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8 Takeaways From The XO Marriage Conference

This past weekend our church hosted the 2019 XO Marriage Simulcast. The conference took place in Texas but we participated through simulcast and experienced some incredible speakers. Every marriage I know can use some help. Some of it is just tidying up places that we have let go while other couples need a complete makeover. Over the two days, I took lots of notes and plan to implement some of the things that I learned. I want to share eight of my takeaways that might give you some encouragement and insight as well.

Time For Communication – Jimmy Evans

Communication is critical for any marriage. It serves many purposes from information, to conflict resolution to romance. We can use words to heal our marriage. Jimmy Evans chose to allocate times to different types of communication we all need. This simple guideline may be of assistance in your marriage.

  • Proactive time: 3-5 days per year where you plan and decide what the year is going to look like and what your plan of action is from money management to parenting to dates.
  • Personal time: 1 hour per day where you unpack your day and talk about what happened. He encouraged this to be electronic free.
  • Intimate time: 3-5 minutes per day where you tell each other how much you love one another and what you mean to each other.


Rhythms and Stories – Jefferson Bethke

This presentation was jam-packed. The essential point, however, was for us to look at our view of time. The Eastern world views time circularly. You live and die and then it starts all over. The Western world sees it as linear. We will one day die so do as much as you can before that happens. God’s timing is rhythmic; it is both circular and linear. You are going somewhere but there has to be time to reflect. He spoke about the importance of the family table and the meals we eat and the stories we tell. The world’s story will win if your family does not have one of it’s own.

  • Daily – some things should happen daily that strengthen our family
  • Weekly – this might be a date night or family game night
  • Yearly – Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are built in times for us to celebrate together


Don’t confuse the faith to believe with the discipline to endure – Jimmy Evans

Some people think that being an optimist solves many problems. Attitude toward anything does have a significant impact but the divorce rate is not that different between optimists and pessimists. Why? Because marriage still takes discipline. Hope is not a strategy. You still have to take the steps necessary to have a successful marriage and you have to be willing to endure even the most difficult days. It will get better but you must be willing to endure until it does.

Great marriages are great because they deal with their baggage – Tim Ross

Everyone has baggage. Some have a little and some have a lot. The question is not whether you have baggage, but whether you are going to manage it. Identify it. Talk about it. Deal with it. Then put it away so when it pops up again you know how to respond.

A successful marriage is less about finding the perfect match and more about working on it every day – Dan Liam

Mr. Right. Mrs. Perfect. We are all looking for that exact match when we get married. When it doesn’t work out we excuse ourselves by saying we were just not compatible. You will never find the perfect match. You will have a great marriage if you work on it every day. That is not an excuse to settle for anyone. It is just a reminder that daily work is more important than the perfect match.

Sharing Withholds – Les Parrott

We forget to say things from time to time. We meant to, but it slipped our mind. Sometimes it is a positive thing or a compliment while other times it is something negative. Sharing withholds is a time you set aside each week to share 3 things you forgot to mention. Two positive and one negative. After each person shares, you have to wait at least 30 minutes before you can talk about any of them. This gives you time to process so you respond and not react.

Your problem is not a punishment, but a platform for God’s power – Michael Todd

Just this morning I was sharing with someone in a message that something that happened to them years ago would make them a better parent to their married children today. The thing you are going through or struggling with in your marriage right now is not punishment. It is a platform for God to work and use it for His glory.

One of the reasons you are acting the way you are is because you don’t know who you are – Jimmy Evans

We struggle with our identity in Jesus Christ. We do not know who we are and are seeking someone to affirm something in us. One of the reasons why we act the way we do is because we have not discovered who we really are. We are a child of God. Stop letting culture define you. Live the life God created for you and be who He designed you to be.


I hope you will take some of these and apply them to your marriage and family. You will be better for it.  If you attended the conference, I would love to hear your takeaways as well. They might benefit someone else.

When Was The Last Time You Did Something New

We are creatures of habit. Our brains develop habits to keep us from having to think about certain functions or activities. We tend to wear the same clothes every week. We eat the same meals in the same places. We hang out with the same people and watch the same type of television shows or movies. There is value in routine and having a certain level of comfort, but there is also the danger of losing the “O” and routine turning into a rut-ine.

