Seven Habits that will Kill your Marriage-


As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife~ Proverbs 26:21 NIV

My husband Alan and I are currently closing in on the third decade of our marriage. The benefits and blessings of a lasting marriage are too innumerable to count. We have come to know another person on the deepest level possible in this life and as a result we have come to grasp what both love and forgiveness really looks like. It is also fair to say that we both know Jesus a little better than we would have without the other and without the challenges that marriage brings. 

Over the years we have seen a lot of Christian people we genuinely loved and respected fail epically at the art of staying married. Besides the obvious and widely understood reasons for marital failure (infidelity, selfishness, finances and in-law issues) most marital failures are really just the sad result of a couple (well seven) behaviors and habits which always lead to a break in relationship. If broken relationships are not mended properly the end result is death of the relationship. Those behaviors include:

Lies-

The ways humans can be deceitful are nearly infinite. They include (but are not limited to) hiding things, emotional affairs, fabricating stories, infidelity, not telling the whole story and helping children to hide sin from the other parent. All deceitfulness is sin (Exodus 20, Leviticus 19:11, Colossians 3:9) and sin poisons marriages. Commit to keeping it honest in your marriage. This commitment will undoubtedly force you to suffer through some uncomfortable moments of truth-telling but overall you will have a healthier, happier more rewarding relationship.  

Disrespect-

With all due respect (no pun intended) to Emerson Eggerichs, author of the popular book Love and Respect, romantic love simply cannot exist or survive without respect for the other person being present in the relationship. Mutual respect is an integral part of love. Relationships lacking in mutual respect die ugly, horrifying deaths (1stPeter 2:17).  Furthermore, contrary to popular belief even touchy-feely, girly-girl types of women need to FEEL respected in order to FEEL loved. We show our spouse respect by watching our words and being careful about the tone we use. Husbands and wives who respect one another do not make decisions without consulting the other partner and they are always careful to speak well of their spouse to other people.  It is critical that both the husband and the wife endeavor to behave in a way that is respectful in order for marriages to go the distance (Titus 2:2, 1stTimothy 3:11). 

Pornography addiction- 

I am convinced that at the heart of all addiction is the sin of idolatry. Once an addiction takes root in a person’s life the addict gets something from the addictive behavior that they should only get from God (a sense of wellbeing, relief from stress, comfort, peace). Because idolatry is a serious sin, God cannot bless the relationships or life of someone who is willingly bowing down (metaphorically speaking) to a false God (Exodus 34:17,1st John 5:21).  Further complicating the whole messy mess pornography is the act of inviting a third party into a relationship that was intended only for two people (Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:4). Even if the spouse is unaware of the pornography there will be spiritual and emotional consequences to viewing pornography. Intimacy will be compromised, walls will form and trust will be broken. These things can happen without the other person even understanding the nature of the problem. Just don’t. 

Lack of self-awareness on the part of one or both parties- 

Seriously. If a person is not aware of their own behavior and how their behavior is affecting other people they will never fix the problems in a relationship. Self-awareness comes through the practice of regular self-examination (1stCorinthians 11:28, 2ndCorinthians 13:5) and by looking for clues that we are loving our spouse in a way that makes them feel loved and cared for. 

Refusing to change-

No one knows it when they say “I do” but marriage is simply an invitation to change the attitudes and behaviors in our life that desperately need changing. For married people marriage is the tool that God uses to reveal our selfishness, pride and relational shortcomings. If we respond to those revelations by changing our ways, marriage becomes the tool God uses to mold us into the people He wants us to be (Colossians 3:5-12). When we refuse to change the things in our life that cause us or others pain we are effectively refusing God and everything He wants to do in our lives. Refusing God always invites bigger trouble and more pain.   

Unforgiveness-

“I forgive you” is more than just a syrupy sentiment or some empty words we utter to get the positive feels back in our relationship. Forgiveness is the choice to completely let go of hostility, resentment and the right to seek revenge for legitimate wrongs committed against us by another person. Forgiveness is without question the most arduous, gut wrenching, pride busting thing Christians are ordered to do (Matthew 6:15). It is also simply a fact that no marriage will survive without forgiveness.

Expecting everything to be fair and equal-

It won’t be, so the wise thing to do is to get over the notion everything should be fair and equal quickly (Luke 6:38). Marriage is not a fifty/fifty proposition. In a healthy marriage each partner is doing their best to give one hundred percent all the time but no one in the relationship EVER keeps score because scorekeeping always signals the beginning of the end of every marriage.  

What the Kavanaugh Hearings Say About our Culture-

Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well~ Proverbs 23:23 NIV

 My husband and I are not exactly world travelers.  In almost three decades of marriage we have left the continental U.S. exactly once (to build houses in Juarez, Mexico). This past week we broke with our pathetic tradition of staying put and made our first trip to Europe. We spent almost two weeks in Ireland and loved every minute of it.  We found the people of Ireland to be genuinely warm, good-natured and hysterically funny. They were quick to engage in conversation with anyone willing to learn about the history of their country.

