--By Carl Brecheen & Paul Faulkner

The Trouble With Us Is Me
         Selfishness is the greatest single enemy of a happy marriage. When I am at the center of my world, I am out of place & my world is out of balance. The tremors that follow will not stop until they have destroyed something--my marriage, my job, my sanity.
         Self-concern is easy to spot. It is when I ask my wife what TV program she wants to watch, but I watch the one I want to see. Selfishness is easy to see in phrases such as, "I'll show you..." It is when I reply, "In a little while..." after my children ask me to help them with a project or homework. Selfishness reveals itself in my anger & impatience, & it is really evident when I raise my voice or "cloud up & storm." I operate on pure self-concern when I refuse to get inside the feelings of those who live with me & hurt for their skinned knees or bruised egos.
Drawing on the Power. Selfishness & immaturity can destroy a home. Before there can be a permanent cure for this problem, the individuals in the home must first be examined. I must get the selfish part of me out of the way so we can grow. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 that I must first get the beam out of my own eye, so I can see clearly to get the mote out of yours. How could there be anything more practical than that?
         If a brick house is beginning to crack, it is useless to reset the bricks until the foundation is repaired. So it is with a family. If husband & wife are fighting & the children are rebellious, going to a sex seminar will do no good. The
foundation must be repaired.
         Do the two principal characters in your home have strong Christian values? Are they mature, selfless & disciplined? There is no problem too big to overcome in a marriage if a foundation of personal integrity is found in Mom & Dad. Builders can make an unstable house look pretty for awhile, but eventually a house without a strong foundation will fall.--Mat.7:24-27.

I Need Your Help
         Recent research has concluded that "the personality & background of the husband, not the wife, are the important factors in the success of marriage."
         Another writer said, "Studies of delinquency repeatedly indicate that fathers are more influential than mothers in the development (or
non-development) of delinquent behaviour in their children."
         Husbands, check items below that apply to you (leave the others blank). It will help you get a better insight into your practice of being a husband or a father.
        1. ( ) You usually take work home at night.
         2. ( ) You usually are away from home ten hours or more a day.
         3. ( ) Your wife has not been on a trip with you in three years.
         4. ( ) Most of your social relationships are related to your work.
         5. ( ) Your family dinner is often interrupted (by phone calls or whatever).
         6. ( ) Your wife has little understanding of the inside details of your work.
         7. ( ) You find it hard to kiss your wife with meaning without it leading to the bedroom.
         8. ( ) Nagging, bickering & picking are general occurrences at your home.
         9. ( ) Housework is beneath your dignity.
         10. ( ) Financially, you are somewhat more liberal with yourself than with your wife.
         11. ( ) You haven't had a date with your wife in two weeks.
         12. ( ) You find it hard to say, "I love you" & mean it every day.
         13. ( ) Your children tend to annoy you.
         14. ( ) You ask which video she would like to see, then you watch the one you prefer.
         15. ( ) You'd rather watch a video than talk with your wife.
         16. ( ) Your wife has caught you in little lies, which you have tried to wiggle out of.
         17. ( ) When wrong, you find it hard to admit.
         18. ( ) You neglect to phone in when late for dinner.
         19. ( ) You have three or more years of formal education than your wife has.
         20. ( ) Your wife has had no additional education since you were married.
         21. ( ) You dislike detail & methodical attitudes.
         22. ( ) You dislike saving money.
         23. ( ) It is impossible for you to account for where most of your money goes each month.
         24. ( ) You are inclined to buy things on impulse & then have trouble paying your bills.
         25. ( ) You find it difficult to spend time examining your purpose in life. (Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?)
         26. ( ) Your prime interests center more around things than people.
         27. ( ) You have had two fights in the last two weeks.
         28. ( ) You haven't had a fight in two years.
         29. ( ) You are inclined to be moody.
         30. ( ) You neglect to kiss your wife every morning when leaving.
         If you checked very many of the above statements you need to read on--this is for you. If you checked none of the above statements, you are unreal. Please hand the book to your wife & see how
she scores you!
