Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tip 16 | Indifference

Indifference is a quiet relationship killer. Indifference is the opposite of both love and hate. Indifference says you place no value on a person, a thing, or event and therefore are not willing to expend any emotion. An indifferent spouse will block attempts to have a serious discussion with a distracting movie, video games, extra time at work, or making the attempt at discussion a problem.  An indifferent spouse will block attempts for enjoyment by pointing out the cost, having no time, or pointing out problems until there is no chance for an enjoyable event.

Matthew 11:16-19 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:

‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance;
We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Long ago I worked with a woman who appeared indifferent. She did little outside of work and didn’t take care of herself. Then came the divorce. A few months later she had her hair done, started going out the evenings, and worked on her attitude. I quietly thought – wow if she had made half of these positive changes while she was married I wonder if she’d have gotten divorced.

A lack of purpose breeds indifference.

A healthy marriage has purpose. When a couple is focused on working out the Will of God in their life there is no room for indifference. When you are serving others, helping the poor, making peace, working hard on a business, being an active member of Team God you have beautiful purpose.

The cure for indifference is suffering

Don’t complain about the indifference of your spouse. Start living the Will of God in your life and invite them to serve others with you.

God hates indifference. God’s counsel to the indifference of the Church of Laodicea was “to buy from God gold refined in the fire”. What does that mean? Gold is a symbol of things that have eternal value as Gold does not rust. Refined in the fire means suffering. If you want to regain a purpose, then be prepared to lose the things you falsely value and through suffering gain something of eternal value. When you are parents you’ll likely experience a child who takes their nice bed, their good food, and their allowance for granted. You’ll also experience the joy as they move out on their own and start to suffer but gain the eternal Gift of Thankfulness.

I recommend the movie “The Ultimate Gift”.

Revelation 3:15-18 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Tip 15 | Women and Wine

One curse that especially affects us men is other women and wine, sometimes its wine and women. Many men lose their wife, their family, their job, their home, and their reputation on the issue of other women and wine (or any other illicit drug).

Being involved in international business for decades I know whereof I speak and, without overly dwelling on it, there were numerous times where women showed up at my hotel room door sometimes pre-paid sometimes not. There were parties with hostess woman as the norm, and where women seek marriage for a green card. Now add alcohol and weeks alone travelling into this mix, it quickly becomes immoral and dangerous. The more valuable your position, the more valuable the contracts you make decisions on, the more incentive for others to give opportunities for you to morally compromise and the more arrogant you may become leaving you blinded to the risk of moral compromise.

Now many jobs require extensive travel. I’ve found that it is helpful to establish Christian friends where ever you regularly travel.


Tip 14 | Transformed not Conformed

In my travels, I see people who think of themselves as “non-conformist” spending a lot of time, money, and effort conforming.

Non-conformists are alike

Teenagers often conform by dressing in black, tattoos, piercings, etc. In our 30’s and 40’s we often conform by seeking luxury goods. We feel unique without realizing millions of others are doing the exact same thing. Seriously, do you really think carrying a YSL handbag that costs $2,400 makes you sophisticated, elegant, or unique?  A few over-weight middle-age marketing guys using models that look like death camp survivors to sell their products will disagree with my point.

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Which brings us to proving what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Some folks think about the “The Will of God” in a magical sense. They ask God to show them if they should take one job or another, go on vacation to one place or another, etc. But before we get all magical let’s look at what Romans 12 says.

Verse 3 “to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly”

The Will of God is for you to not think so highly of yourself.

Verses 4-5 “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

The Will of God is for you to realize that you are part of the Family of God, that you have a unique purpose, that you have a unique gift.  So what’s your unique gift? Start by asking a few elder members of the Family of God. Verses 6-8 go into some of the gifts that are present in the Family of God.

Verse 9 Let love be without dissimulation (pretending). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

The Will of God is for you to really love, do good, hate evil.

Verse 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

The Will of God is for you to be kind and preferring others before yourself.

Verse 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

The Will of God is for you to WORK HARD, be PASSIONATE, and serve the Lord where ever you are.

