A Beautiful Bride

A beautiful bride walks down the aisle, radiant in beauty and wearing a magnificent white dress.  Her family and friends look on in delight and hopeful admiration—this is the day when she will be joined in marriage to the love of her life.  The couple stands before the pastor with stars in their eyes and vow exclusive devotion to each other above all others, and commit, “till death do us part.”  Fast-forward nine months and we’ll often find an altogether different scene.  This same woman shouts at the top of her lungs, “You’re always leaving your stuff all over the house!  Do I need to give you a map to the laundry basket?”  Her husband, the one who stood at the altar confessing his undying devotion, shouts back as he slams the door in her face, “screw you, I’m going to the bar!”  What has happened?  Why do couples go from starry-eyed lovers to enemies, and how can we create thriving marriages that last?


The Right Atmosphere

Look around you.  Of the ten people you spend the most time around, how many are couples with strong and healthy marriages?  We make small choices each day, such as who we spend time around, without realizing how these choices significantly affect our outlook, worldview, and habits.  If the people around you typically belittle and mock their spouses, this will begin to seem to you to be normal and acceptable behavior.  Over time, speaking negatively about your spouse will start to program your brain to think less of your spouse.  Conversely, spend time around couples who speak well of each other, and you’ll start speaking more positive, and begin thinking more highly of your spouse.  When you recognize how wonderful your spouse really is, you’ll appreciate what they do more, and you’ll naturally give them more praise and affection.

What we’re really talking about here is creating the right atmosphere.  When godly people spend time around each other and living out the Lord’s way day by day, it creates this incredible atmosphere that lifts each and every person.  We strengthen and challenge each other to reach greater heights, and we make excellence the norm.  It’s a beautiful and constant growth process, and it’s how those wise and loving couples who’ve been married for 50 years became what they are.  Brick by brick, step by step, getting around other winners and creating an atmosphere for everyone to build a thriving marriage.

Making the Time

In addition to getting around credible leaders, it’s important that we make time to enjoy our spouse.  With work, kids, the house, friends, and getting involved in the community, it’s really easy to let activities and commitments take over your calendar.  While these things are all good things, if they cause us to neglect our spouse, we’ve traded the great for the good.

A wise friend taught me the following great habit: once a day, once a week, once a month.  Once a day, kiss your spouse.  And I don’t mean just a peck—it had better last more than 20 seconds.  Once a week, spend time together talking (while looking directly at each other and not doing anything else).  And when your done talking do something fun just the two of you.  Go for ice cream, play a game, have a cup of coffee and recount fun stories.  Once a month do a real, extended date.  Dinner and a movie, or take her to a show she’ll like.  Or maybe have a picnic at the park.  Be creative, be romantic, and make it fun!

The Third Cord

The final piece is by far the most important.  Think of your marriage as a rope.  You are one piece of string, and your spouse is another piece of string.  The point of marriage is that the two become one.  But if you have only two cords to twist together, it will unfurl in the tough times.  Only when a third cord is in the marriage can the cords be braided and the marriage have the full strength needed to stand firm.  That third cord is Jesus, and the main purpose of marriage is to serve and honor Him.  A marriage that is entered into for some reason other than Christ is ultimately done for self.  If I marry my spouse because I want her to make me happy, I will have a big problem when she ceases to make me happy.  If she’s no longer pleasing me and giving me what I want, the marriage has no reason to go on.  I’ll simply want to file a divorce and go out and find someone else who will fulfill my needs.

If, on the other hand, I enter into marriage for the purpose of worshiping and honoring Christ, my commitment is not based upon my spouse’s performance.  I will love her and remain faithful to her for the sake of Christ.  Even when she fails to love and respect me well, I will continue loving and serving her anyway, for this is my charge from my Lord.  My life belongs to Jesus and I serve Him because that is my purpose.  God, help me to live out this high calling you have given me, each day and every day for You.

The Root of Anger

Anger, disappointment, resentment, hurt:  these are emotions we’d prefer to avoid.  If we could choose, we’d rather live happy, content, and fulfilled, wouldn’t we?  What if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of time we spend angry or hurt?  If we understand the root cause of these negative emotions and the negative situations they lead us into, we can find victory and spend more of our time cultivating excellent relationships and enjoying the time we have.


Our Many Gifts

We enjoy so many incredible blessings in our everyday life.  Just think about the comfortable bed you slept in last night, the delicious dinner you ate, and the people around you that truly and deeply love you.  We could spend all day listing all the great things in our lives—things given to us by the Maker of all things.

