Some Spell Love A-C-T-I-O-N
One of my favorite authors on the area of marriage and family is psychologist Dr. Kevin Lehman. Dr. Lehman wrote a book several years ago entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen.
Let me put you at ease, this is not a book about sex, at least not as much as it is about realizing the root of a satisfying and exceptional sex-life in the bedroom is a strong and intimate relationship outside of the bedroom. I reference the book because I learned more in the first few pages of that book then in many other endeavors. Lehman recounted a story of a woman who dragged herself home after a long day, exhausted, and dreading the pile of dishes and chores that awaited her. To her astonishment she entered the kitchen and found that in place of the pile of dirty dishes there was her husband drying and putting away the last few plates. In that moment this middle-aged, somewhat pudgy man with the receding hairline was the hottest and handsomest man she’d ever seen.
We have looked at people who spell love T-I-M-E and those who spell it B-R-A-V-O. In this post we’ll take a look at those who spell it A-C-T-I-O-N.
People that spell love this way are people whose primary love language is ACTS OF SERVICE. These folks aren’t impressed with what say as much as what you do. They also don’t crave that QUALITY TIME experience as much (not that time together ever hurts).
A is for Act
The thing that makes the story Kevin Lehman shared with his readers such a significant story is that the husband wasn’t asked or expected to do the dishes. He saw them and went to work on them. Loving a person with acts of service means seeing needs and acting on them.
I struggled with this for years. I was just oblivious to things my wife needed me to do to help her—and to love her with action. While we were in college, and both taking a full load of classes, the need to ACT became more apparent to me. It didn’t come naturally for me to see these things…it still doesn’t…but I discovered that by doing these little acts of service for her she felt loved.
For example, this week she’s been taking a class all week. It’s been a pretty intensive course and has meant hours of homework when she gets home. When she did finally make it home after class I determined to make it as easy as possible for her to do her homework and not be distracted or interrupted. It was not easy, but a couple days later she said—and I quote her exactly—“I don’t know what you did the other night, but I felt really loved.” I just have to say that this statement was better than any trophy, certificate of achievement, or other honor I could ever receive. (Did I mention that my primary love language is Words of Affirmation?)
C is for Commitment
This doesn’t come easy. There are plenty of times that I struggle with acts of service. the excuses come very easily: I am busy…I am tired…I am…I am…I am… Did you notice that all of those excuses centered on “I” and not on anyone else. Loving with acts of service requires a commitment to placing that person as a priority.
This is what I did when I scored so many points the other day. I made the decision that no matter what I was going to help her get her work completed. I was committed to her, and placed myself second to her needs that night. It’s not easy, but knowing that she felt so loved makes it worth it.
T is for Try
You might not know where to start with this. My advice is to try something you don’t normally do or have been asked to do. For example, if you don’t usually take care of the trash, do that. If you don’t normally clean the inside of your spouses car, try that. Try things and see what kind of response you get. If your wife usually spends time after supper cleaning the kitchen alone step in and work along side of her, or invite her to sit down while you take care of things. If she doesn’t pass out and fall to the floor in shock you might find that you have just put some nickels in the love bank.
I is for Incognito
Let me tell you where I have blown it before. I have done all the right stuff at times…worked really hard at serving my beloved bride, and thought she didn’t notice. So, in an effort to help her appreciate all I had done, I began listing everything I had been doing for her. Strangely this approach backfired and actually had a negative effect. Go figure.
The lesson in this is that if I have to announce all that I am doing in my serving of my wife then I’m not actually doing it as service but as employment where I expect compensation. The Bible would refer to this principle as “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing.” (Matt. 6.3) Doing something to be recognized for it robs the action of it’s opportunity to be a service.
O is for Often
How often should you love with acts of service? Well, I would think that if you are really loving with acts of service you are sort of always on duty, looking for ways to meet needs and help by doing. Make it frequent…often…seek ways to express your love in what you do, because sometimes actions to speak louder than words.
N is for Notice
Finally, as you make this commitment be sure that you are taking some time to notice the response from your partner. Look for evidence that what you are doing is making a difference. If you notice that it really isn’t then one of a few things may be happening.
- You have missed their love language.
- You have not been authentic in your service
- You have not given it enough time
Do not give up. It’s never wrong to serve your sweetie!
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages asks: “Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Speak the language of love!
Some Spell Love B-R-A-V-O
Are You a Cheerleader?
Have you ever wondered why football teams need cheer leaders? I mean, can you picture a scenario where they are of any real value to the game? Imagine, you are down 35 to nothing. The coach has tried everything, the team is dejected, and the fans are heading for the exits, and it’s just the start of the second quarter. Suddenly a quiet but growing chant begins to waft through the stadium.
