XO 2019 Conference: Escape the Ordinary Marriage

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Favorite Conferences Messages

If you don’t speak the truth, you don’t have a marriage

Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage

 

The XO MarriageToday conference was standing room only with over 4,000 people carving out 2 days to learn about healthy marriages. Gateway Church was filled to capacity with all ages, nationalities, and faiths. Attendees ranged from singles, couples on the brink of divorce, and those hoping to hear of a new tool or strategy to help couples help themselves.

What Did You Miss?

If you didn’t know about the XO Conference or were on the long wait list to get in, you missed some pearls of marriage wisdom by a knowledgeable panel. The speakers’ openness, transparency, and stories brought a richness that can’t be replicated, so I encourage you to attend next year’s conference in Southlake, Texas. Isn’t your marriage worth it?

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Communication That Creates an Indestructible Marriage

More than 85% of couples say communication was a factor in their divorce, naturally suggesting couples need to learn how to do it better. Communication serves multiple purposes: (1) convey basic information and facts, (2) inform and transact, (3) resolve conflict, (4) create connection, (5) share personal information/revelation, and (5) conduct intimate conversation. Jimmy Evans shared the important elements in indestructible communication that support indestructible marriages:

  • Right tone: Voice affects whether a man feels respected and a woman feel secures. The right tone tells that you care.
  • Enough time: Proactive, face-to-face, and intimate conversation show that you love and appreciate your spouse. Train your kids to respect your marriage.
  • Atmosphere of trust: Trust is earned in drops and dropped in buckets. Build trust through your character, connection, and how you approach conflict.
  • Atmosphere of truth: Must be able to share yourself, have grace, and speak truth in love.

Create a team spirit by accepting differences. Adopt the attitude: I love you so much you fill in my gaps. What team are you playing on? Your own or your spouse’s?

Unpack Your Baggage

Tim Ross suggested that most couples who come for counseling think their problems and relationship are worse than most. The truth is they’re not. However, working on the marriage starts with dealing with yours and not your spouse’s baggage, because most spouses haven’t yet unpacked their own baggage.

You can’t go anywhere without baggage. You can’t go into a marriage without taking your baggage, whether it’s the size of a backpack, tote bag, suitcase, U-Haul, or van line. Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage. How do you do that?

  • Bring your bags: don’t avoid them, you have them, so bring them
  • Unpack your bags: don’t pick and chose what you bring out, unpack all of it
  • Sort through your stuff [not your spouse’s]: label your stuff and identify why it’s baggage
  • Put away your stuff: when it comes back up, you know where it is and can deal with it

How Has Marriage Changed Over the Years

The definition of marriage has changed over the last 25 years. Proposals and wedding ceremonies used to be simple affairs. Not anymore! Dan Lian noticed how the big focus is now the engagement and wedding and not the marriage. How big is the ring? Where and how do I propose? Is it all captured on camera? The proposal has become a theatrical event along with the wedding with little investment in marriage after the couples says, “I do.”

The design of marriage is good, because God, the designer, is good. If you do marriage God’s way, you set yourself up for success. A successful marriage is less about finding the perfect match and more about working at the marriage—working at it all the days of your life. Trust the design. It’s never too late, because The Holy Spirit is the counselor of the heart.

What Kind of Marriage Do You Have?

Joe and Lori Champion proposed that marriages can take one of two directions: problem-focused or purpose-focused. If you are married long enough, the issue is not whether you’ll have problems, but when.

Marriage is grounded in purpose. What is the purpose of your marriage and are you proclaiming the Gospel through your marriage? Do not lose your marriage by building something outside your marriage such as career or ministry. The marriage comes first over all other earthly pulls on your life. What priority does your marriage have in your life?

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Share What You’re Withholding

The real reason couples fight is because of a (1) perceived threat (control, judgment, demand, attach and critical) or (2) perceived neglect (uncaring, uncommitted, selfish, neglectful, disengaged). Les and Leslie Parrott are known for advocating for the fair fight. Fighting is the price we pay for intimacy, and fights are rooted in differences in perception. “Oh,” is the big word that signals the fight is over.