We desire good things—and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it is good to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful blessings we have every day.  But there is a good way and a bad way to hold these blessings.  One will give us great fulfillment and thankful hearts, while the other will produce the harmful emotions listed above.

With Open Hands?

The difference is this:  do you hold your gifts with open hands or closed fists?  You see, when our desires are met, we have a choice.  We either recognize that the blessing that we received is a gift of God, or we start to close our hands around it and begin thinking we own it.  As we neglect to thank God for a particular blessing, we slowly close our grip around it, wishing to keep it within our possession.

The Enemy works gradually, taking some new blessing and day by day inducing us to feel more and more that we earned it, we deserve it, and we need it.  Once we view that blessing as something we need, we will react in anger when it is threatened.

Thankful to Expectation to Need

Consider the simple act of a man writing a love poem to his wife every week.  When he first begins this act of love and appreciation, his wife may be delighted!  She feels loved and cherished, and expresses her thanks to him.  But over time, as the notes continue to come week after week, this blessing may turn into an expectation in her mind.  She begins to think she deserves these notes, and her husband owes them to her.  If he misses one week, she will feel emotions of disappointment, resentment, or even anger.

But this is all rooted in a choice—if the woman in the story above simply appreciated the love notes as a blessing, she will each week feel the emotions of thankfulness, happiness, and love when her husband gives the poem.  If one week the husband should fail to present a poem, she will miss it, but that’s all.  She only feels anger, hurt, and resentment when the gift is expected and assumed.  Put another way, she will feel anger and disappointment when her need for her weekly poem isn’t met.

What’s Yours?

Perhaps this seems silly to you, that a woman should come to need an expect a poem from her husband every week.  But what about you and me?  Are there not blessings in our life that we one didn’t have, now have, and now expect we shall always have?  God has bestowed amazing gifts upon you and me—do we hold them with an open hand?

The Example of Open Hands

Job is was one of the richest men in the world in his day—not only in material wealth, but also with many children, as well as the love and respect of his neighbors.  In one day, it was all taken from him, and yet his response was this:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Are there things you expect from those around you?  Do you need and demand that your coworkers speak well of you, such that when they disparage you you become angry?   Do you expect your mentors to have perfect understanding in everything they teach and council you?  Do you expect you spouse to always be there to meet your needs and do the things you want them to do?

What Perspective Will You Choose?

Let’s make the decision today to stop letting anger have root in our hearts.  If we will recognize that the blessings we enjoy each day are gifts—gifts that are not promised to be there tomorrow—we will increase our reliance upon the Lord, our appreciation of His grace, and the moments of life that bear the hallmark of peaceful contentedness.

Giving Thanks

Even though we enjoy countless blessings, it can be very easy to take many of our good things for granted. We become accustomed to our daily routine, and we are often so busy that we don’t take the time to reflect on and be thankful the many blessings we enjoy. Try sitting down with a blank piece of paper for fifteen minutes and listing things you have to be thankful for. You may be surprised how quickly the paper is filled!

Family Christmas

Our Many Freedoms

We live in a country with more freedoms that most any time and place in history. We can assemble freely to worship God and learn about Him. Any citizen may own property, or run a business, without excessive government oversight or restriction. We have a representative democracy which allows we the people to choose our leaders, and a press that holds these leaders accountable for their actions. Though no government is perfect, we do yet retain many of the freedoms as intended by the founders of this nation, and we should thank God for continuing to preserve our great nation.


I am blessed to have been born and raised by Christian parents who loved me, taught me well, and have stayed together–married for 33 years and counting!  My brother and sister are great and loving siblings, and I smile every time we can spend time togehter.  Not only that, but they have each found a spouse who compliments them perfectly, and I feel that I’ve gained even more great siblings through these marriages (and soon-to-be marriages!)

I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, and loving wife who loves me, respects me, and is truly my partner for life. She is caring and incredible, and I am often in disbelief of how she can accomplish all the things she does, even making it look effortless. She is sweet and loving, and an excellent communicator. Even when we don’t see eye to eye on things, she takes the time and makes the effort to connect, express her perspective, and stay with the issue until we both understand and agree on how we’ll move forward. I could expound all day on the many wonderful things she does to enrich my life and the lives of those around her, and I am grateful to have her as my wife!

