• 5 Things to Consider When Searching for a New Church Home

    As a pastor I have come across a lot of people who are in search for a church home and who frankly, really struggle with the process. It can be a really difficult and scary journey, one that seems never ending for some. I thought it would be really helpful to a lot of people to jot down a little encouragement for those who are searching for the right church home. 

    5 Things to consider when searching for a new church home

    1. The perfect church doesn’t exist.

    We are not the exception to the rule despite what we will try to convince you over your first month. The perfect church doesn’t exist because the church is made up of people and no perfect people exist. So the question isn’t whether you will find a perfect church but once you find the place you feel God has planted you in, will you stay when you are often reminded of the imperfection of your brothers and sisters? Will you love them still? Also, good churches have bad days as do good people, so don’t toss the baby out with the bath water. That’s a ridiculous old saying (who would do that?!) and have no idea where it comes from but it sure does apply to a lot of situations in life. The truth is that its really hard to know the heart of a house in just one visit. 

    2. Consider how God might be starting a new work in your life.

      To everything there is a season. Once I heard a wise teacher say that every person has 1-2 church moves in their lifetime within the same city, so he was not counting those that have to move often for work and thus find a new church at each stop. 1-2 moves within their lifetime! We live in a much more transient day and age than ever before. Job mobility is a major deal in the 21st century job market. And people church hop like crazy. Some “shop,” some “hop.” That conversation is for another day. Nothing wrong with looking for the right church home but I worry that we do harm to the plant that is trying to grow by regularly uprooting it. As you move into a new season, be ready for God to do some new stuff in your life. I believe God will allow you to tap into and release new spiritual gifts, unlock new passion and ultimately meet the needs of the new body you are connecting yourself to. 

      3. Strong and meaningful relationships take a long time to develop.

      I recently read a study that talked about meaningful relationships in our lives and specifically about how long it takes to develop them. The average amount of time it took for a person to move from being an acquaintance to a casual friend was about 50 hours of quality time. To move from a casual friend to an actual friend was nearly double that at 90 hours. And to move from a friend to someone you consider to be a close friend was roughly 200 hours of quality time. I think of this in terms of the church world and I totally agree with the time. There are 52 Sundays in a year. I think after the first year at a church you can become casual friends with everyone with a mild involvement of showing up most of the weekends in a year, even though I wouldn’t classify a Sunday morning worship gathering to be quality time, though God might multiply our closeness through the Spirit. After nearly two years people start to feel like friends and after close to 4 years you can call these people your close friends. If you really want to develop meaningful relationships then you just need more time. Be intentional to water your relationships with quality time wherever you find yourself planted.

      God has designed the church to be a living, moving and breathing organism of spirit-filled connectedness with a singular focus and goal, to glorify God by building one another up and pointing others to Jesus. We cannot do this apart from loving relationships. The organization is a necessary skeleton to provide structure for the body but it is loving relationships that provide the meat and muscle on the bones. 

      4. Know what’s open handed and close handed

      Ever watch one of those shows where the couple is about to buy a house and they have all these “must-have’s”? The realtor tells them that their list is totally unreasonable based on their budget. Isn’t this a little bit how we approach finding a church? We have our list of “must-have’s" When each one of us step into a church asking ourselves, "is this the place for me?" we come in with a list of close handed items which are important to us and a list of open handed items of which we value less. Having a clear picture of what’s open handed and close handed will actually make the decision making process much easier and I encourage you to do this with your spouse if you’re married. As you begin to think about your open handed list and your close handed list I encourage you to consider that some of the items on your lists may be in the wrong list. When we do this we come face to face with our long list of preferences. We should never allow our preferences to be honored above God’s word nor the places he chooses to plant us. I have honestly grown so much in churches that didn’t meet all my preferences. I didn’t worship or serve because of the music or the style of small groups I preferred. I did so out of love for God and His people. This is the purity of heart that God desires and will always allow us to be led by God to His perfect plan for our lives. 

      5. Pray about it

        Rocket science right?! How often do we reason within ourselves and don’t submit it in prayer. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have be confirmed 32 times over. Sometimes it's just a peace inside. Other times its looking at the fruit of the impact already in your life and knowing you’re in a place that is going to help you grow in your faith and in friendships too.  