Verse 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

The Will of God is for you to rejoice in your salvation, don’t whine when trouble befalls you, and keep talking to God.

Verse 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

The Will of God is for you to help those in the Family of God who have needs, to have folks over to your home for dinner.

Verse 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Now the Will of God gets harder. We are to bless those that treat us poorly.

Verse 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

The Will of God is to celebrate the victories of others and mourn their losses.

Verse 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

The Will of God is to seek agreement with others in your church. Don’t focus things that sound impressive. “Condescend to men of low estate” means focus on outreach to the poor, the addicted, those with problems and mission trips to countries in need. Don’t be caught up in your own amazing intelligence, position, status, or wealth.

Verse 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

The Will of God is to avoid payback. The Will of God is that you are honest and carry yourself in a way that other people view you as honest.

Verse 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

The Will of God is that you live in peace, except for the John McDonald exemption clause “as much as lieth in you.”

Verse 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

The Will of God is that you leave judgment up to God and don’t take matters into your own hands.

Verse 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

The Will of God is that you treat your enemies with kindness.

Verse 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Will of God is that you are transformed by overcoming evil with good and to not be conformed by allowing evil to overcome you.

So when you need to know what the Will of God is on any particular decision you can run through that list and know if you are acting within the Will of God.  Is your decision compatible with your God given gifts, are you able to be effective, are you passionate about the decision, etc.?


Tip 13 | The Best Things in Life are (Almost) Free

I’ve travelled the world over, lived for 4.5 decades  – so I’ve learned a few things that are unassailably true.

You don’t need to have a lot of money in your marriage to enjoy great places, great food, and great relationships.

Most rare foods are gross and the more common a food is, the better tasting it usually is. The best locations on earth are generally national parks which even Bill Gates can’t buy. To illustrate the point, the following are a few items on “John’s Best of” list.

The best cheese: Tillamook Medium Cheddar
The best mac and cheese: Kraft and the perfect meal to come home to after a trip to Asia
The best potato: Idaho Russet
The best mash potatoes: Grandma Brown cause she cheats on the butter
The best national park: Yellowstone! Where else can you go visit an ancient cauldron with dozens of hot spots, boiling water, geysers, buffalo, etc.  Yosemite is a close 2nd
The best hiking spot: Mt. Zion National Park
The best mountain: Mt. Rainer! Jennifer and I went here when we were dating and discovered it is true that mosquitoes do have a preference. Sitting on a big rock in a beautiful flower strewn field we started to count how many mosquitoes would try to bite me vs. her.  The ratio was about 50:1 for my O+.
The best orange juice: Tropicana
The best diet soda: Diet Dr. Pepper
The best fast food chicken: El Pollo Loco
The best salad: Jennifer’s strawberry and spinach salad
The next best salad: Jennifer’s orange and almond salad
The best fast food salad: Jack in the Box – Southwest
The best fast food chili: Wendy’s
The best fast food coffee: McDonald’s
The best girl coffee: Caramel macchiato from Starbuck’s
The best homemade chili: Jennifer’s version of Wendy’s chili
The best chocolate cookies: Jennifer’s
The best soup and salad deal: Olive Garden
The best redneck activity: Build your own hot tub from scratch
The best dinner rolls: Texas Roadhouse
The best steak: Costco New York Steak
The best fast food ribs: Armadillo Willy’s with the hot BBQ sauce
The best ribs period: Too many great options
The best oyster deal: Pappaadeaux
The best spaghetti: Jennifer’s Bolognese
The best museums: Washington DC and a close second is London.
The best fish: fire roasted King Salmon
The best enchiladas: Jennifer’s Chicken enchiladas
The best black berry: Washington Armenian Blackberry
The best freedom movie: Braveheart
The best science movie: October Sky
The best marriage movie: Fireproof or the Taming of the Shrew
The best pet: Dog
The best sub: Togo’s Pastrami
Charity claims the best sub is: The MR. Pickle from Mr. Pickle’s
The best sub <$5: Subway
The best crab: King – pre-split
The best rendition of How Great Thou Art: Carrie Underwood
The best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner: Whitney Houston Super Bowl
The best animal: Honey Badger
The best chicken sandwich: Spicy Chic-fil-a
The best cereal: Post’s Blueberry Morning
The best fiber cereal: Fiber One
Aunt Julie’s best activity: Bubble bath
Aunt Jackie’s favorite thing: Kisses from the kids
The lowest cost fast food calorie: McDonald’s $1 menu The closest thing to heaven: Finding a McDonald’s next to your hotel in China
The best computer: Apple MacBook
The best Presidents: 1. Lincoln 2. Washington 3. Reagan
The worst steak: Almost any high end restaurant – too much salt
The worst steak again: Kobe beef is disgusting just go chew on fat if you want and save yourself the money – but after paying so much most people won’t admit it.
The worst tourist trap: Any wax museum
The worst investment: A big expensive boat
The worst car investment: A Shelby Cobra that breaks down every few miles. My brother calls me up one day and says do you want to go 50/50 on a Shelby Cobra. Why oh why did I ever agree to buy a convertible sports car in Western Washington were it rains 9 months of the year?
The other worst car investment: A Jaguar that breaks down every few hundred miles
The most overrated coffee: Starbuck’s
The best ice cream: Heated debate between Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Mint and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
The worst movie: Pride and Prejudice for the 9th time. Charity strongly disagrees.
The worst movie: Anything with Twilight in it
The most uneventful pet: Guinea Pig
The worst Presidents: 1. Wilson, 2. Johnson, 3. Carter, 4. FDR with President Obama striving every day to make the list.