         The first eighteen items are complaints made by wives about unsatisfactory husbands. Items 19-30 are characteristics of unsatisfactory husbands, as discovered by researchers. The fewer items you checked, the better husband you should be.
         In contrast to that test, Lewis Terman presents a list of characteristics of "happily married men." You are an ideal husband if you can check all of the following:
         1. ( ) Have even & stable emotional tone.
         2. ( ) Are cooperative.
         3. ( ) Show attitude toward women that reflects equality.
         4. ( ) Have benevolent attitude toward inferiors & the underprivileged.
         5. ( ) Tend to be unselfconscious & somewhat extroverted.
         6. ( ) Show superior initiative.
         7. ( ) Have greater tendency to take responsibility.
         8. ( ) Show greater willingness to give close attention to details.
         9. ( ) Like methodical procedures & methodical people.
         10. ( ) Are saving & cautious in money matters.
         11. ( ) Have favourable attitude towards religion.
Common Complaints From Women About Their Husbands: Here are seven common complaints I hear from wives about their husbands:
Selfishness. This is always near the top of the list. Wives are generally more yielded than husbands. They resent it when the husband uses the woman's generosity for his own benefit. For example, the wife may say, "I don't really care where we eat, you choose." If the husband always chooses his favourite eating spot, that is selfish. Sometimes his choice should be her favourite spot--because he wants to please her.
Pride (stubbornness). Many wives feel their husbands seldom yield. Even when proven wrong, many husbands rationalise & try to justify a false cause. Is it because it is "unmanly" to yield to a woman? Or is it perhaps that the home is the only place a husband can successfully resist? Researcher Berthold Berg contends that "consistent with other investigations, the father was viewed as the most resistant along a number of dimensions." "Most resistant" is a nice word for stubborn!
         Women also complain that husbands do not take enough pride in their personal hygiene & physical appearance. A clean, good-smelling, neatly-dressed husband is a delight to a woman. One wife complained, "My husband is a hard-working day labourer who bathes only twice a month." Seldom do men realise how repulsive this is to women.
Won't Read. "My husband can read well enough, but won't," some wives complain. What they do read is limited--usually only the local paper (front page, sports & comics, in reverse order). Most men are not aware of events that are of interest to their wives.
         Publishers know this. That is why they seldom publish books exclusively for men. Intelligent, well-written women's magazines flourish. Few men's magazines exist that are not filled with lewd pictures of women--a sad commentary on the "reading" interest of men!
         I require couples I counsel to "double read" a book to multiply the effectiveness of reading. Both husband & wife mark or underline with a different coloured pen the parts of the book (s)he identifies with. As they read & mark, each reads the author's comments & the parts of the book underlined by the other. You will be pleasantly surprised to find aspects of your partner's personality you never knew before.
Lack of Common Courtesy (manners). A woman loves the kind of attention she received during courtship. When a woman marries, she assumes that the courting will continue. But husbands often forget the simple things that make a wife feel special. He thinks that courtship is a "stage" that passes with time. But little things make a woman's life more enjoyable: Calling her sweetheart (or any special name), reminding her of how much she is needed, opening doors for her, bringing her little gifts, mailing her love notes or cards, or love & kindness given her in daily conversations & decisions.
Lack of Insight & Energy. Too many husbands think their job is over when they walk out of the office. A woman thinks it is only right (especially when she also works out of the home) that her husband put equal amounts of creative thought & energy into the daily development of the home & children.
Lack of Priorities. I often hear: "My husband is working himself to death to provide for our family, but we would really prefer to live on less & have him home more." God-fearing wives do not give top priority to the "company," jobs, promotions, things, or money.
Lack of Communication. I saved one of the greatest complaints from wives until last. Women believe most problems in marriage are surmountable "if we could only talk."
Some Suggestions: The following suggestions will work; they have all been tried. Select one or two that you think will work for you & try them. Follow through to completion, & then evaluate their effectiveness. Next, turn back to the list again & select another one or two to work through.
