The Encouraging Word

July 23rd, 2008

Speaking Life

The other day I was having dinner with a friend. She said something to me which made me smile. She told me that my girls were so encouraging. She said all of them were (I have 5) and that they always were!

My “girls” are all young ladies now and it is so rewarding to hear that they are living and speaking in such a way that they are producing life and joy in the hearts of those that know them. For that is what encouraging words do: They enter into the soul of those that will embrace them and produce life.
The Bible tells us that “ (a person) speaks from that which fills his heart.” “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good.” Luke 6:45
If we are to have good things come out of our mouth we have to put good treasure into our hearts. I know of no better way to do this than the way which the Bible teaches which is to meditate on those things that are true, honest, right, pure, loveable and gracious, attractive, virtuous and praise worthy (Phil 4:8). When we read the Bible, it is these kinds of thoughts that can and should be the end result of our meditation before God: Thoughts that we activate by belief and that we express towards ourselves and others.
Since these encouraging thoughts are “treasure” the enemy will try to steal them away. We must “guard our heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life (Prov4:23)”. That which produces this life that flows from us to others is also that which serves to protect it…Reading and meditating on the Bible.

I taught my children when they were young to respect others and to be kind and to read the Bible every day. I know that these teachings have produced this fruit of encouragement that my friend sees in them. It is a fruit that so many people love to enjoy and it is so simple to give.

May we encourage one another daily and see how many smiles it produces in those we love!
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.” Ps 19:14

Note to Phil Bonasso: You are the best husband in the whole world!

The Encouraging Word

April 4th, 2008

THE EASTER SEASON

Although Easter Sunday has passed, the Easter Season has just begun. For the next 40 days the Church will continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good thing to think about the fact that Jesus has overcome death and offers us His Resurrection life. The power that brought Jesus up from the grave is the same power that is available to us as His children every day: It is the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Eph 3:16-21 Paul prays that we would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” and continues on to write that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. “ It is this very power that saved us and it is this very power that can strengthen us daily for all that the Lord has called us to do as His Servants and as His Church. We should remember this daily.

When my children were young I composed a prayer for them to say before they went to

sleep. It was a prayer of confession based on the Promises that the Bible had for them. Part of this prayer focused on my hope that they would come into the salvation experience of the Lord…”I Thank you, Lord, that by Your Grace I understand that Jesus died on the cross, rose up from the grave, and lives today that I might have eternal life through the gift of Repentance.” Certainly it is a simple prayer but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to truly understand the impact that such truths can have upon our daily lives and in our inner man.

May the events of Easter fill our hearts and minds every day of our lives that we might be encouraged to know the amazing power that is available to us, to the Church and for the world. Jesus, indeed, is the Resurrection and the Life for all and for all times.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” Eph 1:18

Note to Phil Bonasso: Thank you for leading your family into the hope of the Resurrection through your steadfast love and faith towards God and towards us.

10 Steps to Building Teamwork in Your Marriage

January 18th, 2008

By Karen Bonasso

As my husband and I have sat in marriage counseling sessions with young couples, I would listen to them present “their side” to the issues at hand. It was often obvious to me that they were approaching life together as a Tug-of War game and they weren’t on the same side! There were also many times when I would sit with wives and have to remind them that their husband was not the enemy even though they perceived his actions as antagonistic to their wellbeing. I’m sure the husband had similar feelings. With these prevailing attitudes the answers to a couple’s problems would be difficult to advise, not because the problems were so complex but because the married couple could not work together to solve them.

The married couple that can work as a team is one that can face the challenges of life and win. It’s not how smart or skilled or talented each individual is; nor how many strengths or how few weaknesses each has. It’s whether or not they can huddle up and come up with a game plan to work as a team utilizing both individual’s unique strengths and protecting the weaknesses. This takes respect and trust from both the husband and the wife and a few pointers on how to build teamwork into your marriage.

1. Attack the problem not each other. Remember you are on the same side!

2. Admit when neither one of you has the experience or the knowledge to know how to get the game plan. Seek advice - together if possible. You may need a coach!

3. Realize that solutions to problems sometimes take time and consistency. Learn how to tag team so neither one of you wears out.

4. Communicate as you navigate the unexpected variables that may arise while you’re working your game plan.

5. Once you agree on the plan write it down so you both can remember what was decided. This is especially important when finances are concerned. No matter how young you are, memory can be unclear in the midst of difficulty.

6. Be vocal with praise when a good job is being done and encourage each other when endurance is necessary for success. Remember your teammate needs it!

7. Be honest. If you didn’t or can’t do your part, talk about it with your partner. It’s not about perfection; it’s about living life together and helping each other. The best teammates know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well.