I once heard Zig Ziglar say that a rut was a grave with both ends knocked out of it. I am not sure if you feel like you are in a rut or you feel stuck, but routines and habits were never meant to be a trap. There are many benefits to flexing our mental muscles. There is research on both the physical and mental health benefits of trying something new. I will leave the medical research to the professionals in that field, but I can tell you about some of the benefits I have experienced and observed in the lives of others when they try something new.

New Solutions To Old Problems

This is the most common experience I have had. I try something new and it opens my mind to a solution to a problem I have been working through. Sometimes it is the very thing that was making me feel stuck or stressed. When you try something new, it opens up new parts of your thinking and exposes you to new things which often reveal a solution to a problem you are trying to solve. The two things may be completely unrelated. I have been traveling to a new place and suddenly had an idea that solved a problem back home. The solution to your current stress may be found in something brand new.

New Relationships

I love talking with people and engaging with people. Every time I do something new I meet new people. One of the most out-of-character experiences that I have had was spending several days in a cave monastery in Moldova. No one there spoke English so it was work to communicate when eating. In the cave was a single monk who had made that his home for 12 years. Everything he owned was in a space that was about 6’x8’ (a cave). Over the few days I was there, we had several conversations using Google Translate and I was inspired to do other new things in my life. As a matter of fact, I have even created one routine because of that experience. I have a prayer list on my phone that I pray over every day. New people in your life will always open up new things for you.

Overcome Fear

One of the main reasons we do not try new things is because we are afraid. We are afraid it might go wrong or we may not like it. We are scared that we will get injured or someone will laugh. Most commonly we are just afraid that we will fail. Fear is such a strong emotion that it can drive everything in our life. If we are not careful we will approach every situation with apprehension and anxiety. Trying something new will not only help overcome the fear of the new thing that we are trying but it will also make us more confident in the things that we do every day.

I challenge you today to try something new. Go somewhere you have never been. Eat something you have never eaten. Take a dance class or jump out of an airplane. Whatever new thing that has crossed your mind multiple times but you have hesitated, put it on your calendar right now and do it. You will find other things improve because of it.

Clues We Should Be Looking For

Every marriage is a work in progress. I have yet to find the married couple that has figured everything out. I have met some people who have given up, but I have yet to meet someone who has it all under control. Paul even spoke of it as a mystery in Ephesians 5. He wrote, “ 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery,” (Ephesians 5:31-32a). The challenge with mysteries is understanding the clues. If we can understand the clues, we can get closer to the answer.

Too often we settle into our old habits and old ways and just accept things as they are when with a little effort, we could drastically improve our relationship with our spouse. If your marriage is not what you wish it to be, there are some specific places where you can look for clues that will assist you in solving the mystery.

Past Experiences

It has been said that our life is the sum of our experiences up to this point. Both your experiences and your spouse’s experiences have an effect on the relationship. Thinking through where we have been and what we have done and the people we have interacted with, including the family relationships that we were raised in, will offer significant clues with how to adjust to make our marriage better.

Past Hurts

Hurt people, hurt people. We tend to lash out in places where we feel pain or have previously felt pain. Often we are more guarded in a particular place if we have experienced pain there. This does not mean that we do not need healing, but it can help us be more aware of our own defensiveness and understand why our spouse struggles with particular subjects.

Current Stresses

Sometimes our current pressure is what is driving the tension or problems in the home. It may not be the thing that the conflict is about, but it may be the underlying factor. For example, if we are experiencing stress at work or our finances are in disarray, it may cause us to lash out about other things or make us more irritable in general. When we understand how stress affects our attitude and our life, we can work to alleviate the stressful areas and also be more aware when it is affecting our relationship.

Repeated Complaints

If something continues to be repeated it is likely something that needs to be addressed. Is there something you have heard numerous times from your spouse? If so, it may be a clear indication that it is an area needing attention. Turning a deaf ear to a constant complaint will improve nothing and may, in fact, cause damage that will be even more difficult to repair than making a small adjustment that has been requested.

Just becoming aware and making a single adjustment can make a significant difference in your marriage. Do not settle for a bad marriage. Search for clues that will make things better. Not just ways your spouse can change, but ways you can change and adapt to have the best relationship you can have.