God has blessed us with three delightful children, who make our lives busy, interesting, and fun. They say the funniest things, and help us to remember how much more fun life is with a lighthearted attitude. They are smart and inquisitive, always wanting to explore their surroundings and find out how things work. They even encourage us in our faith, as they ask questions about God and trust in Him with the childlike faith Jesus taught us to have.

The Greatest Gift

The list of my blessings could go on and on and on, and fill many more pages that this site could hold!  Taking the time just to begin recounting all the great joys and gifts in my life has reminded me again truly how much I have to be thankful for.  In difficult days, when things don’t always seem to be going the way I’d like them to, I will do well to remember all the many blessings I’ve been given, recognizing that just as I did not deserve them, so have I been given heavenly gifts that I don’t deserve.  Chief among these is the salvation I have through Christ, the forgiveness of my sin and God’s promise that I will enjoy eternal life in paradise with Him.  Thank God today for all He has given you, and reach out to the Savior and follow Him!

What’s the thread?

What’s TotalThriver.com all about?  Perhaps you noticed last week the feature of the ThriveFit training program and took a moment to learn how an Olympic lift can help you get in great shape and look and feel better.  Maybe you scrolled down to see the previous week’s post about eternity and what God has planned for His children.  After that, you clicked the ThriveWealthy tab on the top menu and downloaded the free cashflow planning tool, including instructions for getting your finances in order.  Are these topics related?  What connects these seemingly unrelated ideas?

oven mitts!

You’re not an ice-cube tray

The threads that connect these aspects of life are at the very core of our mission here at TotalThriver. A prevalent notion in our culture today is the idea that we exist as individuals with different compartments, which are separate and distinct from each other.  For example, a man may delude himself by thinking, “Sure, I’m harsh and unsympathetic at work, and sometimes I take advantage of my employees, but that has nothing to do with my relationship with my wife and kids.  Who I am at work is not who I am at home.”

Contrast this with the wisdom of God’s Word.  In Proverbs 23, we read:

6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;

7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, “Eat and drink!”
But his heart is not with you.

This is a teaching given throughout the Bible–that the heart is where our behavior and actions originate.  Similarly, Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Address the real problem

All of us want to thrive in life–and particularly those of you who’ve come to this site to find tools and resources to do just that.  But the first step in moving forward is to recognize that our “less than thriving” behaviors in the various aspects of our lives are rooted in our heart.  The man who mistreats his employees has a heart problem.  And this problem of the heart will manifest itself everywhere in his life.

To insist that poor behavior in one area in life has nothing to do with other areas of life is dangerous because it refuses to recognize the real connections within your own person.  And without clear understanding of the cause of a problem, no true change can be made.

What are your “unseen connections?”

Take a moment to consider personally, “what aspects of my life have I been neglecting?”  If your life is a wheel made up of five spokes (physical, financial, spiritual, relational, career), which spoke is deficient and giving you a wobbly wheel?

Try to seek out the connections between parts of life where you aren’t thriving and the negative effects that they produce in other areas of your life.  Do you hate your job?  Do you then come home angry and fight with your spouse?  Or perhaps you’ve not exercised in months, and notice that you just don’t have the energy level to care for your family that you once did.  By identifying the negative results that you most dislike and connecting them to their causes, you’ll find the motivation to make the investments of time and energy needed to thrive in one area, bringing success in both areas.

The bonus

That’s what’s so great about starting to understand how these areas relate–you improve the area that needs improvement, but you get a bonus in other areas.  The clearest example of this is the area of fitness.  When you spend time exercising your body properly, you’ll notice an improvement to your physique.  But you get a bonus benefit in your work life, as you have better energy levels and can be more productive.  And you’ll likely notice an improved relationship with your spouse, as your frustrations have been taken out on a barbell instead of your lover!

The connections between these areas of life are complex and seemingly infinite.  Some, like the examples above, can be understood and generalized.  Others are known by God alone.  Yet as we understand more and more that our behavior and the results of our behavior stem from the heart, we work to thrive in each area to the satisfaction of ourselves and the glory of our Maker.

Mortals Only — Part II

Several weeks ago, we shared the shocking news that yes, even TotalThriver members will one day face their mortality.  Since death is one day closer today than it was yesterday, we highlighted the importance of getting good life insurance in place.

Today, we’ll explore another aspect of financial planning related to caring for your loved ones after you are gone:  estate planning.

I’ll get to it tomorrow…..

