Friday, July 29, 2011

Marriage: It's Not a 50/50 Sort of Deal

Like most couples, Jeff and I went to pre-marital counseling during our engagement. The pastor who married us had recommended someone he respected. And I’ll never forget our first meeting.

After the introductions, I noticed the many books sitting on his shelves. To my delight, I had read quite a number of them. I wanted to make a good impression, so I started book-dropping. That is, I casually pointed to the binding of several books nearby and mused aloud that I had read them.

I kept going too, until I came across one book that gave me pause. I had read it years earlier, but I never liked it at all. Something about the book’s premise never sat right with me. But I was young, and I didn’t know how to articulate what I really thought of this book’s message. Besides, this particular book was a major Christian bestseller. What did I know? So I kept my opinion about this book to myself, and I mentioned that I had read this one too.

Then the counselor kindly interrupted my self-aggrandizing monologue and said that he believed the book was counter to Christ’s teachings. I was shocked. Counter to Christ? As in opposed? I asked the counselor, “How do you mean?”

“Well,” he explained, “I try to read every book on the topic of Christian marriage that publishers release, but I was disappointed to find that this book focuses on the different ways that husbands and wives can, and should, meet their spouse’s needs.”

Right. I knew that already. But why is that counter to Christ’s teaching?

The counselor went on to explain that Christ was God (I knew that already too, but I guess the counselor wanted to start with the basics). Jesus could have demanded that people worship Him. He was God in the flesh after all. But that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus laid down his rights to the throne. Jesus came to serve, to give His life for ours. Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .”

I knew the counselor was now quoting the second chapter in Philippians. It’s one of my favorite passages. But as he continued, it was as though I was hearing the familiar words for the first time.

“. . . And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

The counselor didn’t finish until he had quoted the entire passage. I stood there motionless. The words flowed from somewhere deep within him. And they were more than mere words. They were Truth. And Truth resonates in our spirit.

Marriage, as our counselor explained, is not about giving 50/50. It’s not a you-scratch-my-back-and-I-will-scratch-yours kind of relationship. Marriage is not meant to be self-serving. It’s not solely about having your needs met by your spouse. Yes, we have God-shaped needs. And, yes, the marriage relationship is designed to meet some of those needs to some degree.

But only God can fill the deepest longings of our soul. And God wants us to look to Him as the ultimate Source to fill those vacuous places that ache within us. If we go into marriage expecting our spouse to meet our every need, we will be disappointed. No human spouse can do what God alone can do.

That first pre-marital counseling session was life-changing for me. The counselor put into words what I knew deep down to be right. And he helped Jeff and me to build a solid foundation for our future marriage – one that requires selfless sacrifice and service, not selfish demands and expectations.

What lessons did you learn from pre-marital counseling?
Or what lessons did you learn early on in your marriage relationship?


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Who are your witnesses? If you work in an office, it's your co-workers. As a mom, your children are your witnesses. Your spouse is your witness. Your friends are your witnesses. We are surrounded by witnesses, that is those who see and perceive our actions. As Christians, we should be showing the world Jesus.

In the verse above, the witnesses actually refer to those in faith who have gone before. These are the witnesses that bear testimony about what they have seen, so that we may know the truth. We are to have the courage to have faith because of the great men and women who have gone before us and shown their faith.

But when I read the verse I think about who is witnessing what I do. Am I inspiring faith in them, or am I showing them my sinful nature? When I read the Bible, I am inspired by the witnesses of the past. When people see me I want them to witness my faith, and to be inspired.

Who are those that inspire your faith? And whose faith are you inspiring?


Monday, July 25, 2011

No surprises!

"The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5b-7

Have you ever been really surprised? The kind of surprise where your heart leaps anxiously out of your chest and you can feel your breathing quicken? Surprises like these fall into categories for me, good and bad. Birthday parties, good...heart attacks, bad...divorce and infidelity, bad...a financial windfall, good...a promotion, good...death, bad for those of us left; good for those going to be with Jesus. This post today is a surprise to me. I had a whole post already prepared with scriptural reference and a cute story to accompany, however God surprised me and gently led my typing fingers in another direction. I will save the other post for another day.

