth of each of my children I’ve been abruptly reminded about how selfish I really am. When a little one crashes the party you quickly realize how much you still have to grow as you’re confronted with completely rearranging your life and putting the needs of that child above your own. Similarly the best leaders I know love the mission of the church more than themselves. So much so that they’re willing to let go of the past or even the present in order to move towards a preferred future. And letting go always means you’re losing something, that’s why you have to let go of it. There is always loss involved in growth and forward movement, and it usually involves a loss of comfort.

2. The Secret to Success is found in doing the little things daily

It’s amazing how quickly my other kids got so big, literally overnight. I went to the hospital with 3 small children one day and came home with a baby and the other three all of the sudden became giants overnight! While I’ve had some great moments as a parent, my parenting is more characterized by the daily grind of trying to point my children in the right direction. The same is true in leadership. It’s more about having the discipline and courage to do the right thing daily than waiting around for a big moment to shine. Do the little things daily and it will surprise you how it eventually compounds and shows up.

3. Control is an Illusion

Simply put, the delivery room scares me to death. Mostly because I’m completely out of control and I’m trusting the woman I love most and my nearly born child into the hands of people that I’m hoping and praying do a good job. The truth is control is a dangerous illusion that church leaders and pastors slowly creep towards through believing their press clippings and overconfidence. We would do well to remember that at the end of the day this is God’s church not ours. We are simply under-shepherd and stewards. He is building His Church and we are simply honored to be joining Him in the process.

4. Even great Leaders can’t accomplish the Vision Alone

Over the past week I’ve been floored by the generosity of the people around me. Meals have been provided, my other three children were farmed out while we were at the hospital, the dog was taken care of, and there was even a late night run by a friend to bring the boppy up to the hospital (if you don’t know what a boppy is then ask your wife). Leaders, even great leaders, if they’re chasing after a God-sized vision can’t do it alone. It takes a team of multifaceted and talented people. After all if you can do it by yourself…it’s probably not big enough.


Posted in Family, Leadership

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Top Posts of 2012 #2: An Interview with the National Preteen Pastor of the Year

I was particularly excited to write this post. One reason is because the first opportunity I was ever given in ministry was when I was a freshman in college and my pastor believed in me enough to give me a shot at leading a Jr. High Sunday School Class (trust me, it was a big risk on his behalf). Another reason is that Mike Branton happens to be on my team at Sun Valley and I’m just super proud of him!

 


 

During the last couple of years there has been a slowly growing trend in churches across America. Churches are pulling their preteens out of children’s and student ministries and ministering to this demographic uniquely. Fueled by kids “growing up too quick,” the age of adolescents dropping, and ministries and organizations like FourFiveSix, Orange, preteenministry.net, and Christ in Youth hitting the scene, this preteen movement is gaining traction in the church. If you’re not thinking Preteen Ministry at your church, you need to be.

Last week I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Mike Branton, the Preteen Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church and Christ in Youth National Preteen Pastor of the Year, to talk about this emerging ministry. The interview is below:

Paul: What does the label “Preteen Ministry” mean and why is this something that churches should be paying attention to?

Mike: Fundamentally Preteen Ministry is ministry to students who are moving through the transition from childhood to adolescence. You’re typically talking about students who are between 8 and 12 years old and in 4th – 6th grade. During the preteen years human beings develop physically and mentally faster than at any other stage of life other than the infant and toddler phase. Preteens are moving from concrete to abstract thinking. They are thinking less about the faith of their family and more about their own faith and figuring out what they believe.  They are at a time in their lives where their identity is being formed; they’re less inhibited and as a result are more open to inviting friends, sharing the Gospel, and combating injustice in the world. Their ability to understand and respond to the Gospel provides us with a unique opportunity that few Churches are taking advantage of.

Paul: What are some of the unique dynamics of preteen ministry?

Mike: Preteen students are beginning to experiment and explore with their identity both socially and sexually. They are often prematurely exposure to adult ideas and concepts without having a developed faculty to truly handle it. Some still believe in Santa Clause and have teddy bears and some of them are sleeping with their boyfriends. And some are doing both of those. Finally, increased specialization at an early age regarding extracurricular activities such as the arts and sports are limiting healthy experimentation and growth.

Paul: The reality is that the majority of churches can’t afford to hire someone to specifically minister to preteens. What can churches do?

Mike: Every healthy church has preteens in it. They may be a part of the Children’s Ministry or a part of the Student Ministry, or simply in a Sunday School Class. But whatever the form, churches can take the step to have a couple of volunteers focus specifically on this group of students. Churches can partner with parents by helping to equip them to know what to expect during the preteen years. We’re talking about kids who are challenged to succeed in every other area of their lives. Churches need to shift their thinking and stop viewing these students as “just kids” so that they’ll begin to expect more from them in their journey with Christ. Finally if they can, churches can give them their own space, even a simple classroom. These students want their door locked and decorated at home so why not appropriately support that at church. Space matters. It shows value, and helps build identity and connection.

Mike Branton is the Preteen Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church Gilbert Campus, a contributing writer for K-magazine, part of the FourFiveSix Team, and the Christ in Youth National Preteen Pastor of the year.

You can connect with Mike on Facebook


Posted in Family, Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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Home for Christmas

The mission of the Church is to get people home, and each year as we celebrate Christmas we’re reminded that Jesus came to bring us home and that He is in fact the Way home. This year we had an opportunity to literally join God in bringing people home. Through the generosity of a couple of people we were able to get Brandon Royce who serves in the U.S. Military and is currently deployed to South Korea home to be with his family. This video is their story. Enjoy!

 


Posted in Family, Spiritual Formation
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