      1. 3 Building Blocks to a Culture of Empowerment

        Every leader is tasked not only to set a course for the future but to develop and empower those they are asked to lead. Here is a straight forward look at what I teach our leaders at Fathom Church. 
        3 Building Blocks of Empowerment
        • Authority: The right to lead - not just manage.…TRUST is vital.
        • Responsibility: The weight of authority - not just tasks….INITIATIVE is necessary.
        • Accountability: The environment of healthy teams - the expectation of progress. GOALS & REVIEWS are essential.
        4 Steps to Empowering Your Team
        1. Put it on paper. Map out where you are and where you want/need to be. It makes it so much easier to think about how to get from point A to point B when you can visualize the process. 
        2. Talk it out with a trusted leader. This doesn't have to be your direct report. In fact, I believe you will enjoy the conversation more if it isn't your direct report.  Decide who you want to talk about it with and set up a time. It won't happen unless you schedule it.
        3. Schedule facetime with some people you want to be a part of taking the next step. This isn't a big all call meeting. This is 1, 2, or 3 people within/ or not yet within your department that you like being around and think would add a lot to the team at a larger capacity. You often think to yourself, "Man, they could add a lot to the team" or "If I could only get them to do more..." Well there is a decent chance they are just waiting on the opportunity to do more. Have a written down agenda that they know nothing about. Let them know why you are having the meeting because you trust them and you need help taking the department to the next level. Let God lead your time together. 
        4. Pray for the right timing. Timing is such an interesting topic when it comes to leadership because God's timing is always so unique and His is perfect. Pray for the right timing to hand off authority, responsibility and begin a goal setting and review routine. We shouldn't delay in making these decisions nor rush them. Its all about God's direction and timing.
      2. This is Really About That

        I stood in absolute wonder and confusion as my oldest son alerted me to smoke that was rising from the ground underneath the playground in our backyard. This wasn't fog, steam or even a leaf burning in the sun as I first thought. It was like there was a literal fire burning beneath the dirt. I snapped video and photos and sent it to people who might be able to solve this natural phenomenon. Could actual fire really be burning underneath the dirt and not go out? I touched ground where the smoke was coming up and I could feel the heat as I got closer. It felt like fire. I quickly grabbed a stick to dig with to see if I could dig up this apparent underground fire. Imagery of our local news network coming to do a story on this one of a kind wonder flashed across whatever cortex in my brain controls imagination. I dug a little deeper and the smoke got thicker and the heat hotter. What was I about to uncover?

        Well, turns out, underneath the smoke wasn't a fire after all. When we installed the playground, we nicked an electrical wire that was touching the wooden leg of the playground beneath the earth. This also solved the previous mystery as to why our garage power kept shorting out and flipping the breaker. Previous eletrcial estimates to fix the problem were between $700-$1200. All these mysteries were finally solved. The garage power and the haunting rising smoke all could be explained. THIS IS REALLY ABOUT THAT. 

        So many times in life we find ourselves frustrated as we search for solutions to our problems. Most of the time, its not what we think of first and maybe even what we fixate on. This is usually about that. Dad not being at your ball games isn't about him not loving you, or how busy he is at work, or even his drinking problem. It might be that since his mom passed away, he has never recovered to be able to love others. Its not that he doesn't love you, its that he hasn't felt worthy to love or be loved. Contextualize this example to your life and maybe the short in power is your lack of self discipline or the communication problems in your marriage but here's the point...

        It's time to do some digging. 

        This is really about that. 

        I can almost guarantee you that the more you dig, the hotter it will get. 

        The solution won't be what you thought it was because the problem wasn't what you thought it was. 