This year, our family planned to have a "kid party" for our five year old daughter. She had never had a kid party before and her older sister has enjoyed many. When we shared our thoughts with our older daughter, she met our plan with eager anticipation and began making her own contributions to her sister's celebration. We were so impressed with her desire to bless her little sister that we considered having a smaller scale friend gathering for her also, even though it "was not her year". Their birthdays being very close together, we try to be creative about scheduling events for them, especially during the very busy, end-of-school year reverie. So, my husband and I openly planned our younger child's party, but quietly, in the background, planned a surprise for the elder of the two. The day of her big surprise came, and do you know what? This mama was surprised with a sick child, 102 degree temperature and a strep throat! At least she did not know what she was missing! Phone calls to the parents, rescheduling and voila, her surprise was back on...a few weeks later.

The big day came again, things went completely as planned and as her friends jumped out and embraced her in this huge circle of love, our daughter, shocked and confused just stood there, slightly shaking and no real ability to show any reaction. She was truly surprised, and she panicked. What we thought was a great surprise really scared her nine year old system and left her rather numb until after the event had ended. She asked us never to surprise her like that again. Our child was unnerved by the excitement and did not see the value in the surprise factor. Our best intentions played no role in the outcome, however when asked later what she thought, our elder daughter admitted that she was amazed and overwhelmed that we would all strive to surprise her. Despite her dislike for the surprise of it, she was able to grasp the tender love poured out on her in friendship and fellowship.

We got an even bigger surprise when we arrived home and tried to view the video of the big moment. My husband had mistakenly hit the wrong button and there was no footage of what we anticipated at all. Surprise!

In our lives we are forced to deal with surprises all the time. We pray one way and God answers another or we anticipate our plans having priority and then God asks us to do something different. We face these surprises with a gift, though; the assurance that God has no surprises. There is nothing that happens that surprises God, nothing.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Just as He knows the grains of sand on the earth and the number of hairs upon our heads, our God knows the plans for our life before we ever opened our eyes or took our first steps. Jeremiah assures us that the Lord wants us to have hope and a grand future in Him.

When surprises litter our path, whether good or bad, it is comforting and reassuring to know that HE has it figured out. We may not know in which way to proceed but He has and will number our steps in accordance to His will. Our job is to listen to Him, follow Him and heed His voice. We seek Him when we diligently read His word, pray and remain still. We can trust Him. It is as simple as that....four words...we can trust Him. No surprise is too big, He knows them all and desperately wants us to trust His heart and His desire to prosper us and give us hope.

Have you ever been really surprised? How did God use that to bless you, change you, prosper you and give you hope? I challenge you today to remember a surprise that God used to show you His plan for His purpose.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

give us ears to hear

"Oh, give me Samuel's ear,
An open ear, O Lord,
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy Word;
Like him to answer to Thy call
And to obey Thee first of all"
(James Drummond Burns)

If you desire to hear from God, lower the ambient noise of your life and listen expectantly for those whispers of God, your ears will hear them. - James MacDonald


If we are ever going to go higher in our relationship with the Lord, we have to be always listening for His voice. We need to be quiet and still before Him and let His voice penetrate the noise of the world around us.  God is always speaking, we just need to be ready and willing to hear. Oh, Lord, give us ears to hear!


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Hazards of Marrying a Handyman

When I met Jeff, he was an accountant.

When I married Jeff, he was an accountant.

But when our washer broke down, Jeff turned into a handyman.

I didn't know what happened. Jeff had the machine pulled apart within minutes - parts strewn across the laundry floor. And he had this look of consternation about him. A serious manner overtook his usual joking self.

You would have thought Agent 007 was on the job.

Suddenly, he needed more tools, which devolved into a two-hour detour of scavenging through the garage. Once said tools were acquired, the repair commenced.

To my amazement (and I mean that in the nicest possible way), he fixed it. Well, I mean, he mostly fixed it. There remained a certain temperamental attitude with the machine after that first fix. Closing the door required a sort of hip-to-door action while one hand simultaneously pushed the starter knob.

But hey, it worked.

After Jeff successfully repaired the washer, though, it became something of a personal matter to him that it remained thus repaired. Any subsequent break-downs were forever-after perceived as a personal affront to him. It was as if our washer had become our very own Moby Dick. There, lurking amongst the sloshing laundry water, a menacing creature was ready to take Jeff down at any given moment. And Jeff wasn't about to give in.

By the umpteenth break-down, and years of hip-bruising door-maneuvering on my part, I was begging my handy husband to ditch the machine, once and for all, and buy a new one. But Jeff wouldn't hear of it.

In fact, by this time, Jeff had all but convinced himself that he had missed his calling as a numbers-and-spreadsheets-kind-of-guy. He thought for sure that a destiny of repair-work beckoned his true name.