Though not always the most glamorous or delightful topic, getting a will in place is a vital part of any good financial plan.  Even though we all know that death will catch us some day, we seem to be in denial that that day is actually coming.  According to a recent survey conducted by findlaw.com, nearly 60% of American adults do not have a will (http://commonlaw.findlaw.com/2008/06/findlaw-survey.html)

Obviously, getting your will in order doesn’t benefit you–you’ve got to be dead to use it!  But it does provide great benefit to your family and other loved ones.  Some people think that drafting a will for themself is unnecessary, because, “of course, everyone knows that I’d want to leave everything to _______.”  The problem is that the one person who makes the call–the judge–doesn’t know you!  So, the only way to make sure that your antique rifle collection goes to your son and not your crazy old hunting buddy is to write down your wishes.  Otherwise, your son may have to spend thousands of dollars in court fighting for what’s rightfully his.

Get it done right

The best option for getting a will done properly is to consult with a local attorney who specializes in estate planning.  If you live in the Omaha area, I can personally recommend Lynne Timmerman Fees, an experienced professional with great qualifications.  Find out more about her practice here.

Although hiring a professional is the only way to be assured that your will is done properly, sometimes using generic forms can be a cheaper alternative.  Places like uslegalforms.com can be a good stepping-stone for recent grads or families struggling financially who need to get a will in place but can’t afford an attorney right now.  Of course, if this is you, just keep following us at TotalThriver and we’ll have you in a strong financial position in no time!

Demonstrate your love

In closing, although estate planning is not particularly glamorous, it is an essential part of your financial life.  To ignore the fact that you need a will is to do a disservice to your loved ones, and create legal battles for your money and property in the months and years following your death.  Won’t you take these steps today to love your family well?  The small investment of time and money you’ll make today will pay large dividends when they’re needed most.

To Find a Mate

This post is third in a series of six articles on how fitness benefits many other areas of your life.  So far, we’ve explored the dividends that a challenging fitness regimen will pay in your productivity and your disposition.

In the previous post, we noted that the improved disposition that comes with a challenging fitness regimen can have a dramatic influence on your relationship with your spouse.  If you’re single though, you might have felt a bit left out…

Tuscaloosa Picture

So, today’s post is for you singles out there.  Believe it or not, embarking on a journey to better fitness will not just benefit your physically, but bring you success in your search for a great mate.  The heart of the issue lies in the following bit of wisdom, courtesy of a few wise old men I know:  “to have a great marriage, don’t focus on finding the right person, focus on being the right person.”

It’s not you, it’s me

Most of us have experienced the converse of this firsthand from going about this in the wrong way.  Maybe you’ve caught yourself complaining to your friends, “how come every girl I date is argumentative and emotional?  Why can’t I find someone who’s kind and easygoing??”  Here’s the shocker–the common thread in all your relationships is you!  Perhaps there are things you are doing, attitudes you have, even criteria you use for selecting dates that are bringing you the results that you don’t like.

The way that a fitness regimen can benefit you in this situation is that it takes your eyes off others, and helps you focus on the things you can control–namely, yourself!  As you progress in your fitness program, you’ll see tangible results: your pants fit better, you can lift heavier weight, your arms look more toned, and so on.  Your disposition will improve from your body’s natural reaction to exercise, and you’ll feel good about the work your doing and the progress you’re making.

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks

These internal changes tend to be more visible to others than we would imagine.  After you’ve completed a tough lunchtime workout with a new record time, you’ll find yourself smiling at people you meet, genuinely interested in them and more patient with their shortcomings.  It’s somewhat like how you feel after you’ve won a race, gotten a raise, or finished painting a house–you’re just feeling good, basking in the work you’ve done, and no little inconvenience is going to get in your way of enjoying this moment.  That elated feeling can become part of your everyday schedule, especially when you adopt a strenuous program like ThriveFit and give it your all.

Living in this state of mind where you genuinely care about others and are patient with others’ shortcomings will take you a long way down the road to being the kind of person who attracts a quality mate.  Not only that, but this pattern of bettering yourself can be used to refine other areas of your life as well.  Perhaps you’ll make time to learn a new skill to improve your capabilities at work.  Or, you’ll join a Bible study to improve your relationship with God.  By making a dedicated consistent effort to improve yourself, then meeting your objectives with excellence, you’re growing your character and confidence.  Not only will these changes naturally attract members of the opposite sex to you, but God tends to reward those who seek after Him and live as He instructs.  So, as you take care of the body He gave you, seek Him in His Word, and learn to forgive and love as Christ did, He may just send your future spouse right across your path…