  In the mornings we drank truly terrible coffee and watched the European news stations (BBC and Sky). The thing about European news is that it’s really short on actual news stories. There were quite a few biased views regarding Brexit and negative opinion pieces thinly disguised as actual news concerning the American president.  However, all the other stories tended to be focused on the environment, events that took place decades ago that have zero relevance to life in this decade and lifestyle pieces. Sadly, European news makes American news look downright illuminating.

 Sigh.

 The one relevant news event that managed to make it across the pond was the scandal brewing at the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The newscasters in Europe went to great lengths to cover every salacious aspect of the story in grim detail. Most of them had a tough time hiding their glee at the prospect of this particular nominee going down in flames.  

 It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that I have no clue what exactly happened between Bret Kavanaugh and his accuser. No one does. It is the ultimate he-said she-said.  It is clearly evident that Ms. Ford sincerely believes something happened and has experienced pain and trauma. Whether or not it was at the hands of Bret Kavanaugh could not be less clear.  That aside, I believe that most of us are missing the bigger picture. This hearing is about bigger things than this hearing.  Sadly, how the Kavanaugh inquiry is being handled says a lot about where we might be headed as a culture. Following are four major concerns we should all have about this situation and how it’s being conducted.

 We are rapidly devolving into a people that believes that the hoped-for outcome of any given situation always justifies the means used to achieve that outcome-

 It is clear that the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh are absurdly partisan at their foundation. If this were not true the matter would have been handled quietly and Ms. Ford would not have become a public figure. It’s clear the Democrats desperately want to prevent Kavanaugh from being confirmed before the mid-term elections because they are hoping to gain enough seats in November to prevent the President from confirming more Justices during his remaining time office. If they succeed they will effectively prevent the President from transforming the political landscape for a generation or more. I do not agree with what the Dems are attempting to do but I do understand what’s motivating them. They believe that the direction the country is headed in under this administration is wrong. Rather than trust the process (as Republicans were forced to do) they have chosen to ruin the reputation of a man based on what can only be described as the thinnest of evidence just so they can get their desired outcome (a more liberal America). It’s a corrupt political move and ultimately it will hurt everyone including the Dems (Proverbs 28:10, Amos 5:14).  

 We have decided that past injustice towards a particular group validates present injustice towards a different group-

 It goes without saying that women have been treated unfairly by men in the past (Proverbs 22:8). Until recently women were not permitted to vote, own property or even decide the direction of their own futures. Additionally, women were seldom believed when they were raped or sexually harassed. Even when they were believed they were frequently blamed for the assault. That said, just because women have been treated badly in the past it does not make it okay to accuse men without evidence in the present (Psalm 5:5). Nor does past injustice towards women automatically make every present allegation against men true.

  We could easily be setting victims of sexual assault back a hundred years-

 Cultural pendulums tend to swing dramatically. So, if we as a society choose to simply believe (and act on) every accusation of sexual assault (no matter how flimsy the evidence). Sooner or later the pendulum is bound to swing back to a place where no one is believed. That will be a sad day for everyone.   

 We are becoming a people who lack moral insight and wisdom-  

 There has been endless dialog surrounding this investigation (Job 13:5) however, none of the talk has centered on the prevention of sexual assault or the prevention of false accusations of sexual assault. We need to get back to a place where we are teaching our boys as well as our girls that attending parties where drunkenness is the sought-after outcome is dangerous and could easily lead to traumatic, life-altering consequences for everyone involved (Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 119:104).

 Period.

 

 

Why the Words we use to talk About sin Really do Matter-

In spite of all this you say, ‘I am innocent; He is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned’~ Jeremiah 2:34-36 NIV

 The world we live in is a flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess right now.

 Church attendance is down, biblical ignorance is up and Christian kids are leaving the faith quicker than rats abandoning a sinking ship. Thanks to immorality and bad behavior in church leadership Christians have completely lost their moral authority in the culture and we will not be getting it back anytime soon. Those are just the problems inside the church.

The problems outside the church are bigger, messier and even trickier to solve.

 Gender confusion is officially the new normal. Being born with a penis or a vagina is no longer something to be evaluated when a person is labeled either male or female (Genesis 1:27). Mental health professionals and many educators now claim normal masculinity is somehow toxic.  Drug use has become appallingly common among every age group and social demographic. Divorce has become so routine social commenters have coined the term “starter marriage”.  It is now considered an act of hate speech to suggest that anything some people find pleasurable is somehow morally wrong.

 Sigh.

 I do not pretend that I know everything there is to know about everything. Most of the time I am painfully aware of the fact that I really don’t know what I don’t know about most stuff. However, there is one thing I do know for absolute certain. There is simply no way we will get out of the mess we’re in until the church takes the lead and gets back into the business of calling sin sin.   