While this list is true :), feel free to add to it or make your own.


Tip 12 | Mixed Marital Arts

Most relationships including marriages have the occasional argument or strong disagreement. A good argument requires some rules. Even in mixed martial arts there are rules to minimize the risk of lasting damage.

Maintain proportion in a disagreement. It is easy to let a level 2 disagreement, on a scale of 1 to 10, turn into a level 8 problem. In others words, if you are as mad about a dirty room as would be if someone burnt your house down, then you’re not in proportion. From personal experience  proportion is extremely tough to maintain when the anger is about an event that has repeated itself a hundred times.

Out of Bounds
Men especially should never threaten their spouses security or their commitment to the marriage. For example: comparing your wife to another woman is out-of-bounds. Women especially should never engage in mockery and controlling behavior. These behaviors are especially damaging and can result in long-term problems even after the kiss-and-make-up.

Time Limits
Don’t argue tired, hungry, or under the influence. Many issues are simply resolved with proper sleep. In our culture many of us are chronically tired due to a lack of sleep.

Address the Point
Many arguments are caused by the intersection of two or more issues. The confusion of issues often results in the spouses talking past each other. The more issues present in an argument the more difficult it is to find resolution. Try to address one point at a time and avoid linking issues. Finally, even though I’m a confirmed hypocrite – when I’ve taken time to actually write down a disagreement the thoughts surrounding it often become more focused, coherent, and less emotional. When my wife has taken time to write down her thoughts resolution is found more quickly.

Queen Esther provides an excellent example of how to address serious issues with a spouse. When she was faced with the serious issue of Haman’s anti-sematic death sentence she dressed up (a sign of respect), had a feast prepared (a sign of respect), and took her time waiting for the proper moment (a sign of respect) despite the King’s grievous error. By the time she addressed the issue she had the King’s full attention for her respect leaving no room for her motives to be misinterpreted.

Remember Love
It is important to remember that you both at one time were so in love that you decided to share a life together and to raise a family together.

Arguments happen for good reasons, bad reasons, but usually goofy stupid reasons.  For example: I was recently in a small restaurant in Utrecht, Netherlands and could not help to overhear a couple engaged in a very loud argument. The woman was really angry about not being able to use her bicycle more. Apparently he had promised her that her that this hotel would be near a bike path.

The following is a list of points that are common reasons for arguments.

Financial issues spark a lot of arguments. Once again, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s material. In addition, having organized finances with fresh relevant data can avoid many arguments. My awesome wife has recorded virtually every transaction since the beginning of our marriage. Thanks to her record keeping I know exactly how much money we make and spend each month in over 30 categories. In 23 years of marriage we’ve never had a legitimate mark against our credit thanks to my wife.