“Be aggressive…Be aggressive…B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E…”
The quarter back leaps to his feet and yells to the rest of the team…that’s it guys…we forgot to be aggressive. With that the tide of the game turns and what looked like a hopeless slaughter turns into an overwhelming victory. At the end of the game the cheer squad if lifted up on to the shoulders of the players as they stride off the field victorious, thanks to the cheerleaders.
Sound silly? It would be if it weren’t for the knowledge that our words, or sometimes lack of words, can in fact have a significant impact on the lives of those we love. See, just like quality time is one of the love languages, so too is giving words of affirmation. Actions often speak louder than words, but not always. Let’s consider this love language as we see that some people spell love B-R-A-V-O.
B is for Basic
There are basic things that we do with our words that have a tremendous impact. It starts with simply being polite and well-mannered. I’m often stunned—and saddened—but the number of couples I talk to who have stopped being “nice” to each other.
As a kid I remember being reminded at least a million times to say “please” and “thank you” to everyone. They were referred to as “The Magic Words.” I’m not sure if these is still taught to kids today…evidence seems to say that it isn’t. However, in our most intimate and closest relationship we need to keep these words, and many more, active in our vocabulary bank. We have to speak to each other with basic courteousy, whether our primary love language is words of affirmation or not we should make this a practice.
R is for Random
One fellow came home from work with a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates for his wife with no real reason or special occasion to celebrate, just to say, “I love you.” She met him and the door and burst into long painful sobs. He was, understandably, confused. She began to lament all that had happened through the course of the day…broken dishes…backed up drains….messy kids….burned dinner…etc….finally gasping a breath she concluded, “and now to top everything off you come home drunk!!’
Random words of affirmation will be surprising, and may at first be met with skepticism—especially if this has not been a regular thing for you. If you start today giving words of affirmation to you beloved, but before today most of what you had to say wasn’t worthy of saying, it may sound a little like a foreign language. Keep at it though, because it will pay off in huge dividends over time. Keeping it random helps us avoid getting into ruts where they are the same words at the same time which would eventually sound somewhat hallow. Surprise with your speech and see what happens.
A is for Authentic
It is possible to really go “over board” and become unbelievable with our words of affirmation and appreciation. (Appreciation would have also been a good ‘A is for…’ topic too) We need to be authentic with these verbal gifts. For example, telling my wife that she is the best cook in the world and should have her own restaurant would be exaggerating and she would see right through it. (Honey, I’m not saying you aren’t a good cook…you know what I mean.) It wouldn’t be authentic praise and therefore would sound hallow, albeit flamboyant.
So, keep you words of praise and appreciation believable and authentic. Talk about the traits and character of your spouse. Positively point out things that he/she has actually done that have meant something to you. If you start offering false praise it will become harder for the one you are attempting to affirm to believe that you mean what you are saying, and you will be leaving them feeling unloved once again.
V is for Voluntary
At first it may seem that you are having to force yourself to do this. That’s ok. As I mentioned earlier, if you haven’t already made a habit of being complimentary and courteous in your speech with each other it might feel awkward when you get started. Keep at it though. As this becomes a practice it will become more natural and essentially voluntary. I believe that you will even want to do this more as you open your eyes to the things your partner is doing that you might not have noticed before and as you become aware of the positive aspects of your relationship.
O is for Often
There isn’t a pattern or formula that comes recommended by the experts. I would simply say that the best frequency for these words of affirmation would be to make them part of your life often. A good time to do this is on a date night—which I highly recommend for every couple. Go to dinner, even if it’s the McDonalds dollar menu, hold hands, and speak affirmation to each other. As I said, even if this isn’t your primary love language, no harm will be done by hearing words of affirmation. If this is your partners love language, however, you will be loading their love tank in a major way, and you will be giving them a precious gift that there is far to little of today…
The song, “Home on the Range” talks of a place “where seldom is heard a discouraging word.” Truth be told that isn’t true about most homes and families around us.
Yesterday I watched, sadly, as a couple tore into each other in a public parking lot. Profanity, anger, hatred, all seethed out of both of them. As they walked sullenly to their car I wondered what it would be like in their home. Every couple has faced times of pain and anger…words spoken in haste. Making a practice of speaking encouragement and affirmation will change your home…and perhaps impact other areas of your life as well. Give it a go, after all…
Some spell love…
Some Spell Love T-I-M-E
One of the books that I recommend to every couple I counsel or come in contact with is THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Gary Chapman. It addresses the way we communicate love with one another. More importantly it reveals for us how often we miscommunicate when it comes to saying “I love you” with more than words. As author Gary Chapman says, this type of miscommunication leaves one of the people in the relationship facing an empty “love tank.” For more about this I recommend picking up the book and reading it…I know you will not be disappointed.