         1. For husbands: Concentrate on your wife's feelings. For wives: Concentrate on your husband's thoughts. Listen for them & respond to them; they are the wedges by which you pry open the real person underneath.
         2. For husbands: Share your appointment book with her. Consult her before you make any appointment that would take you away from her or the children.
         3. Together list your joint & individual commitments to things like job, children, friends, bank loans, church etc. Then, on a scale from 1 to 10, privately rank each of them. Next, get back together & talk about your "family priorities."
         4. For husbands: Frequently give her gifts--little perishable gifts. Wrap each one personally. Listen to her so intently that when she hints she would like to have a certain thing (a colour of Kleenex, for example), she has it--from you.
         5. Keep a card in your wallet/purse with your spouse's sizes on it. When you are away from the home, shop for something nice. And remember the favourite colours.
         6. Try not to invest much of your money or self into things that tend to separate you. We tend to follow our investments, so dialogue on & prioritise your investments.
         7. Pray. Make sure you spend time in prayer & meditation, with some of it in partnership prayer with your spouse. It can be the sweetest time of your lives.
         8. Share your experiences, your success, & your failures--as frequently as they occur.
         9. Use your influence, position & business skills to help the family.
         10. Make small compromises. You don't have to have your way all the time to be happy.
         11. Make meaningful use of family time.
Quality time is more important than quantity time. When you must be home only a short time, use it effectively.
         12. Stop hiding behind alibis; they don't work. The excuse, "I'm doing it for my wife & family," is no cover-up for a father who spends too much time on the job.
         13. Schedule time for your family first. This is not "down time" or an expenditure, it is an investment.
         14. Let yourself be interrupted during your business day by & for the family. Give your children your phone number at work, & encourage them to call you when they need you.
         15. If you travel & are away at night, maintain the "conversation" by calling in every night (when possible).
         16. Don't attempt to buy your children's affection. Buy personal, rather than expensive, gifts that show you know them & their likes & dislikes.
         17. Show courtesy. Don't park your manners outside the door. No one has a right to be rude, ill-mannered, or insensitive to others.

A Spouse's Prayer
         Lord, I give up all my own plans & purposes, all my own desires & hopes, & accept Thy Will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me & seal with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole Will in my life at any cost, now & forever.

I Am Somebody
         What a person thinks of himself is important. The Bible says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."--Prov.23:7. We live our lives according to the mental picture we have of ourselves, so it is important to see ourselves as we really are--no misrepresentation. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.--Rom.12:3. But as "children of God," we are also not to think more lowly of ourselves than we ought.
         People with high self-esteem tend to have fewer illnesses. They are happier, are more successful, have a better family life & make better decisions than those with low self-esteem.
         People with low self-esteem have a hard time accepting compliments. They tend to make excuses for why they look nice, want their opinions verified by others, & refrain from buying something nice for themselves because they do not feel worthy. A person of low self-esteem accepts unworthy labels for himself, such as "Dummie," "Chubbie," "Skinny" etc.
         People with exaggerated self-esteem or pride are characterised by a haughty spirit, an exaggerated compulsion to achieve, an overinflated ego, vainness, haughtiness; & they ultimately lose what they really want--self-esteem.
         The person practicing self-effacement also does it by being silent, pouting or standing at a distance from others. These kinds of behaviour call attention to him. He extends an invitation to some good-hearted soul to respond with sympathy. He also gets his feelings hurt easily, which is another attention-getting device. It puts pressure on others to apologise & make up to him. He holds grudges; & this gives him an opportunity to get attention from all who will listen to him about how badly he has been treated by the government, his wife, his employer & his doctor.
The Child & Self-Esteem: When I was a child, I thought my mouth was too big for my face. No one else had such a big mouth, I thought, so I must be an "oddball." I'll never forget the day "Miss Auntie," my first-grade teacher, shouted at Ruth, one of my classmates, for wetting her pants. I nearly died! I knew I'd be the point of her wrath someday! Then, when I was in the third grade, I became ill & missed six weeks of school. When I returned, I didn't do well. My classmates "graduated" to the fourth grade, but I didn't. I had to repeat the third grade. Thus, I was separated from Paul, my best friend, which was another blow to my already diminishing ego.