But I was now living in a house where an eclectic assortment of household appliances only sort of worked some of the time. Even our brand-new trash compactor would only receive trash, and not actually compact it, because of some cross-wiring incident. And I won't even get started on the abysmal state of install-them-yourself sprinklers in our backyard that have consumed countless hours of digging because the-one-who-shall-remain-nameless refuses to ever call someone, like a landscaper, for help.

But I digress.

These are merely a few of the hazards of marrying a handyman. However, I am frequently reminded of how much money we have supposedly saved with all of these do-it-yourself repairs.

He may be right. Only God knows.

So I confess. I pray for patience often. I've even been known to pray for my appliances on occasion. Hey, don't fault me here. I firmly believe that Jesus can fix anything - even my washer.

I probably pray a number of "please-fix-it" prayers.

Lord, please fix my short fuse.
Lord, please fix my faulty wiring.
Lord, please fix my connectors.

I wonder if Jesus ever gets tired of His bride always asking for Him to swoop in and fix stuff? You know, petty stuff? And quickly, too, if you don't mind?

With a Roman soldier's hammer and nails, Jesus already fixed everything.

Of course, some prayers feel as though forever is delayed. But I think He's been trying to teach me something about waiting.

Waiting for certain situations to get fixed.
Waiting for certain relationships to get fixed.
Waiting and then waiting some more.

My dear husband, with all of his handy antics, has taught me a lot about waiting. I wish I could say that I have never griped like an Israelite in a desert. But I can say that I have lived to see a Jordan River of my own part waters.

And the waiting was worth it.

What are you waiting for today?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is God Enough?

In the past couple of weeks, my family experienced a terrible tragedy; a six-month old infant died, and the family was left shocked, saddened and confused.

At a time like this, you are left wondering why. Why would God allow such a terrible thing to happen to someone so young? Where was God? And is God the same "good" God he was before?

I am reminded of the words of Peter in John 6, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" At that time, many disciples decided that the teachings of Jesus were too hard, and were leaving him. I can relate. This loss represents a really hard teaching. Yet, where else is there to go? Jesus holds the words of eternal life. And if I can cling to them during this hard time, I know that I will see that baby again, in his glory, one day.

Is God enough? Yes. Even in this, God is enough. Praise the Lord.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Decisions, Decisions!

"I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there is no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me." --Charles Swindoll (Bold Mine)

I love this quote - and I hate it! 

Choice of attitude is simple, yet it requires action on my part.  My human instincts are to go with the circumstances, let my moods flow freely with my surroundings.  But I will lose every battle this way. 

To choose to be satisfied in all circumstances is powerful, but in my own strength I am not capable of making this decision every time.  How about you?  Do you always choose the right attitude in every circumstance? 

Is all hope lost?  Absolutely Not!  Lets look at what the Bible says: 

1 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV) "And he said unto me, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Paul wrote this after receiving a thorn in his flesh.  While we don't know exactly what the thorn was, it certainly stood as a constant reminder of his need for Christ.  He had a decision.  Let the constant pain bring him down, or decide to lean on God and have a good attitude.  He, of course, chose the latter, but only with Christ's help.

We, too can choose the right attitude every time, if we learn to lean on Christ at all times. 

How can we lean on God?  By reading and memorizing scriptures as well as daily communion with Him in prayer and praise. 

Today, I choose to lean on Christ for the right attitude.  May my weaknesses bring Him glory as I give it all to Him!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

His will... not our own.

'"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything
is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom
we must give account"
(Hebrews 4:13)


Too often, in our quest for the will of God in our lives, we try to make God conform His will to our desires. We have the tendency to formulate our own plan based on what we think He wants for our lives and then we expect Him to just bless it and walk with us in it. Our prayers go from asking the Lord to reveal His will for the direction we need to go, to showing Him the map we have sketched out and asking Him to meet us there.

This will never work out for the good in our lives. We can never expect to be in the will of God until we have surrendered our lives to Him in every area. When we are fully purposed to walk in His ways and to go where He leads, then we must be willing to set our hearts toward finding His plan for us. We need to be focused on the purpose that God has ordained for our lives and be totally ready to walk in obedience no matter what it takes.

God's will is not about us. God's will is all about Him. We just have to be prayed up and earnestly seeking to hear His voice. He will reveal His will to us when He is ready for us to know it. Then and only then can we begin to take the steps necessary to make it a reality in our lives.

Seek Him with all your heart. He will speak and He will guide and He will be found by us.


Monday, July 4, 2011

This Son of Mine


"How’s life," I asked my friend, a college sophomore.