 We have developed a habit in the church of reframing sin in new (and far less offensive) terms. This issue was brought to my attention recently when I was asked to review a Bible study/curriculum intended to support, educate and guide women whose husbands have been routinely sexually immoral (adultery, pornography, homosexuality, etc.). All the women going through the curriculum are married to men who are professing Christians also attending study/support group.

 The authors of the curriculum clearly have good intentions. It’s obvious they want to help women who are suffering through no fault of their own. Good intentions notwithstanding, the execution of the program fails epically short. This is mostly due to the language the writers elected to use. Rather than labeling the men who have willfully chosen to disobey God and break their marriage vows repeatedly with terms like ne’er-do-wells, reprobates or adulterers (Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 12:16, 1st Corinthians 6:18-20). The men are simply referred to by the sanitary term of “sex addicts”. If the men begin sinning after a period of repentance their transgressions are called a “relapse”.  

 The women are instructed to be endlessly patient with their straying husbands and to do everything within their power to keep their marriages intact. Not once are the women coached to treat their stubbornly unrepentant husbands like unbelievers or to go to the elders of their Church and ask for church discipline to be applied to the cheaters (1st Timothy 1:20, 1st Corinthians 5:5). Instead the women were encouraged to “make a safety plan” in the event of a “relapse”. None of examples of the safety plans included putting the guy out on the street until he gets his act together and repents permanently (Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32, Matthew 5:27-28, 1st Corinthians 5:9-11).

 Insert eye roll here.

 It’s simply a fact that most of the men we refer to as “sex addicts” have experienced serious childhood trauma. The writers of the curriculum do an excellent job of explaining the roots of addiction and how childhood trauma can and does create addictive tendencies in some people. That being said, there was precious little said about personal holiness, taking personal responsibility for sin, the need for ongoing repentance or the role obedience to the Holy Spirit plays in living a life of holiness. Nor was there much said about God’s ability to permanently transform the heart and behavior of a sinful human being.

 Sadly, this is not the only example of reframing sinful behavior in more positive terms. Even in the church we call drug use a disease and drunkenness alcoholism. Even serious sins like adultery and theft have been renamed as “mistakes” or “moral failures” (Exodus 20:14-15). Language really does matter. And the language Christians are choosing to use is at least part of the reason many Christians are not taking personal responsibility for their sin.

Here’s the thing:

Sex addiction sounds like a virus someone caught due to no fault of their own while “sexual immorality” sounds like the terrible CHOICE it actually is. Addiction sounds like something outside of our control while “drunkenness” and “drug user” sound like the choices they are. No one can fix a problem they refuse to name or be honest about. Men who cheat on their wives are not sex addicts. They are people who have made the conscious choice to let their sin nature run wild. God will judge their choices if they refuse to repent (Hebrews 10:30, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10).

I am not proposing Christians attack unbelievers with words like “sinner” or “reprobate” (1st Corinthians 5:12). What unsaved people choose to do is between them and God. I am proposing we intentionally change the language we use inside the church to better reflect what’s really going on when a person cheats on their spouse or jumps headlong into drug use or excessive drinking. The church does no one any favors by calling sin anything but sin (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The Sad Truth Concerning #Metoo

The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful~ Proverbs 12:5

I will not lie. I had high hopes for the #metoo movement.

 Back in the day, I found myself on the receiving end of some bad behavior from men who were well beyond the point of knowing better. These days, that behavior would without a doubt be considered sexual harassment.

 Back then we called it “boys being boys”. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. It just got a whole lot less attention back then.

 Crude comments, unwelcome touching, and rape are wrong for many reasons, most of which are clearly obvious to thinking people. At the root of every single one of those many reasons is the reality that predatory sexual behavior is an attack on the God-given dignity and personhood of women (Genesis 1:27). For that reason sexual violence against women is an attack on God Himself (as the author of life and giver of human dignity).

 Which brings me back to my original high-hopes for the #metoo movement. I like the idea of drawing attention to the very real problem of sexual violence. I also feel that those who commit acts of sexual violence deserve to have their deeds exposed (Numbers 32:23, Galatians 6:7). For those reasons alone, I wanted so badly for #metoo to be something that I, as a Christian woman, could support and stand behind.

 It’s not.

 For the record, I did not rush to judgment on that pronouncement. I sincerely wanted to see where the movement would go before I made up my mind about how I felt about it. I did this because, generally speaking, I feel that Christians are a little over eager to both condemn and embrace movements.

 When Christians criticize and condemn before getting the facts, we all end up looking like a bunch of small-minded, knee-jerk Judgy McJudgers. Conversely, when Christians choose to embrace movements prior to getting all the facts, we wind up looking ridiculous when we are inevitably forced to backtrack and retract our support.

 I have been observing the #metoo movement for a while now and have concluded that smart, thoughtful Christians should avoid the #metoo movement for at least four reasons:

 The movement is insincere-

 If #metoo were truly serious about ending sexual violence and the exploitation of women they would do more than simply point fingers at high profile predators. They would denounce the porn industry, fight for the end of prostitution and raise money to support those victimized by the sex trade. To my knowledge none of those things are happening, which makes all their talk about being “advocates for women” appear hollow and self-serving.