Why We Resist Financial Advice

One of the most difficult places for people to accept advice or instruction is in their finances. It is not because everyone does well here. It is the number one cause for divorce in the United States. Over 75% of full time workers live paycheck to paycheck. 70% carry consumer debt. With those statistics you would think we would be hungry to learn and get advice but that is not the case.


There is no shortage of advice either. People like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have sold millions of books and have had millions of people go through their courses. There are plenty of financial counselors and advisors in even the smallest of towns. Resources are not the problem. There are some underlying reasons why we avoid or resist advice concerning money; here are four of them.


It Requires Discipline

This is usually where the financial wheels struggle the most. Even if we get advice or read a book, the things they suggest for improving our financial situation require a certain amount of discipline. We have to consistently do some things that are not always convenient or comfortable. And much like other areas where we may struggle, discipline is necessary if we are going to be financially fit. 


Cultural Pressure

There is this constant pull to have more and to do more. Having more and doing more usually require more money. So instead of missing out, we stretch ourselves financially to do what everyone else is doing. Children and teens are not the only ones struggling to conform. The problem is as we get older, the conformity gets more expensive in the form of houses, cars and vacations. 


Everyone Has It

Money is common. Everyone has it. We want to believe that if it is so common and everyone has it then it must be easy to handle. Just because something is common does not make it easy. Sometimes that complicates things even more. You do not have to fall into the trap of doing what everyone else does with their money.


We Don’t Want To Feel Dumb

Our insecurities make us afraid to ask for help. We do not want anyone to think we are dumb or that we cannot figure it out on our own. The smartest people get the best advice. Don’t believe that smart or successful people always figure things out on their own. They are smart enough to get help. Don’t allow your insecurities to keep you broke and struggling. 


Clearly, the majority of us could improve the way we handle our money. Don’t allow something to hold you back from getting the help you need to make the changes necessary to enjoy financial freedom. 

The Things We Are Not Good At

We are good at everything. At least in our minds we are. Even when we recognize where we struggle, we continue to subscribe to the misconception that everyone else believes we have to be good at everything. So, in order to comply with that reasoning, we do certain things only because we believe it is expected. This is more than just strengths and weaknesses. These are things that, for whatever reason, you just don’t yet know how to do.

John Maxwell has said that while he was pastoring, especially when he felt his church needed to hear about a subject that he did not know well or had questions about himself, he would bring someone in to speak on that subject. He needed to grow and he wanted the people he led to get the best teaching available. I find myself doing the same thing for my own church. There are topics that are just not my strength and never will be because of my personality or interests. But, I do want the people I lead to hear those messages so I make sure to have those people come.

This topic is not limited to only pastors and speaking. There are so many places in our lives where we keep the people around us from experiencing the best because we feel like we are the ones who have to do the work. Culture often puts pressure on us to do what others are doing. If you are a husband, you have to do these things to be a good husband. If you are a mother, these things are expected of good mothers. I am not telling you there are certain things every husband or mother has to do, although there probably are some things you should be doing. What I do want you to know is that you do not have to do everything that everyone else is doing in order to be successful. As a matter of fact, those you love may be better off if you let someone else do it.

So today I want to release you from the stress of trying to do what everyone else does the way they do it. Don’t be intimidated to let someone else do something they can do better than you. Everyone around you will benefit, including yourself.

Its’ Time To Sell The Boat

In 1988 I was in need of a job and took a position with a company selling new restaurant equipment. That job led me to two other companies both of which sold new equipment. These companies usually discarded or left old equipment that was being removed from the locations where they were installing their new equipment. At one location in Rockingham, NC, we installed a dishwasher and the old dishwasher was going to be left. It was a Hobart brand and I knew that Hobart equipment was mostly sold through exclusive dealerships. I called the dealership closest to me and asked if it had any value. He told me to bring it by. I took it by, he inspected it in the back of my truck and offered me $900. I could not take his money fast enough. I had just sold a new $6,000 dishwasher on which my commission was approximately $200. I took a discarded piece of equipment considered to be trash and sold it for $900. I continued to resell the used equipment and over time, I started my own business selling used restaurant equipment.