Moms and Dads are different and have different roles. The traditional role of the Dad is to push his children to succeed. The Dad should take the lead in discipline. The traditional role of the Mother is to provide a safe nurturing place for her children to develop in. Both roles are critically important for a developing child. Unfortunately, this difference between Mother and Father can spark arguments about how the parental duo responds to a child’s issue.

Sometimes a spouse needs to vent. Be understanding and supportive and don’t make yourself a target by pointing out the flaws in a rant about their co-worker or relative.

According to my brother-in-law sometimes a woman just wants to have a listening ear.

Arguments can be sparked by the use of extreme words. Avoid using the words “never” and “always” etc. and don’t take them literally when you hear them. The other spouse really doesn’t think that you NEVER do something, they mean rarely or not enough.

Illogical Behavior
The Assuming Spouse: don’t assume your spouse understands why you’ve treated them poorly for 3 days.

Wild Extrapolation: don’t conclude your spouse who bought $50 worth of songs on the internet is trying to bankrupt the family.

Unreliable Advice: Marriage advice from a relative who has been in three divorces or parenting advice from a person who has never raised a child should be treated with respectful skepticism.

Hormones: don’t say that PMS has nothing to do with the argument when you feel like your entire life is messed up, you are crying for no apparent reason, or socks on the floor made you so mad that you made a PowerPoint presentation on it (actual event).

Bad Technique: don’t use poor analogies, instead just make your point.

You are the World: Your opinion does not represent the world’s opinion. For example: “Everyone thinks the way I do.”, “All men would agree that I’m right”, “You don’t know how to treat women” as if all women are the same.

The Lawyer: It’s an argument not a court room and you are not an attorney and you are not allowed to interrogate.

Pointless points: Don’t make meaningless points in an argument. For example: “You said you’d stop by Safeway and be home by 5:30.  NO, I said I’d swing by Safeway and be home by 5:30.

Baggage: don’t assume your spouse is wrong because they were wrong in the past even though past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Christ said to forgive 70 times 7.


Tip 11 | Abuse

Abuse is the third most common reason couples divorce. When a husband or father abuses, it violates his role as the primary protector of the family and the marriage covenant is broken.

Few couples enter into marriage thinking abuse could be in their future. I’m certainly not qualified to speak to all the causes of abuse, but I can speak to what I have seen.  First, no one should view themselves as incapable of being abusive. Second, no one should view themselves as incapable of being abused.

Drug and Alcohol abuse has directly led to a number of abuse and neglect cases I’ve witnessed. In one case, a dear friend of our family, an extremely smart Christian man with a Ph.D. whom I shared many thoughts and jokes, drank himself to death in a mall parking lot after a long struggle with dependency on the bottle. Addiction is powerful. He knew full well what he was doing, he spoke about it, he had a great life, and a beautiful family. Even though he had a great job for most of his career, he left his family neglected and with little money.

Drug abuse can start quite innocently. My maternal grandmother is reported to have died of an overdose on prescription medicine. Numerous pill bottles were thrown away after her death by my mother as she cleaned up her personal effects. Her drug of choice was tranquilizers.

Pain medication is particularly difficult because the reason the drug addict took it to start with was completely legitimate, but then they get hooked.  I’ve seen at least four people in my life struggle with prescription pain medication addiction resulting in severe medical problems in three out of four cases.

Physical abuse can enter the family in frustration. One of my brothers enjoyed cutting down trees in a vacant lot next to my father’s company. The alder trees were 18 inches in diameter and about 40 feet tall.  Packed close together they grew tall and straight with only a tiny canopy. Thus when the alders were cut down there was little wind resistance and the trees fell quickly often bouncing off the ground by a few feet. It wasn’t our property and the trees were tall enough to reach the parking lot. For obvious reasons, my father had asked my brother to stop cutting them down. One day, my older brother invited me to watch him cut down a tree.  I was around 12. He made short work of the tree; it cracked and fell with a loud crash. Great fun!  My father ran out of his company and spotted me standing there. He called me over and promptly beat me with a 2×4.  My brother wisely refused to come out of the woods. There can be times when kids are seriously wrong and extremely aggravating. Take a breath and try to not turn abusive if even for a moment.