 Not every man is a bad man-

 One of my biggest concerns with the #metoo movement is that they seem to sincerely believe that every man is a sexual predator and every unsolicited flirtation from a man is somehow a form of rape. One does not need to be clairvoyant to see where this insanity might lead. Innocent interactions between men and women will no longer be seen as innocent, men and women will be further alienated from each other and the war between the sexes will intensify. If that happens we will all lose.

 The movement is quickly becoming one-big witch-hunt-

 The #metoo movement believes that all women should be believed regardless of evidence (or lack there of). They also believe that women should be able to accuse men anonymously. I am all for keeping the identity of victims of sexual violence who have reported the assault to the police out of the public eye. The privacy of victims should be protected from the press. Period. That said, sometimes people lie (Deuteronomy 19:15-17) and in the interest of fairness (and keeping our justice system just) the accused have a right to know who is accusing them.

 #metoo could set women back decades-

 I work in a field (ministry) where men tend to be very reluctant (for obvious reasons) to be seen interacting with a woman. This fact (as understandable as it may be) has not made my life in ministry easy, nor has it helped me to move ahead in a field I love. I’m not complaining. I am simply describing the world I live in. I am fearful that the law of unintended consequences will come into play and my (admittedly weird) problem will become a problem for all women. No man in his right mind will be seen associating with women (even in a business setting) if he knows there is a good chance his reputation will be ruined for it.

 Nothing in this world aggravates me more than the powerful taking advantage of the powerless. It is true that some men (not all) have taken advantage of women in the past and even prevented some from reaching their God-given potential. That said, the way to correct a past injustice is never with more injustice. We correct injustice through understanding, open communication and a commitment to believe the best in others unless there is an obvious reason not to.

 

 

How the Birth of Jesus Changed the World-

We love because he first loved us~ 1st John 4:19 NIV

 Three years ago I vowed in a fit of self-pity to never write another Christmas blog as long as I lived because my Christmas blogs have a history of less-than-spectacular readership and I like to write things I think people are actually going to read. However, I recently rethought my vow and concluded it’s high time I got over myself and give it another try.

 This moment of clarity arrived as I was watching a community Christmas celebration. It hit me pretty much out of nowhere that Jesus’ first coming changed literally everything about life in the ancient world. Those changes in turn, paved the way for the freedoms and prosperity much of the western world enjoys today. I was also struck by how oddly trivial our Christmas celebrations tend to be in light of the impact the first coming of Jesus had on our world.

 It’s not that I have anything against the way Americans celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas and everything Americans do to celebrate Christmas. That said, snowmen, sparkly lights, cookies cut into adorable shapes, and even traditional nativity scenes don’t exactly capture the magnitude of the impact that Jesus has had on our world. So, in honor of Jesus and all He accomplished, following are four seldom recognized ways Jesus’ first coming made our world a better place:

 Jesus made it cool to care about the poor, sick and marginalized-

 Until the coming of Jesus no one cared all that much about the sick and poor. Most believed the poor and sick were poor and sick because they were horrible people who had been deservedly cursed by the gods. As a result the poor and sick were viewed as profoundly unlikable. Little was done, outside the Jewish community to alleviate the suffering of the sick or to help the poor. Because Jesus cared deeply about the needs of the poor, sick and marginalized (Luke 12:33, Luke 14:13, Luke 10:30-3), so did His followers. From the earliest days of Christianity, charity (caring for the less fortunate) was a fundamental feature of Christian worship and outreach (Acts 6:1-7, Acts 9:36, Romans 15: 25-27, James 2:5-6). As Christianity took root in the Western world caring for the less fortunate became a natural part of life and something even non-religious people do. This was certainly not the case before Jesus came into the world.  

 Jesus gave children value-

 Before Jesus came children were considered disposable in most societies (Jews were a notable exception). Abortion was a common practice, and live newborns were routinely placed in the foundations of buildings for luck. In Greece and Rome unwanted infants were simply left on rocky cliffs to die of exposure or thrown on garbage heaps. Attitudinal change towards children began with the coming of Jesus. Jesus loved children (Luke 18:15-17) and He was concerned with their physical and spiritual welfare (Matthew 18:6). Early Christians followed in the footsteps of Jesus and forbade the practices of abortion and infanticide among their members. Early Christians also made a practice of adopting the newborns (mostly little girls) that had been left to die of exposure. Over time, societies touched by Christianity enacted laws to protect children, but it was Jesus who forever changed the way we view the value of children.