      3. 3 Things You Have to Know to Overcome Your Anger Issues

        This weekend I am starting a series called “Seasonal Emojis” and it got me thinking about an old sermon I preached that I feel needs to be heard far and wide because everyone is dealing with anger. I’ve basically modified my sermon notes to be a little more user friendly for a Bible study. I hope this helps many of you.
        Ephesians 4.26-27  “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 
        Anger can easily lead to sin
        • In Eph. 4.26-27, Paul is quoting a Psalm of David (Psalm 4). Paul is reading the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible which says “In your anger, do not sin." 
        • Psalm 4 gives us some beautiful insight on how to defuse our anger
          • v.1 David talks to God “Hear me oh God of my righteousness.."
          • vv.2-3 David talks to people “How long oh you sons of men?"
          • vv.4-5 David talks to himself - He calms himself before the Lord
            • Be angry and do not sin.
              • The Hebrew verb here is ragaz meaning to "stand in awe" (could be fear or rage). Have you ever been here? If anyone ever had a right to be angry, it was Jesus. Jesus endured gruesome persecution and torture yet He remained without sin. 
              • What this textual reference tells us is that its ok to be angry but we can’t let it allow us to sin. 
              • You are never permitted a license to sin. If we do so Paul says we take for granted the grace of God. The intense version of that is we “spit on the cross"
            • Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still
              • Christian meditation is different than eastern meditation
                • In Christian meditation, we fill ourselves with God’s truth.
                • In eastern meditation, we empty our heart and mind, leaving it open for deception.
            • Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and Trust in the Lord
              • Religious action doesn’t replace trusting in God.
              • Trusting in God is followed by walking in the way of the righteous.
          • vv.6-8 David receives blessing from God
            • You have put gladness in my heart
            • I will lie down in peace
            • You make me dwell in safety
        Work to resolve it quickly
        • Don’t let the sun go down on you.
          • Here this should be read in the straight Greek context of the word as Paul is writing in Greek here, not referring to the Hebrew text. The Greek word used is orgizo which means "to provoke or to arouse anger.” This is so appropriate regarding anger because unresolved anger only provokes further the longer it is left unresolved. If you find yourself looking at your spouse, a child, friend, boss or even God with hate and resentment, chances are huge you have a ton of unresolved anger.
            • Go back to the Psalm 4.4 passage and remember that he said to mediate on your bed Before you go to sleep. Meditate on your bed. He’s continuing to make this connection here. 
          • There is a fine line between doing it in the moment and doing it after the moment has passed. Don’t deal with it in the moment while you are mad, but don’t wait until you have dealt with this completely on your own either.
            • If we wait until the moment has passed we will convince ourselves that we resolved this anger when in reality we only filed it away for safe keeping. We stuffed it. Its like compressing the trash down. At some point the bag is going to bust and there will be crap everywhere. The clean up is much harder at that point. 
        • A few verses earlier in Ephesians 4.22, Paul basically says this is not the way you were taught or "put off your old self."
          • The old self is characterized by... Ignorance, futility, deceit, impurity and lust
          • New life characterized by holiness and righteousness
          • Our MO becomes whatever we were taught by our upbringing. Christ transforms us into the new self. If mom and dad screamed, then you scream it out. If mom and dad stuffed, then you probably are a stuffer.  Even when you put your foot in the ground and say I’m not gonna deal with it like that, you find yourself doing it. It is a long process to unlearn habits then to relearn new ones. 
          • In Romans 12.1-2, Paul tells us that our mind needs to be renewed. Here are three prayers to help you sort through this. 
          • Renewing of the Mind Prayers
            • Identify: Holy Spirit help me identify the root causes for my anger.
            • Unlearn & Heal: Holy Spirit heal the hurts of my past and make me whole.
            • Relearn: Holy Spirit help me walk in and cling to Your truth for my life.
        It has far greater ramifications than what you think
        • "Don’t give the devil a foothold.” In other words, don’t give the devil a seat at the table. Don’t give the devil an opportunity to foster hatred or pride. There are people who’s anger of the injustices in this world led them to do horrendous things. While we are working to minimize it, the devil is working to maximize it. We don’t want to minimize it though, we want to resolve it. We can resolve anger with far less energy than we spend managing it. What is the real reason you are angry?  The anger we have is rarely only about the person we are directing it towards.
        • What about righteous anger? Is there a place for that? Yes. "If our anger motivates us to seek solutions, address injustices in a productive way, and heal the damage that has been done to a relationship, then that anger can be both righteous and healthy.”
        • What about God’s anger? God’s wrath is just. J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151). God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ.
          • Romans 5.6-9 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 
        It would be easy for each of us to leave this post feeling regret about times we’ve been angry and said or done things in which we are not proud of. My hope is that God might redirect our anger to the things that make Him angry. My prayer is that God would heal today the hurts of the past and make us whole. My desire is that we would not give the enemy an opportunity to attack what God is doing in your life, your family or our church family. 
      4. 4 Daily Steps to Bridging the Great American Divide

