What Others Say

Mr. Tinsley, thank you for your well-written and insightful article about Luther.
I shared it with my children during family worship. It lifted us up.
Warmly, Kari.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Essential Element for Successful Marriage and Family

The University of Georgia recently conducted a study to find the essential ingredients for successful marriage.  The study, published in the journal of Personal Relationships, discovered one primary factor in marriages that were healthy and happy.  In every case, those marriages included gratitude.  According to their findings, gratitude was the “most consistent significant predictor” of a happy marriage.

Allen Barton, lead author of the study, said, “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you.’” Associate professor and study co-author Ted Futris stated, “Feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”

Each bride and groom stands at the marriage altar beaming with gratitude for the “love of their life.” And, it is easy to remain thankful for each other as long as things go well. 

But all married couples will face difficult demands. Hard times will come. Many will experience financial stress, competing demands from in-laws, professional pressure from their jobs, exhausting schedules that leave little time for rest. Most will experience the stress of parenting: sleepless nights with newborns, the constant attention required by preschoolers and the complicated schedules of school, sports and activities as children grow.

It is especially during these stressful periods of life that gratitude matters.  Many marriages crumble under the pressure, choosing to play the “blame-game”, creating a downward spiral that ends in disaster.  Others choose gratitude, building one another up with appreciation and thankfulness under trying circumstances.  These marriages prosper and survive.  According to Allen Barton, “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes."

What Barton and Futris found regarding marriage can also apply to the family.  Strong families are created when parents express gratitude to their children and children are grateful to their parents. Gratitude in the family starts with the marriage.  Children learn to be grateful by watching their parents. 

Nothing cultivates a heart of gratitude better than faith in Christ. When we experience God’s love in Christ, we become more thankful for others.  In Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15). 

And again, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7).  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)


We all enjoy being around people who are grateful and thankful. They cheer us up. They give us energy. They encourage us.  List the aspects of your spouse for which you are genuinely thankful and express your gratitude.  Cultivate a heart of faith that is genuinely grateful in all circumstances. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"When I'm 64" - Now What?

This weekend my high school class of 1965 will gather for its fiftieth class reunion.  How did this happen?  Half a century since we walked across the stage and tossed our tassels?  Can this be possible?  When I was growing up we thought sixty-four was ancient, and now we will soon be seventy.

Paul McCartney wrote the song, “When I’m 64” at the age of 16 and later recorded it in 1966.  I have listened to it most of my life. I remember reciting the lyrics in my youth, thinking of the inconceivably ancient age of sixty-four. I assumed by then I would be in a nursing home or dead. “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” Well, I blew past 64 four years ago and, strangely, I don’t feel old or anywhere near incapacitated.

Every year I spend several days with some of my childhood friends. We are all past sixty-four. Several of us were in first grade together in1953. We have the photo to prove it. While we don’t feel old, and think of ourselves as we once were in our youth, others apparently think we are old. When we went out to a restaurant together for dinner, the owner took pity on us and gave us a free dessert.

But, I realize something when I am with my childhood friends. I realize we are all still on the journey. We started this journey together as children in post-World War II. We were the first baby boomers. We didn’t know what that meant. We just knew there were lots of us. We have journeyed through the Sixties, Viet Nam, Flower Power, the Moon landing, Watergate, Floppy Disks, the World Wide Web, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Desert Storm, the Dot Com Bust, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Great Recession.

Our individual journeys have taken different turns and twists. A couple entered the military graduating from West Point and the Air Force Academy, one became a physician, two entered business, one became an educator, one became an Episcopal priest, another a Baptist minister. We have different political, economic and religious opinions. But we are still together on the journey.

It reminds me of the words Jesus first spoke to his followers. “Come and follow me.” God always invites us to a journey. His invitation is to all of us and His invitation is life-long. The journey never stops. It has valleys and mountaintops. It leads through sorrow and celebration. It encompasses wonder, worship and war. It includes pain, poverty and prosperity.