8. Trust each other to carry out their responsibility in the solution and let each carry it out in their own way. Expect that he/she will not do it like you would. This is key to not being sidetracked into a “sideline fight”.

9. Make love. This is a great tension reliever and helps to keep you, as a couple, focused on the fact that you may be team members in the game of life but you are lovers above all else. It reminds you that you really do like your teammate!

10. Pray together to ask for God’s guidance and strength. Be aware that there is an enemy that does not want you to succeed as a team. Spiritual unity is very important to an outcome of victory.

In conclusion, remember as a married couple you are a team. The marriage relationship has the potential to be the smoothest working team in life. The best teams are made up of teammates who like and appreciate each other. When an attitude of teamwork prevails, problems become possibilities to build a great marriage. And don’t forget to celebrate your victories together before the next game!

A Christmas Wish

December 19th, 2007

Karen and I are hoping your Holiday season is going great!

Over the last few days, I read a letter from a friend of mine that I found very encouraging when it comes to building a great marriage. My friend is a really special Christian leader in my book and the head of a large global organization.

I receive a personal newsletter from John Dawson, the International President of Youth with a Mission (Y.W.A.M) which is a Christian missionary organization mobilizing young people to serve primarily in the third world nations. In his December letter, he mentions what he thinks is the "biggest" of all human problems. His conclusion was striking, coming from a man who has spent most of his life on the mission field in some places you and I probably didn’t know existed.

Considering all that this 56-year-old influential leader has experienced in his world travels, his answer to what is the "greatest"
human problem was certainly based on what he had seen on a global scale. One might conclude his answer had to do with some of the enormous struggles facing planet earth: world hunger, disease, global warming, poverty, and if not any of those, certainly the epidemic of AIDS.

No, none of the above. John’s answer to the biggest human problem was surprising… the epidemic of broken relationships!

According to John, from every sphere of life to every place that life is lived there is brokenness and strain in relationships.  There is division between friends, co-workers, churches, families, and in marriages.
What is his solution to the biggest human problem? Fall on your knees and allow God’s loving power to flow down and heal you and every broken relationship in your life.

This is our Christmas wish for you. In every place of your life where there is the pain of broken relationships, especially in your family and marriage, there would be healing.

Merry Christmas!

The Encouraging Word with Karen Bonasso

December 19th, 2007

The Seven great “I Am” statements of Jesus

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible in the Gospel of John is”he who loves Me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him andwill disclose Myself to him.” (Jn14: 21) Just the thought of the Lord”disclosing” Himself to me is so amazing. The Lord Jesus in Whomdwells all the riches of knowledge and wisdom; in Whom dwells the fullexpression of love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:18); and in Whom dwells all powerand authority and dominion in heaven and earth (Eph1:21). Jesus inWhom “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) This is Hewho wants to reveal Himself to me in the relational intimacy of lovingdisclosure. In other words, He wants to tell me who He is…for me!And of course this disclosure is first and foremost through the Bible…His Word.In the Gospel of John, seven times Jesus says, “I am” followed by aself-description.These “I am ” Scriptures are listed below. As I meditate on them, I find in the person of Jesus Christ everything I need… and I feelstrength… and I feel loved! I AM:

  1. THE BREAD OF LIFE (Jn 4:48)
  2. THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (Jn 9:5)
  3. THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP (Jn 10:7)
  4. THE GOOD SHEPHERD (Jn 10:11)
  5. THE RESSURECTION AND THE LIFE (Jn 11:25)
  6. THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE (Jn 14:6)
  7. THE TRUE VINE (Jn 15:1)

Note to Phil Bonasso: Thank you for so many merry Christmases!

Build a Great Marriage

November 21st, 2007

THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER according to “OPRAH”

I came across an advertisement the other day for an episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” that was showcasing married love. The title of the show was “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told”. I don’t really watch her program, but being intrigued, I decided to TiVo the show and see what Oprah had to say about married love.

Arguably, Oprah may be the most important African American woman of our generation and one of the most notable public figures of our time. She is one of the most influential women in the entertainment industry, if not the most. She is also the most successful daytime talk show host ever. Viewed by millions of people everyday, primarily women, Oprah’s influence on our culture is staggering. Although our views are different on several life and philosophical issues, I greatly admire her philanthropic efforts.

She is not married but has been in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend of many years, making this show all the more interesting. Although very supportive of the traditional marriage relationship herself, Oprah has alluded to marriage not being for her. She has hinted at various reasons for feeling this way such as her own childhood memories and a possible fear of failure or commitment. Nonetheless, she dedicated an entire program to married love stories.

I was not at all surprised that the tone of the show reflected a prevailing, universal attitude which suggests there is some mysterious secret that makes a marriage work. Oprah herself, visibly touched by each couple’s story, offered words such as “fate”, “destiny” and the “power of love” as reasons for the longevity of some of these relationships.