For the next several posts I thought I might briefly pick apart these five love languages and how they work in our relationships. We’ll start today with “quality time.”
T is for Together
One of the first things you need to know about quality time is that it is time spent together. It can’t be accomplished via email, text messages, telephone calls, etc. Quality time is together time. If this is the primary love language of your beloved you will often hear requests for your time. Something as simple as grocery shopping together can help feed their love bank and help them feel loved by you. It’s about being together.
I is for Interaction
Quality time is giving someone time that is not divided by other interests or attention grabbers. For example, sitting in front of the television (normally) would not qualify as quality time. Togetherness is about more than being in the same location, it involves interaction. If the television, computer, movie screen, or children are getting your attention you are likely not interacting in a way that leads to quality time. Make sure that you are scheduling some quality time that will be free from distractions and allow for greater interaction.
M is for Meaningful
A key element of this Quality Time is that you engage in meaningful conversation together. In his own BLOG Chapman writes:
Like words of affirmation, the language of quality time also has many dialects. One of the most common dialects is that of quality conversation. By quality conversation, I mean sympathetic dialogue where two people are sharing their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings, and their desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. If your spouse’s primary love languages is quality time, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. Sit down. Ask questions, and listen. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/2009/01/speaking-the-love-language-of-quality-time/
One of the things my wife and I strive to do is get together and have coffee and play cribbage in the morning. It allows us some time, before the demands of the day flood in, to talk and enjoy time together. Another way of doing this is by maintaining a regular date-night together where you spend time talking with each other.
At a Loss of what to Talk About? Try these for starters:
- Something you Appreciate
- Some New Information
- Things you wonder about
- Something that’s bugging you
- Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams you have
E is for Engaging
Being engaged means that you are actively participating in the time together. You have to be there when you are there. I admit that I can easily be guilty of being present physically but far removed emotionally and mentally. Your primary love language might not be Quality Time. In fact it might not be your secondary love language either. However, if it is your partner’s love language it is crucial for you to demonstrate your love for them through their love language. So be there and be engaged.
So…Give Time a Try
None of this is going to happen automatically, you will need to make it a priority. However, the more you engage in this practice the more natural it will become. Even if Quality Time is not your primary love language you will begin to enjoy the time you spend filling your sweethearts love tank, and you will learn new things about them that you might not have discovered any other way.
For more information and encouragement I, once again, strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. It’s available at most bookstores, Walmart, and online at numerous locations. I prefer www.cbd.com for my book purchases, but www.amazon.com would have it as well.
Check in later for the next installment on the Love Languages.
TIME TOGETHER IS NOT AUTOMATICALLY TOGETHER TIME
As a pastor I have the pleasure of working with couples in a variety of situations. Sometimes these encounters are very difficult and painful, but most are rewarding, and even inspiring. One of the most exciting things I get to be a part of is helping a couple getting ready for marriage and life together. Recently I met with a couple to talk about their upcoming wedding, and more importantly the marriage that follows. From that time together I have developed the following thoughts
“We’re together so much, but I don’t feel like we’re really together.”
Recently retired couple
Part of our discussion with the engaged duo centered on what the couple does in their leisure time. I was impressed that this young soon-to-be-wed couple had already recognized that some of what we do together actually isn’t done together.
For example – watching television together is not really a “together” activity. As each of you sits glued to the tube there is very little interaction together. The couple described a moment of realization when they were in the family room with the television on and laptop open. They were together in the room, but they weren’t sharing anything more than geography.
I have to admit I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I realized how many hours my wife and I spend in the same room, but not really together. It hit me that our marriage was facing “Relational A.D.D.” We weren’t doing anything awful, both of us have heavy work-loads and it requires hours of time working even “after hours.” However, all this time that we might credit as time spent together isn’t really time spent “together.”
Relational A.D.D. is a condition that arises when you unknowingly stop giving attention to your spouse. It is subtle and deceptive because you can count hours spent together, but not realize that the together time isn’t necessarily time together which translates into attention. As with a person struggling with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. struggles with a multitude of stimuli that distract them and keep them from being able to fully focus there are a multitude of things that lead to this distraction in relationships. A couple dealing with Relational A.D.D. has to recognize where they are and make some steps that will help them cope. Things that are frequent distractors are:
- work demands
- relational challenges
- financial pressures
Dealing with Relational A.D.D. can be difficult. Because we need a level of attention in our relationships when there is a deficit in our “attention banks” we could possibly attempt to get the attention we crave, even if it is negative attention. Sometimes one person in the relationship will instigate an argument just to get the attention of the other.