Now that I am past 64, the age our generation has sung about since youth, I am grateful for the journey. I am grateful for the companions God has given me to travel with. And I am grateful for the One who invited me to follow Him when I was young and still leads me when I am old.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Character: The Most Important Trait For A Successful Leader

The political pot is already simmering, even though we won’t go to the polls to elect a new President for more than a year.   Presidential hopefuls continue to jockey for position as pollsters and pundits assess the field. 

Each candidate tries to persuade us they can guide our nation through the complex waters looming ahead.  Some cite their business success and financial achievement. Others tout their political experience.  But the most important element for effective leadership might be the most difficult to discern.   

In his recent book, Return on Character:  The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win, Fred Kiel concluded that the most important trait for successful leadership is character.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Now, in this groundbreaking book, respected leadership researcher, adviser, and author Fred Kiel offers that evidence-solid data that demonstrates the connection between character, leadership excellence, and organizational results.”

Kiel identifies four basic traits that set effective leaders apart:  integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion.  Leaders with character tell the truth and own up to their mistakes.  Most importantly, they care about people.

By contrast, those with weak character demonstrate a negative view of human nature. Their behavior is fear based.  “They assume that they know better than anybody else what people should be doing.”  They are judgmental, quick to place blame on others.

The positive and negative traits identified by Fred Kiel are consistent with the Bible.  Among the negative “deeds of the flesh,” the Bible lists “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions.”  The positive fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:19-23). Proverbs says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9).

In 1908, Leo Tolstoy identified Abraham Lincoln’s greatness when wrote, “Why was Lincoln so great that he over-shadows all other national heroes?  He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Wahington; he was not such a skillful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.”

King David had his flaws. His shortcomings are clearly laid out in Scripture. But He remains one of the great leaders of history. The Bible says of David, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:70-72).
  

For each of us, and especially for our leaders, the path to a prosperous future is always the path of integrity, honesty, compassion and forgiveness. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

What's In It For Me?

October baseball is here.  Major League teams have played 162 games over six months for this moment.  Stadiums are packed with hopeful fans. Those who love baseball feel the fever.

The 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, is rated number five among the favorite baseball movies of all time. In the story, Ray Kinsella responds to a “voice” that urges him to build a baseball diamond, complete with lights, in the middle of his Iowa corn field.  After doing everything the “voice” commands him to do, Ray is stunned to see Shoeless Joe Jackson and some of the greats of the game emerge from his mysterious cornfield to play the game as they did in their youth.

The story climaxes with an invitation from Shoeless Joe to join them in the cornfield a dimension beyond the edges of this world. But Ray, who has risked everything to build the field, is not invited. Instead, Jackson invites the cynical 1960s writer, Terrence Mann.  Ray explodes in a fit of frustration demanding, “What’s in it for me?”  To which Shoeless Joe asks, “Is that why you did this Ray, for what’s in it for you?”
                                                          
It is a good question.  According to experts in marketing, it is the question we all ask when we consider purchasing any product or joining any organization. In our age of seeker-sensitive churches, it seems to be the dominant question asked by anyone considering a church. “What’s in it for me?” But, is it the right question?

When Jesus invited Peter, James and John to leave their home, their families and their boats, I wonder how He would have responded if they had asked, “What’s in it for me?” Perhaps He would have responded as He did when the young man with great possessions refused to give up his wealth.

How much do we miss of what God has for us because we are so focused on “What’s in it for me?”

Jesus’ invitation to join Him on life’s eternal journey sounds strangely different than our twenty-first century marketing plans.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).  “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” (Luke 6:34-35).



Perhaps what is “in it” for us is the same thing that was “in it” for Jesus: the pleasure that comes from obedience to the Father. Simply doing what He says and knowing we have been obedient to His voice may be the ultimate reward.  When the Apostle Paul reached the end of his journey, he measured it in this way, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:7), and again, “I did not prove disobedient to the Heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:19).