        Our most recent election results have only further clarified the great divide in the American people. This divide goes far beyond ideology and policy and into core American principles of freedom, faith and family. This conversation needs to be had. Regardless of who you supported, voted for or didn’t vote for. Start here. Start with the person in the mirror. Here are 4 daily steps you can take to begin the process of healing the divide. (Scripture footnotes can be found below.)
        • Stop Labeling: This is the one of the largest, if not the largest, problem we face to unite us as a country and most people are terrible at it. Labeling. Stop calling all black young men thugs. Stop calling all people of middle eastern descent terrorists. Stop calling all white Republicans racists. Stop. Stop. Stop. Out loud and in your mind. You are a part of the problem, not the solution. You offend and vilify an innocent majority while attempting to indict a fractional minority. Draw a line in the sand and choose to not paint with broad strokes. There is a difference in political correctness and respect for one another. (John 8.5-11)
        • Pray: Actually pray. Not just for the country but for your adversary. They aren’t your enemy despite what you might think. And before you get to worried about praying for the other side, pray that God would reveal and help you remove the plank in your own eye. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Until we remove the plank in our own eye we ought to just keep our mouth shut. And once you begin to make headway on your personal plank, when pride has been torn down, pray genuinely for your adversary.  (Matthew 7.3-5, 2 Chronicles 7.14)
        • Listen: Like actually listen. Like build a friendship with someone you have previously held pre-conceived notions or labels toward. Not a Facebook friendship but the real thing. Where we share meals, call each other to talk about our families and actually care what the other person has to stay. We clamor for politicians and Washington to reach across the aisle to make positive change but we won’t reach across the street and do the same. Most of the time we are too prideful to learn about the hopes, fears and pain of our neighbors and we miss out on the beautiful tapestry of our diverse land. (James 1.19)
        • Love Freely: To Christians, if you don’t have this, you got nothing. Our faith hangs on the love poured out for us at the cross and our only response is to love God and love people fully. To secularists, agnostics and atheists, be a part of a more tranquil union in our nation by loving those you disagree with. You don’t have anything to lose by respecting the opinions of others and making this society a more pleasant place to exist. (Matthew 10.5-8)