The program showcased four different couples with the hope of gaining some insight on why their marriage was successful. Here is a link to the program which aired on November 14th. The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Two couples stood out the most to me. For the last 27 years of their nearly forty years of married life, Patricia and Alton have written each other a love letter everyday! Pretty amazing! With that kind of heartfelt communication going on everyday, how can they not build a great marriage? (Please see tip #2 in our Surviving the 5-10 Marriage Struggle article)

Perhaps the couple that offered the most telling insight into what makes a successful marriage was NBA basketball star Grant Hill and his wife Tamia. After they both shared testimony of the many challenging struggles they have endured, Grant poignantly stated, “ everyone knows that marriage is hard work,” confirming that great marriages are built. Successful marriages are not the product of fate or destiny but the by-product of dedication and commitment.

Keep working hard and you can build a great marriage!

The Encouraging Word with Karen Bonasso

November 14th, 2007

“EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT”

The other day I went to a Shakespeare Play performed by the LA
Shakespeare Co. It had an Ensemble Cast of about 15 people, which
made it very enjoyable to watch. There wasn’t much to the stage, nor
to the small room that held the stage. There wasn’t even a set, just a
few props. The costumes were simply well picked, contemporary clothes.
All of these factors together made it a unique experience. Unique
experiences always make me think and pray!

An Ensemble Cast, simply stated, means that every performer in the
cast has the talent to play the principal character. Because the
actors were professionals each played their own part, whether small or
large, with great skill and passion. It was marvelous to watch even
the smallest line and part to be brought to the stage with such life.
The strengths that each actor brought to the scene filled the stage
with energy. The performers themselves became the set!

It took a lot of preparation time to bring such an Ensemble together.
With everyone so creative, the Director, I’m sure, would have to make
the final decision among several great ideas being offered. But the
Director of an Ensemble Cast would have to be very unique himself. He
would have to allow for the full expression of each player, yet
harness it in such a way that a cohesive unit would form and the play
performed well. Since I have a close relationship with one of the cast
members, I am also aware that the performance grows and changes each
time. The Director has to give his critique after each of the
performances to make sure that, in the midst of the freedom of
expression he allows the actors, the integrity of the initial vision
of the production is not compromised. It is at once consistent and
dynamic!

I can remember every actor and actress and appreciate what he or she
brought to the stage. The play would have been very different if just
one of them were missing.

This wonderful experience made me think of 1 Corinthians 12 in the
Bible. This is the Scripture where Paul is explaining to the
Corinthians how important each person is and how important the gifting
of God that each person brings is to the proper working of the Church.
If the Church could work with the attitude of an Ensemble Cast how
amazing it would be! And what a delight, I’m sure, to the Lord who
watches.

” …the (Holy) Spirit…distributing (gifts and ‘parts’) to each
one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet
has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are
many, are one body… for the body is not one member, but many… now God
has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He
desired… if they were all one member where would the body be? ” 1
Corin 12: 18-19

Note to Phil Bonasso: Thank you for the joy of waking up to a man
excited to see me every morning.

Build a Great Marriage

November 2nd, 2007

Can the “Time-Out” Principle help your relationship?

In my research, I have come across marriage advice columnists who recommend using the child raising principle called the “Time Out” in the marriage relationship. For those of you not familiar with this child training technique it is defined by the people at Dr. Spock.com as time away from your attention.
When a child is demonstrating bad behavior, the parent separates from the child by calling a time-out and by usually placing the child in his or her room for several minutes.

When it comes to marital disagreements and conflict, some marriage and relationship counselors recommend that this separation principle be applied in the heat of an intense argument with one of the marriage partners calling a time-out. The couple then separates in order to cool down and then re-visit the dialogue at a calmer time.

Although I am not sure how effective this technique is when it comes to child training, I do see this process as helpful when it comes to resolving the relational conflicts between two adults in married life. The time-out can be a tremendous help in stopping the escalating of anger and hostility when a couple is having a meltdown… much like a fire extinguisher. But just like a fire extinguisher is only used in an emergency situation, the negative circumstances surrounding a marriage conflict that requires a time-out should be few and far between.

Generally speaking, the most intense conflicts in the marriage relationship revolve around several very sensitive areas. These areas are called tension points or “Hot Spots”. When entering into a conversation with your mate that touches upon the normal tension points or hot spots in married life the situation is ripe for a painful conflict. (Please see article on The Five Hot Spots or Tension Points in The Marriage Relationship) Here are 6 practical tips to help navigate your relationship through these sensitive areas and avoid a meltdown:

• AGREE ON BOUNDARIES FOR DISCUSSIONS: Both mates should agree on the rules for talking about difficult subject matter. This is the foundation of healthy dialogue.