Sexual abuse can enter a family when dealing with strangers, friends, relatives… Don’t be naïve. Divorce, neglect, physical abuse can be precursors to sexual abuse. My parents invited a guy who showed up at our church into our home to show him some Christian hospitality. Turned out the guy was a pedophile and immediately targeted one of my brothers. Don’t invite complete strangers into your home who obviously have issues in an unsupervised manner. Don’t agree to sleep overs with families who have issues. Issues generally run in packs.

My awesome wife worked on a San Joaquin domestic violence program designed to help young women make better choices with choosing a boyfriend. Many girls seek out the “bad boy” guys and end up getting far more than rebellious excitement. The bad boys often abused them. Tragically, a number of these girls get killed and tossed in fields and dumpsters around San Joaquin County.

So the first tip in avoiding abuse is making proper relationship choices. If you are already dating someone who is abusive, break up as soon as possible with as much external support as you can get or call the police if required. If you are already married, get professional help, let a friend know, and call the police if it’s needed.

Tip 10 | Invest in Yourself

One benefit of marrying young is having no pre-martial assets. When you are both asset poor, there should be no arguments about who brought what into the relationship. In my marriage Jennifer, age 18, brought in $1200 and I, age 22, brought in about $700 – and unknown to me a $1500 IRS bill.

The best investment you will ever make is in your own education, your own company, your own ideas, your own family. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself by joining a small company, starting your own, pursuing an idea, educating yourself, spouse and children.

It’s dumb to generally invest in individual stocks in the stock market because you “did your homework.” You may as well invest on “red” in Las Vegas. You invest in sectors: for example 5 to 10 stocks in the tech sector. Never ever invest all your money in one small stock for the following reason: I’ve sat in cars and planes with some top executives and listened as they answer questions from analysts, investors, and top mutual funds. There is no way you, as a small time investor, can be more informed and therefore have an edge – so fugetaboutit.

If you have additional money and want to invest it then consider the MCD method.  Good investors aren’t really trying to find the great stock, what they are really trying to do is avoid losing. It took me a long time to learn that. So whenever there is a market “risk” flee to the safety of McDonald’s “MCD” – Roger that should be easy to remember.  McDonald’s is an international company so they are exposed to less currency problems, they have massive land holding in prime real estate, and their products are cheap so no competitor will undercut them on price and the public will still be able to afford the product during hard times. It is hard to get more diversified than MCD. When the Fed is printing money, invest in the stock market especially tech and commodities but keep diversified. Then listen for the Fed to stop printing, international problems, high price of oil, and other reasons and flee to MCD. You can choose your own MCD, but make sure it meets the international, profitable, and low price leader criteria.

If your company offers a good deal (i.e. 15% off) on their stock via employee purchase plans, then participate Those are generally good deals. If they offer 401K matching plans, then these are generally good deals as well. Never rely on any government tax free or tax deferred scheme. It is common for Governments to promise tax free or deferred this or that and then to change the rules when too many people take advantage of the tax haven.

One company I worked for actually allowed employees to loan tens of thousands of dollars to purchase company stock. I took advantage of this deal. After thinking about it for another week, I decided it was sort of crazy and sold for a minor profit. I was glad I did.  I also instructed all my direct reports to not take the deal. Our company stock continued to tank and hundreds of employees were trapped with massive debt hanging over their head as virtual debt slaves to the company.

Avoid all fancy financial schemes

In my life I’ve been approached by at least four goofy financial schemes.

The first example, one dear Christian colleague of mine wanted me to invest in a Mexican crabbing operation. I told him to send me some of the crab and only after that would I think about it. The Ponzi scheme collapsed and he lost huge money.

The second example, when selling our first home in Washington we were offered a seller-carry back loan. The buyer offers a higher price to the seller than the home is worth and the buyer pays the closing cost.  However, they only get a bank loan for 80% of the home’s value and expect you to carry the note for the other 20 or even 25%. The Christian real estate agent assured me I could sell this note on the secondary market and even gave me a 1-800 number for a person that buys these types of notes.  The number rang and rang and no one ever picked up.