How do you have a good fight? Focus on sharing “withholds” which are things that aren’t shared. When couples don’t share negative withholds, they have a high rate of resurrecting. How do you share a withhold? First, ask permission on whether you can share a withhold. Second, when shared, the recipient cannot respond for 30 minutes. After a half hour he or she can ask to discuss further. This grace period allows the recipient to go from a react to a respond mode.

Withholds can also be positive. Couples neglect to share positive withholds because of fast-paced lifestyles. What withhold are you holding onto that should be shared with your spouse?

Marriage Expectations

Realistic Expectations + Biblical Skills = 100% Marriage Success

The number one reason for divorce is disappointment. Many people get married with false expectations with divorcing couples either naive optimists or extreme pessimists.

Marriage vows are covenant vows, yet American culture has turned marriage from a covenant—it’s worth what you pay for it—to a contract—which protects each party’s interests. Jimmy Evans encouraged all couples to count the cost before entering their covenant vows.

Three unchangeable realities of marriage are: (1) hurts from the past, (2) quirks in personality, and (3) ignorance of how marriage cures the opposite sex. Marriage is a healing journey with the wedding like the registration desk of the hospital. Every man can heal every woman and every woman can heal every man. Most wives’ hurts are from not feeling valued and they want to be nurtured and cherished.

Satan hates marriage, and spouses need to fight against this enemy. Marriage is the first foundation on whether every other relationship is built. Couples who have a firm grasp of reality, the right expectations, and a strong commitment of marriage are not threaten by significant problems. The good news? God gives us authority of the Satan.

How Naked Are You with Your Spouse?

I call it having no filters. Dave and Ashley Willis call it having a naked marriage. What are we both talking about? Being transparent and vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The best marriages are those where both spouses can say, “I still choose you,” when everything is shared. Will you commit to working toward a naked marriage?

Fixing Your Marriage Can Be Messy

Bringing to life the story in John 9 of the blind man whose sight was restored after Jesus spread mud [dirt and spit] over his eyes, Michael Todd shared:

  • People want miracles but without the mess. Your problem is not a punishment, it’s a platform for Jesus’ power
  • Don’t let the method of release keep you from the miracle. Stand through the method of release
  • A person’s release is more important than what people think about the release. The worse part of you with the least part of Jesus can release you from what you’ve been struggling
  • Stop caring what people think of you and their opinions

Conference Thoughts: What’s Missing?

Although I love the XO conference and agree with all the principles shared, I noticed through their testimonies that the coupled speakers were all in long first marriages—15 to 30 years—and able to work through struggles to come out stronger on the other side. I haven’t yet attended a conference where a blended couple was expanding on their truth.

I view divorce not as a punishment but as a platform for the power of restoration the second time around. Darin and I had long first marriages, 22 and 15 years, respectively, before marrying each other. Through first marriages and divorces we learned about ourselves and relationships. Unfortunately, our first marriages didn’t make it, but there’s no doubt we are applying all learnings within our second marriage with the hope that some day we’ll be invited to the podium to share what it takes to have an extraordinary marriage.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to create powerful and purposeful marriages. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Marriage Postcards: Words of Affirmation

When was the last time you sent your spouse a postcard? When was the last time you sent your spouse a postcard without leaving town?

Browsing around Gateway Church during a break in a marriage conference, I noticed a long table with stacks of post cards. The instructions were to pick a postcard, write a love letter to your spouse, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mailbox.

What a simple and brilliant idea or said another way a simply brilliant idea. I encourage you to pen a few words of praise, appreciation, or affirmation to your spouse on a postcard and put it in the mail. Tell them one or two things you love about them. Postcards are a novel and simple way to show your spouse how special he or she is to you.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to create powerful and purposeful marriages. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Is Your Church Thriving, Surviving, or Dying?

comback church

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your church involvement? What would be your score 5 years ago? How different are your answers to these two questions? Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet (Rainer, 2018) discusses the status of today’s declining churches and provides a working model for those who choose to fight for a comeback. The stories from pastors, church leadership, and membership are vulnerable and explain the “why” behind church death based on choices and their unintended consequences.