Over the years the business has offered blessings I would not have otherwise been able to enjoy. It allowed me to take less money for salary when I pastored my first church. It sustained me in the moments of my life when I had nothing else to do. When I took a position at Open Door, I stopped taking a salary from the business and gave some of that money to the church. Over the years it has allowed me to take a smaller salary from Open Door so we could hire other positions. It has provided things for my family we might not otherwise have. It has also provided it’s share of heartaches. There have been difficult times financially as any small business owner can appreciate. There have been disagreements with customers and times people did not feel like they were treated fairly. I think most every business owner can appreciate the joys and the heartaches I am talking about.

Over the past few years, though my day to day involvement in the business has been limited, it has still required a certain amount of my time and energy. I had hoped one of the children would want to take over the business, and though they have worked for or even managed it at different times, their interests are elsewhere. As the church has grown there have been times when the mental strain of the business affected my ability to lead at church. I struggled with what to do and how to do it.

Several years ago while in Israel, I heard a passage read from John 21 that resonated with me. It was about the disciples going fishing and Jesus appearing to them on the shore. They did not recognize who He was, even when He spoke to them. This fishing boat has been a part of Peter’s life throughout the gospels. He is called out of it to follow Jesus. He finds himself in it several times with Jesus. In this story he decides he is going fishing to get away and the others go with him. When Peter realizes who Jesus is and gets to Him, Jesus looks at Peter and asks, “Do you love me more than these?” There are a lot of “these” around. There are his friends, th 153 large fish he just caught, the boat….. Peter assures Jesus that he loves Him, but Jesus keeps asking. I am not sure, but it seems to me that Peter’s boat may have become a distraction. Jesus keeps telling Peter to feed the sheep. Jesus knows about all of the things Peter is going to do in the coming days like preach on the Day of Pentecost and speak to kings. Peter does not know these things, but Jesus is trying to prepare him. He keeps saying “feed my sheep”. This story is the last time we find Peter with the boat.

The boat in and of itself was not bad. It actually served a purpose on several occasions but Jesus did not want Peter to miss an opportunity because of the boat. So apparently, Peter walked away from it one last time. I am glad he did because he accomplished some amazing things in the days that followed.

I have reached a place in my life where it is time to sell the boat. Not the boat I literally own but rather my business. It will not be easy. I have 30 years invested in it. It is a part of my life. But it is time. I do not know what God has in store for me or the church, but I don’t want to be distracted when that opportunity comes. I believe there are greater days ahead. So, if you see me talking about my restaurant equipment business more in the coming months, know that it is my path to selling “the boat” and to clear my mind to be used more by God in the things He wants to accomplish.

4 Things To Try In The New Year

The New Year brings people face to face with an opportunity to get a fresh start. We sit down and make resolutions while boldly proclaiming our intentions to anyone who will listen. Some of the resolutions are what you would typically expect. Health and finances usually top people’s lists. The gym is overflowing during January. Some resolutions are a little more personal and not shared as often. Some people even choose not to make resolutions at all because they struggle with following through or they’re not sure where to even start.

If you are tired of making the same resolutions every year, maybe a new approach will help. As I am preparing for this New Year, I am using a different model for my list. There is an old wedding tradition that says the bride should wear “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”. I am going to use that saying as a framework for a few resolutions for the coming year. Maybe it will work for you as well.

Something Old

I have no doubt that there is something that makes your list just about every year. It is that thing that you cannot seem to overcome or fail to consistently stay on the right track. It is different for everyone but it seems that every time you make one of these lists, this one thing has to be on it. Don’t give up. Keep at it. Put that thing on your list again this year. You may be tired of it but don’t give up. It is OK to keep working on something. Walking long enough in the right direction will get you to the right place eventually.

Something New

One of the things that makes life stale is that we stop doing new things. We get in routines which turn into ruts, and a rut is nothing but a grave with both ends knocked out. One of your plans for the New Year should be to try something new; something you have never done. Maybe it could even be something you’ve never even considered doing. My new thing this year will be to parachute from an airplane.

Something Borrowed

We all think we are smart, but we do not always have the best ideas. One of the greatest resources in the world is seeing what works for other people. If you see someone successful in an area where you want to see better results, why not ask them what they are doing and then make that part of your plan for the New Year. In any area you are looking to improve, there are people willing to offer suggestions and advice. Borrow part of their formula. It might be exactly what you need.