• NEVER TALK WHEN TIRED OR STRESSED: It is nearly impossible to manage negative emotions that can arise when sleep deprived or extremely stressed.

• NEVER TALK PASS 8PM: Give or take an hour or so, couples must understand how precarious it is to discuss sensitive matters during the last hours of a long day. This almost always leads to angry tempers and hurt feelings.

• KNOW THE PROPER TIME: The right time is when both mates are rested and prepared mentally to enter into sensitive discussions.

• PLAN THE PROPER TIME: Often a marriage partner feels compelled to grab inopportune moments to discuss sensitive matters for fear that he or she will not get another chance to do so. Be committed to planning a time to dialogue with your mate when they request a desire to talk.

• PREPARE MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY: Before entering into sensitive subject matter with your partner, remind yourself to be patient with misunderstandings that will arise and to be on guard for negative reactionary behavior in you or you mate.

Keep these tips in mind as you navigate the so-called “Hot Spots” in the marriage relationship and you will be on you way to building a great marriage!

Build a great marriage by Phil Bonasso

October 17th, 2007

5 STEPS TO RE-ENERGIZE YOUR BORING DATE NIGHT

Widespread marriage advice encourages couples to make time for themselves and their relationship by having a regular date night. As a marriage counselor, when it comes to building a great marriage, I couldn’t agree more with this principal. Although very important to every marriage, I feel a regular date night is especially critical to younger couples with small children who find it difficult to find time together due to the demands of their family.

I generally find the “date night principle” something most couples are aware of and are trying to do. Yet, the effectiveness of this time together is far from satisfying. They have fallen into a routine of boredom and “bad” date night habits. Here are 5 principles that will help to re-energize this important time together:

1. Always Plan! If you don’t plan a date night, rest assured it probably won’t happen. In the modern couples life, there is far too much stress and demand on their time to be spontaneous.

2. Be Committed! Once you have made a plan for a date night, it can’t be broken. Outside of life threatening circumstances, nothing is more important. At the 2004 Golden Globe Awards, Sean Penn won the award for best actor in the film “Mystic River”. Director Clint Eastwood accepted the award for him due to the fact Sean had promised his daughter the evening out! Your marriage relationship should have the same kind of dedication.

3. Plan Something Special! Be creative with your date night. Get out of the rut of doing the same thing every time. Be daring and try some new restaurants. Take turns with your partner in picking a new outing each week. Try and surprise each other. Soon you will discover that you actually look forward to these weekly adventures!

4. When together, be together! I cannot emphasize this point enough. A date night is a time when couples must focus on themselves in an encouraging and positive light. All to often couples fall into the trap of focusing on the stresses and problems of the day, or choose this time to argue with one another over disagreements. This is not to the time to discuss grievances and hurts. Nothing drains a date more of its life and energy and its potential intimacy than bickering.

5. Shut the Door to Work! No calls from work allowed. Let your date night be a cell phone “free” zone. This goes for family and friends as well. Other than a household emergency, no conversations with anyone but your spouse!

Put these points to practice and you will re-energize your boring date night into a very special moment together, as you continue to build a great marriage!

The Encouraging Word with Karen Bonasso

October 16th, 2007

What is destiny? It is our mission in life. It is the answer to the question, “Why am I here?” It is what gives meaning and cohesion and expression to all our talents and personality traits. It is a journey. In the book of Ephesians in the Bible, chapter 2 verse 10 says “…we are His (God’s) workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in the them.” As we “walk” on life’s path, opportunities to do “good works” will present themselves and we will sense God’s grace to do those things. Philippians 2:13 says, it is “God who is at work in you to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

I think one of the appeals of “super heroes” like Superman and Wonderwoman, and the Flash is that they have obvious super power traits that dictate their mission in life. It is not so obvious for us. Our gifts and talents and strengths are discovered along the path of life. As we sense God’s pleasure in the things we do and we allow the Holy Spirit and the guidelines of Biblical principles to forge our character we will fulfill the mission in life God created us for.

One of my favorite movie scenes is in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. It is a story of an Olympic Gold medalist runner who comes from a ministry family. In this particular scene his sister was challenging his decision to “run” instead of preaching the Gospel. His response was “all I know is that I feel the Lord’s pleasure when I run…” What a wonderful thing to experience the Lord’s pleasure in the activities of our life. We are created by Him and for Him. It is our life’s quest and mission to do God’s will. Our destiny is a step by step process of revelation. It is an adventure. It is a daily decision. It is the Gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3: 13 “…that everyman… sees good in all his labor – it is the gift of
God.”

Note to Phil Bonasso: Thank you for pursuing God with all your heart…every day. It’s never been boring to follow God with you.