Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Am I???

Today defines who I am. All the treasures in the world, all my material possessions, all the trips I have taken all around the world, all the friendships I have made along the way, cannot replace the value of my family.

If I think of the most joyful and most eventful times of my life, they are surrounded by my family. Today we go to Coasanti's, one of the amazing traditions we use as an excuse to get together. There are many of them -- and then there are just the "normal" days like yesterday, chumming with Danny and his buddy, Christa popping over for awhile, and then meeting Mike and Bethany with Daniel to go to a worship service together and then hang out at their house.

The value of family. Every weekend having kids that want to hang out with us. Seeing them invest in a family that will yield the amazing results of children growing up with their identity solid. Things that people long for, I have lived with for two generations.

I am overwhelmed as I face my "double golden" birthday (55 on October 5!) -- how blessed I am to have a husband to respect how much my family is part of my life. He has exemplified Christ to me in laying his life down to be close to my family. In return, we have had the multiple blessings of having family close: the blessings God knew when He made us part of HIS family: when He put the "solitary" in families. When He moved people, He moved families together. I know that Gary could have moved to Silicon Valley in the early 1980's and tripled his income, but I refused to leave family. I wanted to be here for the ups and for the downs. I wanted to raise my children surrounded by INTRANSIENT relationships -- people who care and stay through thick and thin. I can't even bear to think of what my life would be right now if we had chosen differently. My life without my family. Not a life at all as far as I'm concerned. My life is not defined by the weather or the scenery.

Shania Twain has a great song: "She's not just a pretty face." It lists all the things women are -- and it makes me realize that I have been able to live out so many relationships: not just a wife, but a mom, sister, granddaughter, aunt, niece... The plan of God is much better than the plan of man. Now I have the opportunities to speak the Word and teach and train and be a part of the next generation as Jesse and Amber have their first child. The blessings of a grandparent as told by Scripture: where I can speak and teach "in the way" -- surrounded by love and continuity.

When I think of the most valuable assets I have in the world, I can picture myself with my nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, parents, and those whose love has proved how to define "SUCCESS".

Challenge: Saturate yourself with your family. The ups and downs the goods and bads. Know why your life is defined by your family... Keep it strong and solid. Fight for it. Appreciate it. And if you haven't had the blessing of knowing it firsthand because you come from a broken home, embrace your spouse's family as your own! End the brokenness with YOUR choices!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Responsibilities and Priorities in Marriage

The "daily grind" is the tedious monotonous pattern of daily work. It is doing the right thing, day in and day out.

For a woman, it is changing diapers, emptying the dishwasher to load it again, it is raising children oftentimes not seeing ultimate rewards but only facing challenges, it is rushing through the grocery store with children in tow and then unloading groceries to then take them out of the refrigerator to cook a healthy meal with and cleaning up, only to wake up the next morning and repeat the monotonous performance.

For a man, it is pulling yourself out of bed to face a backstabbing work environment where you are only as good as your last performance and know you can get kicked out the door at any time. It is coming home exhausted to fix things that broke in the house, face a mound of bills, and stretch a dollar.

It is flossing, and arbitrating fights, doing what your family needs and not what you would rather be doing, it is cheering your kids on in their activities and teaching them to help the underprivileged. It is selfless and exhausting.

In the generation prior to mine, when responsibilities were overwhelming, there was only one answer: keep at it - you have mouths to feed and vows to live out. You have a home to maintain and a boss to keep happy so you can keep your job. When it got to the point where inevitably you asked yourself, "Is this all there is to life -- plodding through without appreciation... working to wake up to work again..." the STABILITY of commitments resounded from everywhere around you to keep at it...

Today it is a different story. Media fills "desperate housewives" with trash -- men are portrayed as able to live duplicitous lives with lovers AND wives. Voices call people off the paths of responsibility like never before, and it is accepted and encouraged...

Four of the things that are most common in calling people off the path of responsibility in life are: Ego Needs; Romanticism; Extramarital Affairs; and Pleasure.

Ego Needs - Both men and women appear equally vulnerable to the powerful desire to be admired and respected by the opposite sex. Many who become entangled in an affair often do so because they want to prove they are still attractive to the opposite sex - that someone enjoys hearing them talk, finds them sexy or exciting. These desires are drawn from the core of one's personality, and can make a sane person act in foolish and dishonorable ways.

Romanticism - Many wives, especially when married to busy men - crave romantic encounters. Movies capitalize on their cravings, and depict unrealistic romance in affairs. People crave romantic excitement in their lives.