"It’s ok I guess. Kind of tough at times. It’s scary out there."

I appreciated his honesty. Only a couple of years before he had been a standout high school athlete, a class favorite, a popular personality. Life was very different for him now, though. In only two years of college he changed majors and universities. He also left the spiritual orientation of his parents and entered the college party scene.

What happened? He told me. He was scared. He was out of his local element. Though his parents’ standards and rules were a bit confining, they did provide structure and orientation for him. Away from home and his parents’ influence, the structure and guidance receded, leaving him standing on his own. He simply wasn’t ready for that level of responsibility.

I’ve known this boy for years and I think that as he matures he will grow out of the dislocation and aloneness he is feeling now, and will assume the morals and spiritual outlook of his parents. I hope he will. I base my belief on another story of a boy a lot like him.

A young man born into a wealthy family grew dissatisfied with his home situation. He told his dad, "I don’t want to wait for you to die. I want my inheritance now."

We can only imagine the pain that must have gripped this father’s heart as he looked deep into the eyes of his son and saw the discontent, the yearning for excitement, the lostness. The dad knew what was going to happen, but he couldn’t stop it. If he spoke he probably said something like, "Good bye son. Remember."

But the boy didn’t remember. In fact, the boy forgot at least three things. One, he forgot who he was. He was the son of a good man who cared for his family and provided for their needs. From what we know, he wasn’t abandoned or abused. He was honored as a son. He had identity.

Two, he forgot where he was from. He was from a family that was successful and prominent in the community. As a hardworking man the dad was respected, and this respect would be passed on to the sons. This boy had a foundation.

Three, he forgot where he was going. Because the son was born into a family that provided him with an identity and a foundation, he also had a future. He would help with the family estate. Even though the older son would receive much of the inheritance, the younger son would still be gifted with a portion of the dad’s holdings, a respected place in the community, and the opportunity to provide well for his own family. Ah, what a future lay ahead of him!

But the son forgot it all: who he was, where he was from, and where he was going. Because he forgot these important aspects of his life, he wandered from home into a world that is tough and scary. The pursuit of pleasure dulled any pain of conscience, but soon this pursuit gave way to the humiliation of poverty and want. Loneliness, hunger and guilt gnawed at him until they chewed right through his pride. Then he remembered.

He remembered who he was, where he was from, and where he was supposed to be going. Then he went home. There he was greeted by his father who cried, "This son of mine is home!" as he ordered the celebration to begin (Luke 15:11-24).

I pray my friend will find his way home, too. I think he has just forgotten his identity, his foundation and his future. He is searching for them futilely right now, looking for meaning in all the wrong places. But when the loneliness and spiritual hunger gnaws at him long enough, he will lift his head in awareness and say, "I will set out and go back to my father."

That is my prayer for my friend, and for all the young people in that terribly difficult period of transition. I pray that they will remember, and come home.

Warren Baldwin

Happy Independence Day! Thanks to all those who have served.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Him vs. Her

In many ways, my husband and I fall squarely within traditional, stereotypical roles. Jeff goes to work while I stay home with the kids. But there are some things we do differently from the "norm."

For instance, Jeff knows exactly how much paprika is needed while I am busy trying to decipher a recipe that looks, to me, more like hieroglyphics.  Jeff can also grow real life vegetables from actual dirt while I am busy trying to figure out how to drag the hose that far.

On the other hand, I am comfortable changing the oil in our car while Jeff is trying to . . .  oh, wait, he  can do that too. Well, I can balance the checkbook while . . . come to think of it, he does that better too.

In fact, I am hard-pressed to find something I am better at. And wrapping presents (with neither the tape nor the paper-creases showing) doesn't count. The truth is, my husband is good at a lot of things. (It's rather annoying sometimes.)

Have you ever found yourself trying to compete with your spouse at something? Anything?

I can attest: it's not a great way to go. For starters, it pits you in a race against your spouse. And you're supposed to be on the same team! For another thing, it doesn't foster an attitude of appreciation for the unique benefits that each of you bring to the marriage.

I may not have received a W-2 form in nearly a decade. And I may not be a very good cook. There very well may be a number of household-kinds-of-tasks that I would much prefer parceling out if I could. But I can say that I make our house a home. In lots of little ways. I enjoy it too. Making our home "homey" makes me smile.

In all honesty, Jeff and I work pretty well together. That is, when I'm not griping about how much better he is at stuff than me. We need each other. He couldn't do what he does every day unless I did what I do every day.

Have you ever found yourself competing with your spouse over something silly? What did you learn from it?