Here is how the scam works: The buyers are innocent financially illiterate saps who can’t believe that despite their bad credit they can “afford a home” for no money down. The bank doesn’t care about the scam because their loan is backed by the value of the home.  The real estate agent is happy because he gets paid a higher commission due to the inflated price of the home. The inspectors, appraisers, title insurance folks are all happy because they get paid for a deal. You think you are happy because you get a higher price – EXCEPT you will never get paid on the note you carry and no one will buy it from you.

The third example, you will be approached with all kinds of schemes to sell a product out of your home. The most common example is Amway. The way these schemes work is by getting you to “sell” their products.  By selling their products you are working for the company and naturally, as a company worker, you will be very loyal to the company and buy their products. In my opinion, the real goal of Amway is for you to buy their products by convincing you that you work for them. Avoid all these types of deals. If the effort was so valuable they would pay you for it. Now if you really like selling soap, pans, plastic microwavable wear and lingerie from your living room, then by all means go for it. Just don’t expect to get rich.

The fourth example took place around 1978 or so. There was a rush to build windmills for tax deduction purposes. Many people in the church that I grew up in invested in this scheme. The windmills had to be built by the end of the year. I remember distinctly how many church members were pressed into service to build windmills right during the Buena Park Bible Conference which was held for three days around Christmas. The windmills often broke down and in the end, the church members lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to save tens of thousands on taxes.

It is the husband’s responsibility to avoid stupid financial deals. Don’t make her have to question your judgment. 

And to wife, I say, be careful and gentle when questioning his financial judgment … he did after all choose you.

If you must question his financial judgment, then pretend you are on “Jeopardy” where you phrase all statements in the form of a question.

Tip 9 | Debt

The fourth most common reason for divorce is marital financial issues.

Avoid debt. It is slavery

The American financial system is stacked against the young couple. First, college is more expensive because of easy to obtain student loans. The easy availability of student loans has allowed colleges to raise their tuitions without fear that students will not be able to pay. It is not uncommon for a student to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. This year total student debt surpassed a staggering $1,000,000,000,000 dollars in the USA.

I’m not saying don’t get a student loan to go to college. I am saying that if you go into debt for a degree that has little hope for income you might want to think twice. In 2013 the worst ROI degrees are: Sociology, Fine Arts, Theology, Hospitality, Nutrition, etc. Getting an economically worthless degree and then entering marriage with a lot of debt is a recipe for problems.

Then there is the purchase of the first home. The US tax code allows a young couple to deduct the mortgage interest off of their taxes. If one assumes that home values and rents will continue to rise, then it becomes obvious that buying a home is a good deal. This first home adds another big pile of debt onto the young couple and their family.

Along with the home comes the maintenance, the property taxes, insurance, etc. Consequently, the young couple is stretched to the limit and worried about losing a job, worried about having a child, worried about car trouble, and worried about student loans. The government and banking system love debt slaves because debt slaves are profitable and usually behave themselves.

If you buy a home, buy one that is easily affordable. This means a home which the cost is  never more than one-third of your monthly income.

Keep your finances clean

Twice in my life I’ve had to learn hard financial lessons related to real estate.

As a young man, I desperately wanted to get Jennifer and my two little girls out of an apartment and into a real home. Why? It was probably just pride. I bought about the only home I could qualify for at the time. It cost just $88,000 in Everett, WA. The chimney was falling down, the roof needed replacing, the siding was falling off, and the doors hung crooked. The home was built around 1916.

In fact, the roof was in such bad shape that the bank would not give us a loan unless the roof was replaced. We fixed up the little home. However, after my Dad fired my older brother and me from his company, I was left with a mortgage, no job, and no friends. Being raised “Closed” Plymouth Brethren and shunned after I left that community didn’t help the job prospects.

Thankfully, Analog Devices hired me in Santa Clara, CA. This meant we had to move. Jen and I decided to hold onto our home in Everett and rent it out. The rental was a financial problem and a big headache. Don’t be a part-time landlord while living in another state.  After a few financially painful years, we learned our lesson and sold the home. It is doubtful we ever made back the money invested and certainly not the time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson very well and I did not sell my next Washington home when we again moved to California around 2004. This time we lost an estimated $150K over the years in renters who didn’t pay, an empty house, and ever higher property taxes.