         As we grow up, we store mental tape recordings of data we consider important about ourselves & replay these tapes over & over as the years go by. More importantly, we live our lives according to these tapes.
Improving Self-Esteem: Here are some ways parents can help children "record better tapes":
Provide a secure environment. This means hugging, patting & loving. Infants should be breastfed if possible. The old-fashioned rocking chair has helped millions of children to be nourished with security.
Try to understand them. Develop the ability to "get behind their eyeballs"--to see through their eyes, to hear with their ears, & to hurt from their nerve endings. Try to sense their feelings so that your child will never say, "But Dad, you don't understand."
Be patient. Patience allows us to endure troubles without coming unglued, even in prolonged troubles. It refuses to allow us to blow up, become rude, or be harsh.
Have faith in them. Ultimately, faith comes from God; but it must be transferred to our children. We believe in them, even when there is little or no reason to substantiate it, because faith creates more faith. To continually question or doubt our children will create self-doubt in them.
Be open & transparent. When you are truthful with your words & feelings, you create an honest atmosphere, which assures security. You create suspicion when you hold back & reserve your feelings.
Praise & compliment them. Look for honest opportunities to praise your child. The harder you look, the more you will find. Try your best to keep criticism to a minimum, even when deserved. All of us function more efficiently in an atmosphere of acceptance. Criticism is like poison, a little goes a long way. Praise seems to come out in the wash, while criticism sticks in our memory like indelible ink.
Avoid labeling. When we lose patience with a child, we often attach labels, such as "How could you be so dumb?" or "How stupid can you get?" One university co-ed labeled herself as "big, fat & ugly." She was none of these, but she got that image of herself from her parents! Most of us label ourselves bad enough without parents making it worse.
Barriers to Self-Esteem: Paul speaks of Christ's disciples as "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."--2Cor.4:8,9. While Christ desires humility, He never wants us crushed or driven to despair. Christ preserves our personal worth & dignity. To a great extent, what we think of ourselves determines our ability to fulfill the task Christ wants us to complete. God, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, sees something in us we cannot see & His Love can bring it forth.
Some Practical Helps: Here are some practical suggestions that might help you win your struggle with low self-esteem.
Be careful how you think. Think positive! "For as (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he..."--Pro.23:7.
Believe that your self-esteem can be changed. "I can do all things through Him Who strengthened me."--Phil.4:13
Start moving. Do things that will make you like yourself. We can begin to "love (our) enemies, & do good, & lend, expecting nothing in return..."--Lk.6:35. The reward will be worth it.
Risk yourself. Some of the greatest lessons ever learned came through failure. Great faith demands great risks. Risk being embarrassed, or saying "no" when you need to.
Stop being critical.
Start noticing others. People with bad self-images dwell on their own negative attributes. Even though they outwardly deny themselves any righteousness, they often are the most selfish of all. Reversing the process will help. Start noticing others, especially their good qualities. Compliment these good qualities, & you will be amazed at the transformation that takes place in your own life.
Forget mistakes. There is a difference between "learning from" & "dwelling on" past mistakes. Paul said, "...forgetting those things which are behind, & reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize..."--Phi.3:13,14.
Know that you don't have to live up to the expectations of others. You do not have to have an immaculate house like Mrs. Clean. Your children don't have to make straight "A's" like Mr. & Mrs. Einstein's children, nor do they have to be as well disciplined as James Dobson's. You don't have to use time as efficiently as Mr. Computer, nor do you have to serve dinners like Betty Crocker. Our gifts are uniquely ours. Be the best "you."
What counts is not what happens, but our attitude toward what happens.