 Jesus gave women dignity-

 Prior to the first coming of Jesus, women were, in virtually every society thought to be profoundly inferior to men in every way. Respectable women lived cloistered lives and simply did not interact with men they were not closely related to. Unlike other religious leaders of His day, Jesus frequently had meaningful conversations with all sorts of women (John 4, Luke 8:1-3, John 11). Jesus allowed women to receive the same training as men (Luke 10:38-41, Luke 8:1-3) and Jesus even entrusted a woman with passing on the message of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-12). This was a HUGE deal in a world where women were not considered legitimate witnesses in a court of law. After Jesus’ resurrection women were used in significant ways to build the early church. The Apostle Paul founded the Philippian church along with a handful of women (Acts 16). Pricilla along with her husband Aquila helped to plant churches and train believers in Corinth, Ephesus (Acts 18) and Rome (Romans 16:3). Women acted as deacons in the early church and were entrusted with significant tasks (Romans 16:1-2, 1st Timothy 3:11) and a woman (Junia) is even referred to as “outstanding among the Apostles” in Romans 16:7. Admittedly, throughout history some church leaders have not always valued women or the contributions of women. However, that does not change the fact that Jesus did. Jesus’ high view of women paved the way for many of the freedoms women enjoy today. If you doubt my word, take a look at the way women are treated in societies where Christianity has not made significant inroads. It’s a sharp and ugly contrast.    

 Jesus made it possible for people to actually change-

 Before Jesus people could change their actions but not their hearts. An evil or an unbelieving person was just kind of stuck that way forever. Jesus’ coming changed that reality. Because, Jesus’ presence indwells the people who believe in Him, His presence gives us the power we need to change not just our actions but also our hearts. Because of Jesus we can be better people tomorrow than we are today.

 That is something worth celebrating. 

Defending a Cause I Believe In

                                                                                                                                                     Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from God. Psalm 127:3 NIV

 I just finished reading an article that left me feeling rather melancholy.

 The article was originally published in Marie Claire magazine, and is entitled “Inside the Growing Movement of Women Who Wish They Never Had Kids”. The writer tells the stories of women from around the world who freely admit that they seriously regret having kids.

 I am a bit of a skeptic, so at first I was dubious. Surely, the author was overstating the extent of the issue to get clicks and sell magazines. However, some quick research revealed that this is indeed a real thing. I found dozens of articles on the subject and a plethora of chat rooms and support groups that serve as safe spaces for women who sincerely wish they never had kids.

 My first impulse was to judge.

 Not because they feel the way they feel. I learned long ago that feelings (unlike actions) are not something that can be easily controlled. And as someone who has had some pretty inappropriate thoughts and feelings concerning all sorts of things and people I would never judge anyone for feeling a particular way.

 That said, I struggle to withhold judgment when I see folks vomiting up their feelings all over cyberspace. Call me old-fashioned, but even in the age of compulsive over-sharing I still believe there are circumstances where it is thoroughly appropriate to shut our pie-holes and keep some feelings bottled-up nice and tight.

 Because defending a cause is a far more noble pursuit than judging others I’m going to drop the judgment and attempt to make a defense for the cause of Motherhood. I will not attempt to feed you some insipid or overly spiritualized line about how fulfilling and blissful every moment of motherhood is, that is simply not true. Like most things in life mothering does have its moments of blissful fulfillment, but it’s far from easy and blissful especially in the early years.

 As the Mother of four I know that while you’re in the middle of raising young children, parenting FEELS like a lot of hard work and frustration punctuated with moments of agonizing self-doubt. But as someone who has raised kids to adulthood I can also tell you that mothering is worth the effort for four reasons:

 Mothering impacts the future like nothing else-

 To my eternal shame my children know very little about their great-Grandmother. She died long before they were born and I doubt any of them could tell me her first name. They certainly don’t know what she did for a living or any details concerning her overall net worth. However, I see a lot of the attitudes she modeled including fair-mindedness, generosity, and the value of hard work living on in them. She sowed those ideals into me and I have done my level best to pass her legacy on to them. Most people a hundred years from now will not know or care about what you did for a living but they will know exactly what you valued in life because they will see those values living on in future generations.

 Mothering is the best discipleship opportunity you are ever going to get-

 Most Christians long to make a spiritual impact on the future. Sadly, few of us feel we are given much of an opportunity to affect spiritual change in others. Parenting gives us the better part of two decades to impart spiritual truth into the hearts of our kids. If we go the extra mile and live the truth we teach we will make a significant spiritual impact on the lives of the kids we raise and they in turn will make an impact on future generations.

 Mothering has the power to make us better people-

 Mothering reveals in living color every single one of our shortcomings and less-than-healthy coping mechanisms. When our weaknesses are exposed we have two options, we can ignore reality or we can become better people. There is nothing quite like having a couple of kids watching to give us the incentive needed to work at becoming better people.

 Parenting makes us dependent on God for wisdom and direction-

 Seriously, anyone who has parented for more than an hour knows that parenting is scary. Being scared causes a lot of people to look to God and we are all better people when we are looking to God for insight and assistance.

 For decades now women have been fed the lie that motherhood is a waste of our time, energy, and talents. That lie is fostered in blogs and magazine articles promoting a survivor approach to parenting, snarky memes belittling motherhood and cutesy signs inscribed with “charming” little adages like “Mommy needs vodka” and “don’t mind the mess the children are being a**holes”. With those attitudes so deeply rooted in our culture it’s not surprising that many women regret having kids. As Christian women it is incumbent on us to take the long view of things and remember that we are not called to live comfortable, stress-free lives today, rather we are called to live for future generations.