Debt guru Dave Ramsey’s material is recommended.


Tip 8 | Apologies and Forgiveness

Everyone screws up and most of don’t like to admit when we are the “screwupee.”  Everyone screws up and most of us don’t truly forgive the “screwuper.”

The principal of forgiving is quite simple but often one of the hardest things to do, next to saying sorry.

We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32

It is common to pretend to be sorry. It is common to pretend to forgive. Most of the time, we men make the worst mistakes. As evidence of our unique ability to screw up we only need to note that the prison population demographic is 90% male. This means men are going to have to say sorry 90% of the time, and women are going to have to forgive 90% of time. Ironically, it has been my experience that men have a harder time saying sorry than forgiving, while women have a harder time forgiving than saying sorry.

A breakdown in communication is the second highest reason given for divorce after infidelity. There are many reasons for a lack of communication but one significant reason is a lack of genuine apology and a lack of genuine forgiveness. It’s tough to be open with someone with whom you have unresolved pain.

What women really need is to be unconditionally loved and to have unconditionally security. This means something slightly different for each woman and it’s our job as men to figure out what unconditional love and security means to her. Hint: it is not ignoring her or social networking with other women.

What guys really need is unconditional respect and unconditional forgiveness for all the stupid guy stuff we do. In our society, respect is earned  but NOT in a successful marriage. Do you want your man to love you when you’ve earned it? So why should he be respected only when he’s “earned” it. I’m highlighting it here because our society is so poor on this point.

Unconditional respect: he chose to spend his life with  you and that is all he needs to do to earn your respect.

Respect can be taking an interest in his interest, being listened too, being sexy, etc. For each guy it can means something slightly different and it’s your job to figure out what that unconditional respect and unconditional forgiveness means. Hint: it is not yelling at him for a poor car purchase or being nasty to him because he offended you three days ago on an entirely unrelated subject. Your husband is going to learn his lessons about bad investments and other poor decisions if you say “That one didn’t work out, but I trust you. You are always trying to do the best for our family.” Now instead of being in conflict, your husband will do 10x the amount of homework before his next decision.


Tip 7 | A Bed of Roses or Thorns?

The home should be a place of refuge, a safe harbor, a castle. Is your home a statement about wealth, fashion, or your ability to go into debt? Or is your home a statement as to what is truly important in life? Does God’s creation and science surround you or are you surrounded by a fake Hollywood creation? Is home a place where your spouse can relax after a long day? Can your children and their friends have fun or is the condition of the carpet and expensive furniture too important? Are pets welcomed? Is your home a place where guests feel comfortable? Is it overly dirty or artificial?

Even more important than the physical home  is the attitude of home. Where ever my awesome wife is – is where home is.

Is home a place with a friendly greeting, a warm embrace, a kind touch, a hot meal, free from whiny critical comments?

It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house. Proverbs 25:24

My awesome wife takes the time to make sure my house is not overly feminized. With four girls she still makes sure that the TV channel gets changed from TLC’s “What Not to Wear”,”Say Yes to the Dress,” or “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant”(<– hey you were totally fascinated by the episode with the twins -CM), to the History Channel, Pawn Stars, or Deadliest Catch when I come home.

She thinks about not making me go to bed in some big floral arraignment with 14 pillows and keeps our room appropriately balanced.  I’ll admit I did take my male stuff too far.  Jennifer painted our Woodinville House kitchen with baby blue with puffy clouds (a.k.a. sponge painting style from the 90’s). So I put up some inspiring paintings of WWII fighter planes shooting down various Axis aircraft among her kitchen clouds. After a few weeks they disappeared and I still don’t know what’s become of those masterpieces.

A little off topic, but my awesome wife even knows how to drive a tractor. During my congressional campaign the other candidate was making a point about how much of a “farmer” he was. It was so much fun pointing out that my wife had spent more time on a tractor than he had.