Please Listen to Me
--Effective Communication--
         I hurt my wife's feelings recently. The words I spoke were legitimate, & my grammar & diction were accurate. But I found out later it was the tone of my voice that hurt. When she told me I had hurt her feelings, my feelings were hurt because she had not understood my good intentions.
         This is about how to develop effective communications. It is written especially for husbands--not because husbands
cannot communicate well but because they usually do not.
Communication is Life. "Poor communication is the main problem in 86 percent of all troubled marriages," according to Dr. David Mace, past president of the American Association of Marriage Counsellors.
         Columnist Ann Landers says: "The most important single ingredient in a marriage is the ability to communicate. If my mail is a fair reflection of what goes on with Mr. & Mrs. America behind closed doors (& I think it is), most marital problems stem from the inability of two people to talk to each other. How precious is the ability to communicate! The couples who are secure in marriage can be honest about all kinds of feelings."
In-Depth Relationships. Often people blame unhappiness in marriage on a faulty choice of mate, but really it's a faulty adjustment between two reasonably chosen mates. The key to relationship-in-depth is communication-in-depth. Marriage is for growth toward more love. As the Bible says, "These two shall become one flesh."--Gen.2:24; Mk.10:8; Eph.5:31.
Rules for Fantastic Conversation. When husbands & wives fail to understand each other, they have probably broken one or more of the following helps to fantastic conversation.
Be knowledgeable. It takes time to truly know someone; there is no shortcut. Business leaders spend thousands of Dollars investigating their businesses to see where they are losing money, time or energy. Surprisingly, these same people balk at going to a marriage enrichment seminar or workshop with their husbands or wives to learn more effective ways of living together. They refuse to spend time studying the needs, thoughts or aspirations of their mate. It is not surprising that some are amazed to receive divorce papers. They had no idea that their marriage was even in trouble.
         Take this test to see how much "in touch" with her you are. If your wife is handy, I hope you will have her check your answers before you continue reading. If you get them all right, you are a super communicator & lover.

Instructions: The husband answers first & covers his answer. Then, the wife answers. Next, uncover the husband's answer. Compare the answers & discuss them.

What is your Wife's Husband's
wife's favourite: Answer Answer
1. Food?
2. Drink?
3. Place to eat?
4. Dress?
5. Type of video?
6. Singer?
7. Movie personality?
8. Shoes?
9. Room in the house?
10. Chair?
11. Book?
12. Magazine?
13. Sport?
14. Hobby?
15. Song?
16. Composer?
17. Flower?
18. Colour?
19. Animal?
20. Car?
21. Friend?
22. Brand of makeup?
23. Fruit or dessert/Treat?
24. Toothpaste?
25. Kind of vacation?
26. Way to spend
28. Perfume?

Be loving. Anyone can carry on a beautiful relationship when his or her spouse is doing all the right things. But when the spouse does all the wrong things, it's another matter. Great sex can help for awhile, but it takes sacrificial love to surmount ugly things that arise in most of our spouses.
Be transparent. A window lets light shine through & allows us to see what otherwise might be hidden.
         A choice that confronts every one of us at every moment is this: Shall we permit our fellow men to know us as we now are, or shall we seek instead to remain an enigma, an uncertain quantity wishing to be seen as something we are not? When we are not truly known by the other people in our lives, we are misunderstood. When we are not known, even by family & friends, we join the all too numerous "lonely crowd."
Be positive. A marriage that is 85 percent positive & only 15 percent negative will appear 90 percent bad if the couple spends 90 percent of its time arguing over the 15 percent problem areas! Never spend more time on a problem area than what it deserves, nor allow minor differences to dominate too much time. Maximise the positive--minimise the negative. One writer said, "Define what is important & stress it; define what is unimportant & ignore it."
Be sensitive. Most men speak from the head more than from the heart. With women it is usually the other way around. This poses a problem. Hurts, fears & emotions are especially important to wives because women are very sensitive. They really don't think they can fully know their husbands or deeply love them until they know their hearts.