        John 8.5-11 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

        Matthew 7.3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

        2 Chronicles 7.14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

        James 1.19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

        Matthew 10.5-8 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

      5. 5 Tricks to Help you Get Free from Your Addiction to Your Phone

        One of the most telling TV scenes about our phone addicted generation came in an episode of The Office a few years back. Ryan (BJ Novak) is participating in an office trip to trivia night and is told by the host he’s not allowed to check his phone during trivia. After he refuses to put it down the host confiscates his phone for the remainder of trivia night. Ryan lasts about 5 seconds, stands up and says, “I’d rather be with my phone” and then briskly walks outside. Serious separation anxiety happens when generation X, Y and Z'ers are not able to check their phone every 1-2 minutes. The statistics are absolutely shocking how often we check our phones and how attached we are to them. In many cases, our phone never leaves our side 24/7, 365. The reasons we need to break free of this addicted should go without saying but let me set you up with them in case they aren’t so obvious. 
        5 Reasons to Break Free of Your Phone
        1. Your relationships are probably suffering | Your friends can’t remember the last time you gave them eye contact. Your spouse feels ignored. Your kids are following your example and might feel ignored too. A 15 year old’s birthday party in 2016 might be one of the more depressing things you will witness in your life. Eight 15 year old’s in the same room staring at their phone. smh.
        2. Your eyes are probably suffering | "Because they emit HEV light (also called blue light), staring at phone and tablet screens may actually harm our eyes permanently. HEV light is that portion of the visible light spectrum that comprises light with the shortest wavelengths, which carry the greatest potential to damage living tissue.” "We’re spending almost as much time staring at screens as we do sleeping.” - Simon Hill ( contributor)
        3. Your hands are probably suffering | Yeah, you feel this too? Actually, as I type right now, the pad underneath my thumb feels a little sore. Most of us text and type all day long and it is wearing our muscles and tendons down. Rheumatologists don’t have an official diagnosis for this condition yet but my guess is that it won’t be too long down the road and there will be an official name. However, among tech-savvy users that have experienced this for years it is referred to as “Text Claw.” 
        4. Your job performance is probably suffering | Some studies have attempted to prove that a short mental break of 5-10 minutes each hour can greatly increase work productivity. The truth is that many people experience full on prudctivity derailment not just quick break. 
        5. Your mind is probably suffering | Studies show that our brains struggle to shut off quickly from our frequent evening use, which in turn impacts our ability for our brain to rest. Think of a really old computer with all of the memory and storage taken up. That computer takes forever to shut down and boot up. This is similar to what our brains are going through. "Through mobile phones, the internet, electronic mail, television, radio, newspapers, books, etc. people receive every day about 105,000 words or 23 words per second in half a day (12 hours) (during awake hours). Although people can not really read these 105,000 words each day, this is the real number estimated to be reaching the human eyes and ears every day. After adding pictures, videos, games, etc., we reach the volume of 34 gigabytes of information per day on average. The total consumption of information from television, computers and other information was estimated (for the U.S.) to be 3.6 million gigabytes.” (University of California- San Diego)
        5 Tricks to Help You Get Free from Your Phone
        1. Sabbath | This is what snapped, and continues to, snap me back into shape every time I begin to overuse my device. Sabbath. Sabbath is intentionally setting something aside for a set time and for an set purpose. Are you an addict? Want to get free? Have a one month sabbatical from your phone except for calling and business related matters. What hours each day, day each week, month each year are you intentionally keeping your phone off limits?
        2. Turn off notifications PERMANENTLY | Yes, you read that right. Permanently, as in, forever. I originally went to my settings so that it wouldn’t spoil my favorite sports games for me when I was recording the game. Then, I made it there and thought, "I don’t really need to know that Sally liked my photo 6 seconds ago. That’s not really a time sensitive matter and it totally kills my work and home vibes by constantly popping up." The same is probably true for your life too. 
        3. Charge your phone at another outlet | Have trouble staring at your phone and playing that game until you fall asleep and want to get free? Move that charger to another outlet across the room. This also might help you get up in the morning to turn your alarm off. 
        4. Turn your ringer on and store in another room | This one is new for me but I am doing it more and more. I normally have my ringer off because ringers and sound notifications annoy me. They break my stride and demand my attention when they are rarely deserving of my immediate attention. Placing my phone in another room and turning my ringer on will allow me to answer important phone calls that might come in but still keep my eyes, ears and hands available to enjoy and serve my family when I’m home. The texting, commenting and reading about all the interweb non-sense can wait. I’ve used this technique in the car as well. I just place my phone inside my console where I cannot see it or touch it. 
        5. Leave it in the car | This one is particularly on point for dates, nights out with friends and family meals. "Be present” has become a buzzword and its a darn good one. Leave the phone in the car. Most of the time, whoever you want to talk to at that time is sitting at the table with you. Enjoy being with them and don’t brainlessly escape to someone else’s life and table. Be present and enjoy the ones right in front of you. 

        Hope this helps. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

      6. 6 Tips for Developing Great Communication in Your Relationship


        If trust is the foundation of a great relationship then communication is the plumbing. When communication starts to get backed up, things can get messy and our relationship starts to stink. Here are six tips to developing great communication in your relationship. 

        Learn the Language

        It has been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Whatever planet you’re from and whatever language you speak, we don’t all come from the same place or communicate in the same way. Taking the time to actually learn how your partner/spouse communicates is essential in building great communication in your relationship. I have no reason to be angry when I’m in Mexico and the people there don’t understand my English. We get so frustrated when our significant other doesn’t understand what we are feeling, thinking or saying and we often blame them but what if we are just speaking the wrong language? Meeting each other half way is the best approach when it comes to learning the language. You actually develop a third, unique and intimate language of your own. 