 

The art of Making A Marriage Work-

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord~ Proverbs 18:22 NIV

 I have been married for more years than most millennials have been alive. My husband and I were barely into our twenties when we got married and like all couples who marry young, we more-or-less  grew-up together.

 I would love to tell you that every moment of our marriage has been a blissful one. Like all married people we have had good and bad times, however, at this point in our relationship I can honestly say that I would not trade even a minute of any of it for anything this world has to offer. There is simply no sweeter or more effective way to learn about life, love, God’s grace and what it really means to forgive and be forgiven than marriage.

I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about marriage, even after all these years I am still learning. However, through the years I have learned a thing or two about the art of keeping love alive. Today I want to share six practical things I have learned (mostly the hard way) about the art of keeping a marriage healthy. Beginning with:

 Learn to let go-

 I am convinced that most divorces aren’t caused by big problems that cannot be solved. Divorces are the result of little irritations we refuse to let go of. I learned this a few years into our marriage when I observed that my sweetie had what I concluded were some vexing personal habits. Most notably Alan is a “piler”. He piles things neatly and continues to pile them until he is ready to deal with the mess or the pile outgrows the space available. This habit came to my attention via an enormous heap of clothing in the corner of our bedroom. I decided to see how big it would get before he did something about it. It took longer than I liked, and my outrage grew in direct proportion to the size of the pile. Three weeks in, I was done with keeping the peace and spent the better part of a day formulating an impressive lecture on the merits of tidiness and importance of respecting one’s partner. I was prepared to nail him with it, and then I had one of those gut-wrenching moments that are painful to experience but are totally necessary sometimes. It hit me that the pile of laundry was going to be the beginning of the end my marriage if I didn’t let go of my need to have it my way all the time. I promptly quashed my “righteous” indignation and vowed to stop letting that particular habit get the best of me.

 Connect without having sex-

 It’s easy to get carried away by the busyness of life and fall into the trap of living like roommates rather than two people who have made a life-long romantic commitment to one another. The key to changing that reality once it takes root is intentional connection. It’s important (especially for women) to connect in ways other than having sex. Get in the habit of making time to do the things you did while you were dating. Go places together, set-aside time just to talk, text each other, do the chores together and hold hands in public places. Those things are the reason you were happier while you were dating.

 Have sex-

 Find a pattern that works for both of you and have sex on a regular basis. Sex keeps the roommate vibe at bay and makes it easier (especially for men) to connect relationally outside of the bedroom.

 Stop dropping the D-bomb-

 Screaming you want a divorce in the middle of a stupid squabble is the emotional equivalent of choosing the nuclear option. There is absolutely nowhere productive the conversation can go from there. Divorce is not a word that should be uttered casually, in anger, or ever, if you care anything at all about staying married.

 Don’t let your marriage become entirely kid-centric-

 Little kids can suck-up all of our physical and emotional energy and sometimes it feels like they will always be a part of your daily routine. But I can assure that the little nippers do grow-up and move on with their lives. When they leave, you and your spouse will be stuck with whatever relationship you built while they were growing-up. Make it a good one.

 Become a student of your spouse-

 Learn everything you can about the likes and dislikes of your spouse for the sole purpose of bringing joy into their life. I promise it will bring joy into yours as well.

 Divorce is a heartbreak on every level, morally spiritually and relationally; our culture’s causal attitude towards marriage has devastated millions and generated incalculable social chaos. The Christian divorce epidemic is a big part of the reason the church has lost its moral authority in the culture. But most importantly divorce is a tragedy because even when every other alternative has been exhausted and divorce is deemed the only option (due to chronic infidelity or abuse) divorce is agonizing. Every divorce statistic represents two hurting and broken humans who had their dreams of a blissful, enduring union crushed and a large share of their personal history made null and void by a single legal decree.

 Prevention really is the only cure.

 

 

 

The True Value of a Woman

Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands~ Psalm 112:1

 Last weekend we spent the day preparing for out-of-town company. Our preparations consisted of frantically cleaning everything we never clean so we can trick people we rarely see into thinking we are much cleaner people than we actually are. It was a big job, and by dinnertime we were all exhausted and hungry. So my husband and I loaded the family up in the car and took them to dinner at a buffet.

 After a short wait we were seated next to a family with three children who all appeared to be under the age of six. I confess that was I less than excited to be seated next a family with little kids. After a long, hard day I wanted a little peace and quiet.

 My fears were baseless. The kids were adorable, polite and a delight to be around. But it was Mom who captured my attention. She was amazing. She serenely held the two-year-old on her lap, talking to him calmly about table manners and encouraging him to try new foods while still managing to keep an eye on the baby girl and calmly direct the older boy.

 Watching that remarkable young woman do what she no doubt does every day of the week, reminded me that Mothers are truly the unsung heroes of human history.