Be an effective communicator. To become an effective communicator, you must closely observe your listener. Slight clues are often enough reason to stop & check out what the other is receiving. "What did you hear me say just now?" "I get the feeling I'm not coming through just right."
Be an active listener. Our culture is built on talk--not conversation. Television talks to us constantly. We are talked to on the job, at school, & at church. Newspapers, magazines & books "talk" to us. People around us usually enjoy talking more than listening. Where are the listeners?
Be concise. Bacon said, "Writing maketh an exact man." Writing forces you to read what you've written, rethink it, & then rewrite it. It makes you concise. Many of the sweetest & kindest oral statements have been lost forever. Feelings in writing, like cards, letters & thank-you notes to your spouse, are special communications. Wives know this, & husbands need to learn it.
Be prayerful. People often ask me, "What one single thing do you recommend, more than any other, to make marriage communication beautiful?" My answer: Conversational prayer. Prayer gives insights into God & your spouse that you get no other way.
         How To Argue Fairly. One little-used method of settling fights is to hold hands. Silly, but it works. You will never know how hard it is to argue holding hands until you have tried it. This non-verbal communication (holding hands) says, "I love you & want to hold you." It is impossible to verbally assault your mate while holding hands. You will either drop your hands & "reach for a mud ball," or you will tone down your argument & resolve it.

Let's Put Things In Order
--Family Priorities--
         Being at home doesn't guarantee that people will spend time together. Families who spend hours each day watching TV in the same room may not have any idea what is going on in one another's daily concerns.
         Watching TV & reading newspapers can provide us with information about what is going on in the World, but cannot inform us about the people who are closest to us.
Time Together. Back in the days when most people lived on the farm, father & son worked together all day in the field. Mother & daughter worked together all day around the house. A boy learned about farming, but more importantly, he learned about life. While they worked together, he learned about values, faith & commitment from his dad.
         A girl learned about a woman's role in society from her mother. She learned not only how to work, but also drank in the spirit of her mother. She learned about people, about relating, & about spiritual concerns.
         When does the modern family find time to spend together like that? How does a boy find out what it means to be a man? When does he find out who his father really is & what he is committed to as a person?
         When does a girl spend extended time with her mother finding out about being a woman in today's World? How does her mother communicate to her about life & the things that are really important?
         I believe that many families are suffering because both parents are gone "earning a living." We need to recognise the threat, as well as the advantages.
         How does a family make time to be together? The first step toward finding an answer to this very searching question would seem to demand some sort of system of priorities.
God. As a Christian, my first priority surely must be the maintaining of a rich, personal, vital relationship with the Almighty. Without that, I have nothing of real value to share with others & no valid base for my own life.
         Every day there should be a time set aside for Bible study & prayer. It should be considered even more essential than food for the physical body. Job said, "I have esteemed the Words of His mouth more than my necessary food."--Job 23:12.
Husband-Wife. For those who are married, the second priority is the relationship between husband & wife. It takes patience to grow a marriage, experience to discover the ever-changing needs of another human being, courage to communicate, & wisdom to really know another person. Yet, this is what marriage is all about.
         I believe that every husband & wife should continue to have "dates" with each other every week. Husband & wife desperately need to be together just to be together. To talk, to laugh, to enjoy each other--to be "best friends."
Children. For those who are parents, their children are their third priority. The Psalmist tells us that children "are an heritage from the Lord."--Psa.127:3. Some of the Lord's greatest blessings come to us through life with our children.
         When we bring children into the World, we start a soul toward eternity, a soul that shall never die, a soul that will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell.--And the parent is responsible for building into those early years experiences that will predispose the child to a desire to serve God & others. That's a heavy responsibility.

Parenting Adolescents
         During a child's first twelve years, almost all the authority & responsibility belong to the parent. With the onset of puberty some dramatic changes take place in the child's life. These changes make a tremendous impact on every aspect of the child's existence. The child's physical body has been rather easily controlled by adults who were so much larger & more powerful. Now, suddenly, the child begins to develop the body of an adult. As the adult body develops, the adolescent becomes increasingly difficult to control from the outside.