Extramarital Affairs - The lure of infidelity is everywhere. Men and women both are solicited by the opposite sex without regard to their marital status. People aren't even asking for commitment -- many are content with an exciting "fling".

Pleasure - Fun and games and just a little bit of fun can become a major attraction to leave the life of responsibility.

It is interesting to note that men and women who decide to LEAVE the life of responsibility usually do so at little "blips" -- making "safe" departures from the line, and then return for a time of evaluation. You may not even notice when someone is flirting with a departure from their commitments, until the blip becomes a bulge, and unless deliberately STOPPED the break seems to occur instantaneously. But you can be sure the break was contemplated and "tested" for some time prior.

But here's the big question: What happens to the person who leaves their life of responsibility to follow these exciting voices? Do they really live happily ever after? Invariably, they eventually have to establish another life of responsibility. Life can be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed. The pleasure of an affair has to be interrupted as the couple needs to get back to work. The fantastic romantic feeling becomes rather commonplace again when you have to add responsibilities to the mix. The sexual relationship isn't breathtaking anymore once the secretive nature and newness wears off. Eventually both man and woman have to turn their thoughts to earning a living, cooking, cleaning and paying taxes again, with ego needs accumulating as before. Moon-shot emotions have to come back down to earth.

What does the amorous couple do when they AGAIN conclude the straight life is intolerably heavy? We are all acquainted with men and women who rip from one relationship to another in vain search of prolonged pleasure and sex and ego needs, leaving many rejected and unloved lovers in their wake, along wit children who crave the affection of a father or mother but can never find it. All that is left on the march toward old age is a series of broken relationships and shattered lives and hostile people. The inevitable outcome: James 1.15 - Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.

What is the answer to the life of responsibility that seems so oppressive? What solutions are consistent with Christian faith? Bring those external voices INTO your life of responsibility! To lessen the appeal of those calls, we must simply meet those needs within our marriages!!!

1. Ego Needs - The most successful marriages are those which build up the self esteem of the other. It is SO uncomfortable to be in the company of a man and woman taking verbal swats at each other, attempting to insult and debase their partner. Nothing contributes more to closeness than to convey respect for the personhood of your spouse. Put a BLINDFOLD on to the faults of your spouse and SEE the good in them, and build on it! Let them know they are appreciated at HOME!!!

2. Romanticism - Keep romantic fires burning -- write love notes -- surprise each other -- light candles. Make time for romance in your marriage! No one goes shopping for something they have at home! Be sure to put demanding things aside to make time for romance! ALL children need to know that the world does NOT revolve around them -- it is GOOD for them to see you and your spouse take time for romance together even if they have to be inconvenienced now and then!

3. Intimacy - Couples NEED to reserve time and energy for meaningful sexual relations. Tired bodes make for tired intimate relations. The physical aspect of your relationship needs to be a high priority. Remember -- the best gift you can give your children is a good marriage.

4. Pleasure - Husbands and wives should go on a date at least once a week if possible, leaving children at home. Some form of sports or recreational activity should be enjoyed as a family, even if it is just walking. And take time to LAUGH together -- ENJOY each other!!!

Challenge: Integrate these FOUR AREAS into your marriage IMMEDIATELY, and silence any calls off the life of responsibility that you or your spouse may have been entertaining! Make the life of commitment the most fun and enjoyable life you can! Keep your priorities straight and be creative in making every-day life AMAZING. Appreciate the one who committed to love you all your life, and don't make it an impossibility to do so!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Two Become One part 2

I have counseled many people who don't really understand the concept of the two becoming one, and if their misconceptions of the concept aren't lined up correctly with the intent and Word of God, their marriage is headed for some stormy seas.

What "two become one" does NOT mean is that a couple follows the dictates of one spouse, with the second one melting into the will of the other spouse.

The Bible has amazing wisdom on two becoming one in a way that your life can virtually be "multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land... as the days of heaven upon the earth." (Deut 11.21) BUT you must diligently keep all these commandments to receive that kind of blessing...

What are the commandments relating to the two becoming one?

Consider the concept of submission. Too many times a husband runs slipshod over the needs and desires of his wife to achieve his own goals and agendas. He often quotes that his wife is to "submit to her husband" (Eph. 5.22), leaving many Christian women feeling that if they bring their own desires and needs into consideration they would be going against God and their husband. Submission and God's appointment of leadership become tools of manipulation and coercion to achieve a man's agenda.