So, here are some simple steps to help in coping with Relationship A.D.D.
- Turn off and tune in – get away from the television and computer and with each other.
- Step out or stay in – get a date night (even if you don’t go out) and spend time together
- Get your game on – play cards or board games together
- Learn the Signs – irritability, frustration, insecurity can be signs of Relationship A.D.D.
Couples who have been married long enough to reach some of the milestone anniversaries have learned, among other lessons, how to spend time together…really together. That a couple as young as the one I was talking to has come to this realization together before they are married offers hope for the longevity of their marriage. We never get to the place where we stop learning and growing.
Perhaps tonight I will remember this before Andie and I spend any of our normal time together and make sure that we are really together.
I would love to read your experiences or comments. Please let me know what you think after reading this.
Additional Resources –
- The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is the book that stimulated the discussion and is one I recommend and require for couples planning to get married.
Killer Cows and the Importance of Contextualization
-Dr. Terry Dorsett
I grew up in a medium sized city in the Midwest. As a teenager I moved to a small city in Virginia and after college I lived in a small city in South Carolina. Since my entire life had been spent in the city, what a culture shock it was when I moved to rural Vermont in 1993 with my wife and family. We had come to a small village to serve as missionaries with the North American Mission Board (SBC). We served a rural church with less than 20 members that was struggling for survival. The first week I lived in that tiny village I had what was then a traumatic experience but has since become quite humorous. It was also a great teaching moment which impacted how I view ministry.
I love to walk in the mornings and pray about what God is doing in my life. That first week of living in a rural area I struck out walking down the main street, which was also the only paved street in town. I did not get very far before I encountered a cow that had escaped from the pasture and was standing in the middle of the road. Having grown up in the city, I did not know what quite what to do, so I froze in my tracks. My life flashed before my eyes. My heart raced with fear. Would this cow charge me? Would it trample me? Would it eat me? Surely this vicious creature was a killer cow!
I do not know how long I stood in the middle of the road looking at that cow, but eventually someone drove by in their pickup truck and asked what I was doing. I replied that a “killer cow” had gotten loose and I did not know what to do. They looked at me, looked at the cow and laughed hysterically as they drove away. Eventually I realized that the poor creature was just an old milk cow who had wandered the wrong direction. I slowly eased past her and went on my way. But I have never forgotten my encounter with the killer cow on the main street in town. I knew I was not in the city anymore!
What does this story have to do with the Gospel? Just as I had to adjust to the presence of cows in the middle of the road, I also had to adjust to doing ministry in a different culture than I was used to. I was no longer living and working in a city. I was now in a different environment. I learned to show up at the post office each morning at 9:30 AM when everyone came to get their mail. I could visit half the town in an hour. I learned that I was the “community” pastor, providing weddings and funerals for the entire community and not just for the handful of church members I had. I learned how important it was to make a contribution to the annual 8th grade Town Dinner fundraiser. I learned not to wear a tie, as it made me look like I was a Mormon or a bill collector, neither was which was very welcome in that small village.
During the eight years I served that church, I learned a great many things about how to minister in a rural village. I think it is important to point out that at no point did I actually have to change the Gospel itself. The Gospel is always relevant to all cultures in all time periods and to all people groups. There is no other Gospel but the one found in the New Testament that begins with the sinfulness of mankind and ends with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to reconcile us back to the Father. But methods and programs used to communicate the Gospel are constantly changing. Pastors, missionaries and other Christian leaders who want to reach their communities for Christ must understand this. One generation might use flannel graph and chalkboards, another generation might use video projectors and smart boards, but the message of the Gospel remains the same. One people group might like to meet in house churches and worship in a rare dialect, another people group might prefer giant cathedrals and the use of a more common language, but the Gospel remains the same for both people groups.
Since my fateful encounter with the killer cow so many years ago, I learned the communicate the Gospel in a variety of ways as I have started churches and led evangelistic activity across the mountains, valleys and small towns of Vermont. Each town is a little different, but in each one God has called a group of people to Himself. My job is to join God in His work and communicate His Gospel in a way that the called can hear and respond. When that happens, the Gospel goes forth and God is glorified, and His people rejoice, even if it looks differently than what we had expected.
-Dr. Terry Dorsett serves as a church planting missionary with the North American Mission Board of the SBC. He has a passion for helping young people discover a meaningful faith and then become leaders in sharing that faith with others