Building Good Families. A noted speech professor & personal friend of mine visited our campus for a speaking engagement. We were to eat the evening meal together in the cafeteria, & as we sat down to eat, he said rather casually to me, "Carl, what are you & Smitty doing to keep the lines of communication open with your children?" As we ate our meal, I began to tell him about some of the things we were doing as a family. Then, I asked him, "What are you & your wife doing to keep the lines of communication open with your kids?" He began to tell me about their concerns for their kids.
         For years he & his wife had been "family watchers." They had been on the look-out for families who seemed to be doing an especially good job. They watched for family closeness, a healthy parent-child relationship, & responsible children, both with & apart from their parents. When they discovered such a family, they would make a special opportunity to be with them & ask the question, "What have you done to keep the lines of communication open with your children? Tell us about your family." The professor said they had heard many good ideas over the years, as one would imagine. But in all of the families, what was said boiled down to these four characteristics:
Open affection. All the families expressed love for one another openly & spontaneously. They engaged in a lot of hugging & gentle touching. Proverbs 27:5 says, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." Many people have difficulty expressing their feelings, especially appreciation & love. So many couples who cannot naturally hug & touch tenderly, live with tension & sullenness, & later, as parents, they do not touch & hug their children.
Mutual Support. These families took an interest in the activities of each member. If one member was involved in a drama production or an athletic event, the entire family would attend the event together. Each member of the family would support the participating member in appropriate ways: Applause, a smile, a pat on the back, &/or a word of commendation.
Rituals. Each family member often participated in "family rituals" together. Some obvious rituals were: Meals eaten together, family prayer at mealtime & family devotionals. Less frequent activities, which depended on family preference, were: Family vacations, backpacking, camping, fishing & hiking.
Decisive Living. Strong family ties did not leap into existence by themselves; they were built on purpose. The father & mother sat down regularly to plan, asking questions, such as: What are we currently missing in the life of our family that would enrich us? What are we missing that we will later look back & regret? Is there too much absence of either father or mother from the family, which works against the family's good? Are we doing some things that we can curtail in order to have more time together?
         If we want to increase the amount of good that happens in our family, we need to find out how to make it happen!
Looking for the Stars. The teen years pass quickly. There may be difficult days for both parents & teenagers, but if parents will approach the experiences of these years with enthusiasm & optimism, they can also be exciting years.
         The story is told of a young bride from the East who, during the last war, followed her husband to an army camp on the edge of a desert in California. Living conditions were primitive at best. He had advised against her moving there, but she wanted to be with him.
         The only housing they could find was a run-down shack near an Indian village. The heat was unbearable in the daytime, reaching 115 degrees in the shade. The wind blew constantly, spreading dust & sand on everything in the house. The days were long & boring because her only neighbours were the Indians, none of whom spoke English.
         When her husband was ordered farther into the desert for two weeks of maneuvers, loneliness & the wretched living conditions got the best of her. She wrote to her mother that she was coming home--she just couldn't take it any more. In a short time, she received a reply that included these two lines:
         Two men looked out from prison bars,
         One saw mud, the other saw stars.
She read the lines over & over & began to feel ashamed of herself. She didn't really want to leave her husband. "All right!" she said to herself. She would look for the stars.
         In the days that followed, she set out to make friends with the Indians. She asked them to teach her weaving & pottery. At first, they were distant; but as soon as they sensed that her interest was genuine, they returned her friendship. She became fascinated with their culture, history--everything about them.
         She began to study the desert as well; & soon it, too, changed from a desolate, forbidding place to a marvellous thing of beauty. She had her mother send her books & studied the forms of cacti, the yuccas, the Joshua trees. Later, she became such an expert on the area that she wrote a book about it.
         The desert didn't change. The Indians didn't change. Simply by changing her own attitude she had transformed a miserable experience into a highly rewarding one.
         It doesn't take long for children to grow up. It can be a lot of fun if you approach it determined to make it that way.