        Develop Great Timing

        Having the deep, difficult conversation that has been building up over the last 6 months right when he/she walks in the door from a stressful day at work is not the right recipe for a positive outcome. The great quarterback/wide receiver combos on our favorite football teams are able to keep the ball moving down the field and eventually score by developing great timing and chemistry. We can sense and know each others mood throughout the week and find the perfect timing for both our normal and deeper life conversations. 

        It’s How You Say It

        I usually place timing and tone together in one bucket. They are both two sides of the same coin, meeting your partner/spouse right where they are at. Not where I wish they were or how I wish they would react but where they are; insecurities, anxieties, flaws and all. Chances are, there are at least several times that what you said wasn’t all that bad but how you said it changed the course of the entire night, week or month even. Consider tone as an important piece of the puzzle in building great communication in your relationship. 

        Lean In

        Sometimes the conversation keeps getting put off. The pain, frustration and loneliness keeps getting swept under the rug until our problems have mounted up to much more than communication issues. I wonder how many marriages could have been saved from mental breakdowns, infidelity and many more issues if someone would have stopped when they sensed pain and just leaned in to ask what’s going on. Lean in lovingly when your partner is shutting down or showing signs of pain and allow them to progress towards opening up at their pace. 

        Schedule Fun

        What does fun have to do with communication?! Uh, everything. When we are having fun together, I’m less likely to take offense, to question motives or to be selfish. All these get in the way of great communication and keeping your relationship fun is a vital part of the last tip, trust their heart. 

        Trust their Heart

        The truth is that none of us are perfect communicators. Some of the world’s foremost communicators have marriage issues because they can communicate with excellence to the masses but not with their own spouse. When we, or our partner/spouse, are failing to communicate well (time, language or tone) we must rely on the trust we have built with one another over time. When I struggle to communicate what I’m feeling or going through I need my wife to trust my heart. Trust that I mean well. Trust that I’m trying. Trust that I only want the best for her. Remember, communication is the plumbing but trust is the foundation. 

      7. 7 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your In-Laws

        7 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your In-Laws
        1. Realize You’re on the Same Team
          • What has brought you into one another’s lives is your love for their child. The child they changed a thousand diapers for. The child they made five thousand PB&J’s for. The child that has their eyes, their nose, their laugh, their walk and until you came around, their devotion. Respect what they have invested in their child and work with them, not against them. 
        2. Give the Benefit of the Doubt
          • Parents invest their entire lives into their children and the transition to let them establish their own family is often difficult for them.  Don't assume the worst about their intentions with every comment and action. Realize that there is often selfishness and manipulation at play but that isn’t always the case. 
        3. Choose to Not Be Offended
          • You will lead a considerably miserable life if you allow yourself to be offended by everything that could offend you. Don’t be offended by every family tradition and routine that is different than what you’re used to. Embrace one another’s traditions and personalities as the makeup of the family only gets more diverse and rich. 
        4. Write an Honest Handwritten Note
          • It doesn’t have to be handwritten, an honest heartfelt text message can go a long way too, but it is a lost art that certainly captures the attention of the receiver and the intentions of giver. Say the encouraging things you never seem to find the time to say but will matter a great deal to them.
        5. Find a Way to Create Some Alone Time with Them
          • I’m reminded of Ben Stiller’s character, Greg (or Gaylord), in Meet the Parents as he attempts to get some alone time with Pam’s dad, Robert DeNiro. Greg rides along with his intimidating father-in-law for a quick run to the store and of course, it’s disastrous. It makes for a great movie but these simple ride alongs are every day excellent opportunities for one on one time that can help build a foundation for a great relationship.  
        6. Include Them in your Life: text threads, pictures, planning, etc… 
          • There is a running joke between Taran and I when we do a group text to the grandparents with a picture of our kids, who will be the first to text back? And after that, who will have the most over-the-top response with the most emojis in tow? Be proactive in continuing to involve them in your life instead of constantly trying to shut them out. 
        7. Have Honest Conversations about Boundaries 
          • Establishing excellent relationships with your in-laws is a process but so are all your other relationships. Your marriage will have many challenging learning seasons and you can expect this in this relationship as well. Some parents, in-laws, adult children and spouses are more ready for this transition than others. One final key component to building a great in-law relationship is to have honest conversations about boundaries in the right time and tone. Both parties have to be prepared to live out points #1-3 for this to turn out in a positive manner. Otherwise, you can probably count on working through some conflict. The in-law relationship provides many complexities and challenges to it but is well worth the investment to build
      8. 5 Keys to Fighting Fair in Your Marriage