Yet the command to submit "one to another in the fear of God" (Eph. 21), which the command to the wife is actually prefaced by stating its preeminence in the equation, is not mentioned.

I have counseled many couples where the woman acquiesces in things against her own personal desires to accommodate her husband in the guise of being a "good Christian wife." Rather than listening to the Holy Spirit inside her, she allows her husband to "lead" (or do his own thing with her trailing behind supporting). Down the road, as her husband continues to make choices that involve others but is only considering his own welfare and needs, the marriage is on the rocks, and the woman, who has left all her goals and dreams, ultimately realizes she is not part of the "two becomes one" equation and frustratedly wonders if she has truly followed God's plan for her life in following such a man. She realizes too late that God does not only speak to her husband, but speaks to her too. A wise man considers his wife's advice because it can stop him from doing something that is not God's plan because his wife can see things from a different perspective and stop problems.

My husband seeks my perspective even for work things, because he knows that sometimes a woman's perspective can avoid problems in the future. Tamar told Amnon not to force her in 2 Sam 13.12; Deborah had to tell Barak to go in Judges 4.14; if Pilot had listened to his wife in Matthew 27.19, he could have spared himself from problems.

The influence of a woman in marriages is something that should be part of the "two becomes one" equation if the days of the couple are to literally be like "days of heaven on earth". Over and over I see woman leave their heart and mind OUT of the "two becomes one" equation and the ultimate end is always resentment, frustration, and marriage problems.

I told my girls when they were dating that anyone who was willing to not consider a desire they had to be a virgin when they got married and insisted on crossing lines the girls set up physically for their own benefit was definitely NOT the kind of man they wanted to commit their life to. If their desires weren't considered then, I could tell you they wouldn't be considered much afterwards.

Jesus is our example as a perfect Bridegroom and how He cares for His bride. He laid His life down for us. He cares about our needs, and meets our needs according to His riches. He decreased so we would increase. A true man who is a spiritual leader considers the needs of his wife -- even if he has to lay down his life -- for her. In fact, we are told to be careful because when you're unmarried you can care for the things that belong to the Lord and how you may please the Lord, but when you are married, you need to care for how you please your wife (1 Cor 7.32-33).

True leadership considers the needs, desires, wants, and goals of the person or people he leads. My husband and I, early in our marriage, while shopping for furniture for our home, decided that if one person didn't like it we needed to continue shopping until we could find something we both liked. We each had "veto" power. We did that for our entire lives, in choosing job positions, rules for our children, and even cable companies. Considering each other's needs, wants, and dreams was important to each of us.

I am so grateful I have a husband who made decisions based on my welfare, even at a cost to him. He never complained about accommodating me; in fact, I knew he was committed to accommodate me. I can truly say I have always felt that my opinion was important and considered in my husband's decision making processes.

When "two becomes one" be sure you bring your part to the equation. You are not doing your husband any favors if you hide your feelings and just go along with his. You are negating the power of two becoming one.

Of course, this works the other way too...

Challenge: In the "two becomes one" equation, have you brought who you are to the equation? Have you truly considered the other person's needs, wants, goals and desires? Do you serve your spouse knowing that when you are married, that is the primary way that you serve the Lord? Bring it to the next level!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Twenty-Third Channel

The TV set is my shepherd. My marriage shall want. It maketh me to sit down and do nothing for my spouse for its name's sake, because it requireth all my spare time. It keepeth me from doing my duty as a husband or wife, because it presenteth so many good shows that I must see.

It restoreth my knowledge of the affairs, discontent and abuse of God's holy plan for my marriage, and keepeth me from the study of God's word and plan for my marriage. It leadeth me in the paths of failing to attend worship services, and doing nothing in the Kingdom of God.

Yea, though I live to be a hundred, I shall keep on viewing my TV as long as it will work, for it, not my spouse, is my closest companion. Its sounds and its picture, they comfort me.

It presenteth entertainment before me; I need not think or hear conviction as to God's plan for me. It fills my head with ideas which differ from those set forth in the Word of God, and keepeth me from doing important things with my family.

Surely no good thing will come of my marriage, because my TV offereth me no good time to do God's will: thus I will dwell in spiritual poverty all the days of my married life.

CHALLENGE: Turn OFF the television five or six days a week, and get back to some amazing things: reading the Word of God -- remember the Word is your LIFE not just "required reading" for a few minutes in the morning -- reading good books, working out, getting some things done around the house! Post some positive results of turning the television OFF for MOST of your life!