I agree with the mentioned reasons for a church’s decline and how to best address each; however, the book leaves out an important factor influencing engagement. As the saying goes: times, they are a changing! Part of a church’s decline in attendance may have little to do with the church, but the priority church has in the over-scheduled, over-stressed average American family’s life. Even if a church hits on all cylinders in outward deluge, welcoming, and back door closure, it’s hard to overcome a family’s pressure on time management with the options that technology provides.

Years ago, if you wanted to attend a service not inside brick and mortar, you only had a few TV evangelism options such Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Bakker. Technology now allows us to stream a live service of our favorite church or pastor from our iPhone or watch a video on our computer at our convenience. You could call it: church service on demand in the comfort of our own home.

I too have succumbed to watching Jeremy Foster preach on a Sunday morning in my bathrobe while eating bacon and eggs. Afterwards, I dress and get to work, saving myself a couple hours of commuting. Of course, I miss the worship music vibrating through my body and meeting up with friends. I can schedule coffee and conversation later when it’s more convenient. What about spreading the Gospel? Our church outreach includes inviting people to Saturday dinner on occasion and followed by a church service at Hope City. I’m not justifying my choices but explaining how I get comfortable with my decision.

I believe churches that will thrive will be those that break the mold on traditional church. Church members want intimacy with flexibility, which I believe will be difficult for most churches to achieve based on the traditional upbringing in how church is done. Do you wonder what church will look like 10 years from now.

Reference

Rainer, T. (2018). Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet. B&H Publishing: Nashville, TN


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

What’s Your Relationship with the Spirits …and Not the Alcoholic Types?

I find many of today’s Christian denominations avoid discussion or minimize the existence of the spiritual realm that operates in and around all human lives. The Bible tells us that Satan still has dominion of this earthly world. “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Enemies will always have the advantage when they are denied or disguised. I’d rather know there’s a real devil to battle than be uninformed or ill-equipped to fight.

spiritual realm

Why is the church not teaching Christians about the spiritual realm, preparing them for battle, and reminding them of their power? Are they afraid of scaring Christians?  Are pastors afraid that people will distance themselves from Christianity if they preach on the spiritual realm and the daily workings of demons and angels? Are we that fragile? I believe teaching on the spiritual realm provides answers and brings clarity to events that the three-dimensional world cannot explain well.

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” meaning the human lamb was sacrificed to bring new life for all who were once dead in sin and made alive in Christ. The power of darkness was now defeated. Christ’s death was the defeat of the power of Satan—his only weapon was people’s unforgiven sin.

If we don’t acknowledge or leverage the power of Jesus, we are giving our power away to Satan. When I ask Christians whether they believe the Bible represents God’s words and truth, they answer, “Yes.” When I ask whether they believe in the spiritual realm, too many look at me with a quizzical look and answer, “I’m not sure.”

The Bible tells story after story about Satan and his demons including when the Devil tempted Jesus in the dessert (Mark 1: 12-13) and Jesus casting demons out of the man into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8: 28-34). The world hasn’t changed in these thousands of years—it’s still governed by Satan and his minions.

What’s so scary about acknowledging the spiritual realm surrounds us? I know Christians who’ve seen Satan, seen demons attached to people, and gazed at wings of angels. As a child without formal Christian instruction, I didn’t have an explanation for the little demons I occasionally saw on the landing outside my bedroom door. I didn’t accept Jesus based on logical argument and exposure to the Scriptures. I came to know Jesus by unknowingly tapping into the spiritual realm. What I experienced was so real, an engineering mind couldn’t deny its existence.

When Jesus died on the cross, He gifted his power and a companion [The Holy Spirit] to anyone who chose to believe, so they would be equipped for both earthly and spiritual warfare. We honor this power when we understand the breadth and intensity of the battlefield. I understand that for those who grew up in the traditional church, acknowledging or talking about the spiritual realm may be uncomfortable. Have you had nagging thoughts that quietly whisper to you that maybe the spiritual realm really does exist, because it explains what you are feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling? Some may dismiss it as intuition, but I prefer to call it tapping into your sixth sense.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com