 If it were not for the sacrificial contributions of women throughout history, we would have no great civilizations, no novels would have been written, no masterpieces crafted and no righteous causes fought for. Precious few would have been inspired to attempt such things without a wise and loving Mother laying the right foundation and urging their children forward.

 The influence of a Mother is perhaps the most powerful force on earth. We have all been shaped for good or ill by the impact of our Mothers. Perhaps the most striking testimony of a Mother’s impact is how significantly we feel the loss when our mother is gone. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be mothers, we too have been shaped by the experience. Mothering is a powerful act that forever changes all involved.

 Christians universally agree that nurturing children is crucial. In recent years, Pastors have gone to great lengths to emphasize and celebrate the importance of Motherhood. This is a good thing. In a society that has devalued the act of mothering it is vitally important that Christian leaders encourage women as they nurture and train up the next generation.

 For women who are not Mothers, the second Sunday of May can be a painful one. In our eagerness to promote the importance of mothering, we can inadvertently send the message that Mothering is the only truly significant thing a woman can do. The message is a dangerous one that hurts all women, especially those without children and older women. Many feel their value is diminished once their children are grown and gone.

 As valuable as motherhood is, it is essential to remember that there is so much more to who we are as women than whom we parent. On this day that we rightfully set aside to celebrate the countless contributions Mothers make in this world, I want to remind women that motherhood is not the end of our journey towards biblical womanhood. It is simply a step that many of us take in the journey.

 God has called Christian women to be…

 Pursuers of wisdom and knowledge~ Proverbs 4:7, Proverbs 2:6

 Bold and courageous~ 1st Chronicles 28:20

 Competent to teach and pass on wisdom~ Proverbs 31:26, Titus 2:3-5

 Loving wives~ 1st Peter 3:1-8

 Mentors~ Titus 2:3-5

 Busy building up the Body of Christ~ Ephesians 4:11-13

 Constantly striving for betterment of others~ Proverbs 31: 8-9, Proverbs 31:20

 A woman’s ultimate power is found in her ability to influence. The quality of a woman’s influence will largely depend on the quality of her relationship with God. A woman who is seeking to be and do all that she has been called to be and do, regardless of the stage of life she finds herself, will become a powerful force for good in this world and a blessing to those whose life she touches.

 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised~ Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

 

Contrary to Popular Belief we Have Proof Marriage Really is a Good Thing-

 

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor~ Ecclesiastes 4:9 NASB

 I am knee-deep in research for a talk I will give at a conference this spring. The conference will be centered on social attitudes towards marriage and family and how those issues are affecting non-profit organizations. In preparation I have read innumerable scholarly articles that all point solidly to the depressing and too real fact that marriage rates in Western countries are declining at an alarming rate.

 Why?

 Experts point to rapid social change, moral relativism and even some welfare programs as causes for shifting attitudes that have led to a decline in marriage rates. The theories are endless and interesting. But even the most interesting theories can get a bit tedious after reading pages and pages of them. I loathe anything tedious or dull. So I did a bit of unscientific research of my own. I contacted some millennials and asked them to share their views on the subject.

 A small number (one to be exact) of those I queried had optimistic attitudes towards marriage and were confident that their marriage would be successful. Twenty-one-year-old Jordyn said:

“Marriage is not an outdated institution by any means! I believe that it is something God gave us and when God created Adam. I dream about getting married all the time. I have seen healthy marriages and that is what I strive for.”

 The bulk of the responses were more cynical and sadly similar to a statement made by an anonymous twenty-something:

“My views on marriage are mostly negative. My Mother and Father have been together for 23 years but are not married because they felt marriage was bad luck. I have seen most of my family members get married and later divorced. I have never understood marriage and have always been told, “It’s just a piece of paper.””

 Too often marriage is looked upon as an antiquated and pointless societal construct. Or worse: marriage is thought to be unnecessary, impractical and the foundation of all sorts of sexual frustration. I for one am sick and tired of having marriage dissed. Marriage is the foundation of human civilization and deserves respect for five reasons:

 Marriage makes people better-

  Literally. It does. Societies in times past esteemed marriage because they understood a truth that “enlightened” moderns have foolishly forgotten. Marriage makes us better. Married men and women commit fewer crimes, are less likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, take better care of their children, give more to charitable causes and are more likely to vote and be actively involved in their communities.

 Marriage promotes healthy living-

 On average, married people exercise more, eat better, live longer and have fewer serious health issues. They also suffer from depression at lower rates than single people. This is yet another way marriage benefits all of society: healthier people result in lower healthcare costs for everyone.

 Married people are sexier than single people-

 Well, maybe not sexier exactly; but married people do have more sex than single people. Ten percent of single men ages 18-24 report having sex more than twice a week, while married men in the same age group report having sex an average of four times a week. Married men and women in every age group report having more frequent sex than their single counterparts in the same age group. Married people also report higher rates of sexual satisfaction.