Something Blue

So this was the one that I had to think about a little more. The other three I was already processing but “something blue” seemed a little weird. But the truth is all of us could add a little color to our life. I bought a red velvet blazer and wore it recently for the first time. Maybe you could try a new color or style of clothes. Paint a room or a wall in your house. Hang out with people who are completely different from you. Wear some fun socks. Your outlook will change when you add a little color to your life.

All of us have changes we want to make and changes we need to make. If you are stuck trying to figure out what to work on next year, maybe these four ideas will prompt you to think of something that will make a difference. I hope that this coming year will be your best ever.

She Doesn’t Believe In Jesus or Santa

This has been a very special Christmas season for my grandson Vandin. He is 7 and it’s almost magical to him. Kids usually enjoy Christmas, but this has been especially true for him this year. His excitement is apparent in so many things – the things he has noticed, his desire to help decorate at home and at his grandparents (even great-grandparents) and his enthusiasm to participate in the Christmas play at church. He wanted to write a letter to Santa and even his prayers at night include something about Christmas. As a grandparent, it has been exciting for me to watch as well.

Because my experiences were different than most others’, it’s probably even more exciting for me. I cannot recall a time when I believed in Santa Claus nor do I recall a time when I did not believe in Jesus. I remember having a debate with a young boy in the church about Santa Claus thinking he was ridiculous. I followed that same pattern with my own children. I’m not sure if they ever believed that Santa was real and they probably cannot recall a time when they did not know Jesus.  That is not a statement of direction, only observation. There is a conversation to be had about how to approach the subject of Santa or Jesus, but I just want to share with you the burden of a little boy and the joy that Christmas can be.

A few nights ago we were out of town so Barbara and I called Rowan and Vandin to check on their day. Vandin had been watching a YouTube tutorial on how to draw and was now showing me some of his resulting work. To my surprise, it was extremely good. He told me he was going to cut them out to take to a girl at school. His mom rolled her eyes and I chuckled a little but didn’t say much else about it.

When we returned, Barbara and I went to each lunch with Vandin one day at school. While we were sitting there, he pointed out the little girl he had given his drawings to. He then looked at me very seriously and said, “Poppy, she doesn’t believe Jesus or Santa Claus are real. She won’t believe unless she has proof. I am going to get her proof. She doesn’t need to have Christmas without Jesus or Santa”. What a wonderful insight.

Before you get too self righteous and tell me how Santa Claus should not be a part of the conversation, hear me out. How much better would this Christmas be if we were as concerned as Vandin that those close to us experienced Jesus and Santa? For Vandin, it’s a mission. The season would be a little bit brighter for those around you if they had that experience as well. Maybe we should examine our mission and make sure that the people around us know the love of Jesus and the fun of Santa this Christmas season. I am not sure you can bring physical evidence that will change someone’s mind. But you can take a few actions that will at least give them thought. This Christmas season why don’t you try to:

Listen More

Christmas seems to be a time for everyone to talk. This is what I want for Christmas. This is where I am going for Christmas. Since everyone is talking it would be a good time for us to listen. It very well may reveal something that would help us show them Christ more than they have ever experienced Him before.

Love Better

The stress and strain of a busy Christmas season can cause us to have short tempers and less patience. It can also cause us to be more critical of others and their lives. I wonder how different the season would be if we offered a little more acceptance and overlooked some flaws. What would they think if we were actively caring for people. Giving gifts is a great way to express your love for others, but there are so many other ways to show you care for the people around you.

Leverage Opportunities

There may be no time during the year that gives us more opportunities to talk about our faith than Christmas. Everywhere you go there are songs playing about a baby in a manger or angels. There are nativity scenes in all types of places. Generosity abounds. Lights signify a joyous time. All of which open a door for us to talk about our faith. We should leverage these opportunities to speak about spiritual things and what they mean in our own lives. There is no better backdrop than Christmas to share your story of faith.

You may not have people in your life who do not believe in Jesus (or Santa for that matter), but all of us have people who have chosen to ignore faith or who have drifted away from a place they used to be. Make the season a little more memorable for them. Remember as Vandin said, no one should have to do Christmas without Jesus and Santa.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.