        5 Keys to Fighting Fair in Your Marriage
        In marriage, like champion boxers, you have to approach the fight the right way. Here are some keys to a clean fight so that you both come out alive.
        • Listen Lovingly. Don't be so defensive about everything. When you listen lovingly you actually listen for what they are saying and how they are feeling and not just setting yourself up for the counter punch argument to why you are right and they are wrong. Getting to the root understanding of how your spouse is feeling is essential in fighting forward.
        • Timing and Tone are Vital: Sometimes as a spouse you feel like you have to bob and weave to say the right thing at the right time and in just the right way. It is easy for this marital duty to feel like a chore, the burden of a needy spouse, but it is important we see it differently. We must view this for what it is in the truest sense, not as we might in the moments of stress, exhaustion or anger. Our sensitivity to time and tone is another way we serve our spouse for who and where they are, not who and where we wish they were. 
        • Stay Focused: one of the most common reasons couples end up fighting about the same thing over and over again is a lack of focus in their arguments. The fight starts about the dishes, jumps to the laundry, hops over to money for a terrible turn, hobbles down the hall of the past and then both parties collapse on the living room floor, writhing in anger, pain and frustration for another fight that only set us further back. Fight with purpose. Fight forward. Argue to get somewhere and to learn something that you didn't know before. It's difficult in the heat of the moment but try to stay focused on one topic and work to come to a resolution on it. 
        • No Low Blows: No one can hurt us more than those that know us best. Make up your mind to never go there. Never take a shot in their place of vulnerability. The insecurity that has led them to depression and shame. The failures of their past that only you know about. Anger and pride will attempt to convince us to hit them in the area that we know will bring them to their knees. You will forget what you argued over but neither of you will forget the time you crossed the line. The closer we are to someone, the deeper the words cut. 
        • Fight in the same direction.  Couples that argue regularly forget that they are on the same team. The love of their life  turns into a bitter rival. When you fight in the same direction you both strive for peace. Blessed are the peacemakers. Celebrate their success and mourn in their pain with them. We win as a team. We lose as a team. 
      9. 3 Steps to Prepare for Marriage

        3 Simple (and difficult) Steps to Prepare for Marriage
        • Get Really Healthy
          • This isn’t about fitting into a wedding dress or getting beach ready for your honeymoon but really about emotional health. Most marriages struggle out of the gate because of mingling two people with a lot of baggage. Think of yourself hustling through the airport with a ton of baggage as opposed to a light backpack. The light carry on will make the journey so much more enjoyable. Whatever weighs you down individually will now weigh you both down as a couple.
        • Write down the non-neogitables
          • This might seem a little trite or futile but revisiting these non-negotiables can save you from wasting time, energy and heartbreak on someone that won’t be around for the long haul. It also might not be a bad idea to have a trusted friend talk through these with you, preferably one who has a decent track record on the relationship front. This can also help breakthrough some silly superficial desires that might keep you from finding someone you can connect with on many levels, not just the physical. 
        • Quit messing around with people you don’t intend to marry
          • My dad always gave me very simple advice in dating, “If you don’t plan on marrying her, why are you dating her?” Gotta love some straight forward dad advice. Many times singles date around, not looking for a spouse, but simply to fill short term needs (physical and emotional). Granted, the process of dating can help you learn more about yourself and the spouse that will fit best with you. The sad part is that we waste a lot of time, energy and money on someone we have no intentions of spending the rest of our lives with.