 The children of married people have better outcomes-

 The facts are indisputable. Marriage benefits children. Regardless of income levels, children with married parents do better and go farther in life. They get in less trouble, do better in school, and are more likely to graduate from high school. Children born out of wedlock are sicker, more likely to be depressed, more likely to use drugs or alcohol and are less likely to attend college.

 Married people have more money-

 If you long for economic stability the smartest thing you can do is to get married and stay that way. Married men make more money than single or divorced men in the same jobs. The household incomes of married women are fifty percent higher than the household incomes of single women. Married people tend to have more assets and retirement savings than single people.

 Maggie Gallagher, author of The Case for Marriage, sums up the benefits of getting married and staying that way succinctly:

 Being married gives men a new sense of responsibility towards work. It reduces substance abuse. It creates more meaning and satisfaction in life for individuals. It provides a legal partner that, as in all economic partnerships, allows one to make more money and manage it better. Moreover, the act of marriage increases a couple’s confidence that theirs is a permanent union.

 Contrary to popular opinion, when marriages fail or struggle it’s not because there is anything wrong with marriage. Marriage is a gift from God and all of God’s gifts are good. People are the ones who mess up God’s gifts. If we want our marriages to be healthy we have to look to the one who made marriage, rather than to our own understanding of the subject.

 Sources Consulted:

A Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Maggie Gallagher

“Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States,” Stephanie Ventura, M.A. Division of Vital Statistics

“How Welfare Undermines Marriage and What to Do About It” Robert Rector

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the “Benefits” of Gossip?

There’s nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip! It melts in your mouth~ Proverbs 18:8 CEV

 I have settled into a predictable morning routine.

It goes something like this: I wake up, stumble to the kitchen, pour a cup of coffee and fight to appear engaged while the youngest girl chatters on  incessantly.

Following is more coffee, more chatter, and a valiant effort on my part to ensure the lunches packed are at least somewhat healthy. I herd the girls out the door, savor the quiet, drink more coffee, read my Bible, drink more coffee and do a quick workout while I catch up on what’s going on in the world.

Yesterday, I finished the last of the coffee, climbed on the exercise bike and became so absorbed in working off my caffeine buzz that I was only marginally tuned in to the news program. That is, until a chirpy anchorwoman declared in an insanely happy tone that a recent study has determined gossip is actually good for us.

WHAT????

I will not tell a lie.

For one fleeting and truly blissful moment I was elated. For an “inquisitive” person such as myself this story was without question the best news ever. All of my dreams had finally come true. I was being given permission to cave to my baser instincts, engage in gossip and improve my health all at the same time. Just as I was preparing to call my best friend to tell her the good news I remembered something about the perils of buying into worldly wisdom and I decided it might be wise dig a little deeper. I found the related article and read it carefully. The author spoke glowingly of the benefits of gossip. According to the author, gossip will:

Tell you how to behave on your job

Help you to understand and improve your social standing

Inform members of a group which behaviors are socially acceptable

Possibly lead to self-improvement

Reading about the alleged benefits of a behavior God calls a sin (Romans 1:29) made me wonder what exactly God would say if we could get His unfiltered opinion of that article. I bet it would be interesting. He wasn’t available for comment, so I turned to the book of Proverbs instead. Proverbs cautions us on the more negative aspects of gossip, including:

Nobody actually likes a gossip- Proverbs 17:28, Proverbs 20:19

Everyone enjoys listening to a juicy piece of gossip, but nobody wants to be a victim of gossip. We all know intuitively that a gossipy person cannot be trusted. That’s why few gossips have many close friends. Smart people avoid a gossip like the plague once they realize anyone who will talk with you about another person will talk about you to other people.

Gossip is rarely completely true- Proverbs 26:20-22

Gossip is notoriously unreliable. Mostly because gossipers also tend to be liars. It’s part of what makes gossip so dang interesting. The frame of the story may be true but the details are almost always made out to be more fascinating and salacious than they really are.

Gossip is the number one cause of family brokenness-Proverbs 6:19, Proverbs 16:28

At the root of every unhappy family is at least one person who repeats unkind words and circulates gossip. Sometimes this person is another family member; sometimes it’s a “friend” of the family who likes to stir the pot and keep everyone at odds with each other. Beware of any “friend” who wants to know too much of your family business. They don’t have your best interests at heart.

Gossip ruins the gossiper- Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 16:28

There is something about spreading stories and sharing personal information that eventually twists a person and destroys their character. If a person gossips for long enough they will develop an insatiable appetite for more and more information to share with others. This happens because the sharing of information makes them feel powerful and important. If there is no actual information to share, they will enhance stories that are true and even lie in order to continue feeling important.

All supposed benefits aside, there are undoubtedly less destructive ways to learn about your social standing, understand the world around you, and improve your social standing and yourself. Consuming gossip is like eating a deep-fried Twinkie: it feels good while we do it, but the long term effects are kind of gross. Passing along gossip is like sprinkling arsenic on chocolate cupcakes. It’s a pleasant way to ruin lives.