It’s A Marriage Not A Kleenex

The idea of divorce has lost the sting that it once had, even in Christian households. 

Here are some of the reasons I’ve seen:

  • Mom and Dad have gotten a divorce (or 4) and so they know it’s a possibility.
  • Our culture tells us that if you’re not “happy” divorce is a hall pass to bail us out.
  • We believe that people “grow apart”…whatever that means.
  • Just like a mulligan, divorce is nature’s relational do-over

Now let me be up front and clear right away.  If you are in a physically abusive relationship GET OUT NOW.  Click on this site to get help now http://www.thehotline.org/.  Additionally, I do believe that there are Biblical justifications for divorce.  I just don’t believe most of the people that get divorced fall into these categories.

Sadly, most of the people that I see, tap out way to early in the match and never really try to make things work.  I honestly believe that waaaaaayyy more marriages would last if there were just a little effort placed into the reconciliation process. 

Couples, if we applied even 10% of what we heard on Sunday about how God wants us to live we’d have far less kids trading off weekends at mom and dad’s. 

Now don’t kid yourself.  Marriage is hard work!  I know…I’ve got one. 

I just know that the hard work is worth it. 

And parents, in the end we are not only establishing a relationship for our lifetime, but we are also establishing a relationship that our children will watch and model. 

So we have a choice.  

We can either be the example to our kids of what a Godly marriage looks like even with struggles, or we can be part of the statistics that they will have to try and overcome through their life. 

I know there are people reading this that are still in the fight to save their marriage, so here are some tangible steps to consider for working through relational hard times:

  • Pray Together:  It is remarkable what praying with and for your spouse does for relationships.  Make it a bedtime ritual even if you don’t feel like it. 
  • Date Night:  Simple I know.  Sometimes couples never get a chance to just talk and be adults.  If you don’t have a date night set, get one and leave the relational ammunition at home so you can talk instead.
  • Marriage Mentoring:  There are couples out there that would love to come alongside you to pray, listen, and offer advice to help you along.  Most of the people have been where you are at and have made it through.  You just have to be willing to take the first step.  Ask your church if they offer this program.
  • Pastoral Guidance:  Sometimes just a fresh perspective and Biblical guidance is enough to correct a relationship.  As a pastor, I know I love sitting down with couples to help show them the path God desires for them. 
  • Marriage Counseling: This is not the scarlet letter it used to be in our society.  I believe that even couples that have “great marriages” should do counseling.  It is very refreshing to have a 3rd party that is knowledgeable to help navigate some of these waters. 
  • Marriage Seminars:  With the current state of marriages in our country, more and more churches and organizations are offering marriage seminars.  Call your local church or do a web search for marriage seminars near you.  I’d crosscheck anything you find online with a good church however.
  • Marriage Retreats:  These can be some of the most intense and fruitful times of marriage reconciliation.  Typically these are 3-5 day intensives with counselors and there is major work done.  The ones I recommend involve cutting out the outside world for the time you are there and doing some very heavy lifting together.  I highly recommend these for those that can manage it.

I know that some of you have been through a divorce and know the effects first hand. These words can sting.  I pray that God will continue to heal those wounds over time and please know that He will help you overcome the pain.  My prayer is that if you enter into another relationship you allow the Grace and peace of God to direct you into peaceful waters.

But, there are others out there that are on the ropes and are ready to give in.  I want to tell you keep fighting.  There is still time.  There are still options.  There is still hope.  If God can breath out and all of creation can be formed, I believe He can mend and save your marriage.  You just have to have faith and be in the fight. 

DON’T GIVE UP! 

Don’t believe the lie that marriage is like a Kleenex box.  That if you get tired of the one you got another one will pop up.   Treat your marriage like it’s the only one you’ll ever have because that’s the way God designed it.  

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Man Down! Wait…Why’s His Wife Holding His Head Under Water?

Men, you may enjoy a few of these one liners I found:

  • "A woman has the last word in any argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument."
  • "A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change and she does."
  • "Love is cuddling on a sofa. Marriage is one of them sleeping on a sofa."
  • "The honeymoon is over when the husband calls home to say he'll be late for dinner and the answering machine says it is in the microwave."

Yep…ladies it is your turn.

Like I said before, marriage is the most unique relationship you will ever enter into in your life but can be one of the most rewarding too.  I have personally seen those that have successful marriages work as a team through everything, not just in small stuff like folding the fitted bed sheets.  It requires give and take, but also respect and honesty. 

In the wreckage of the failing marriages I see there is plenty of culpability on the man.  In fact, I place a large part of the responsibility on the man's shoulders for success or failure of the relationship as I believe God has directed us to lead our families well. 

Men, don’t we always seem to admire the quarterback that takes the blame for a loss and then vows to right the ship?  Why don’t we see that in marriages?  Rarely do we see men step up within their marriage and say I'm not leading the way I'm supposed to, but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to make it right.  Men, we need to do a better job of stepping up in our families without a doubt.

However, I have also seen within these wreckages men left a shell of their former selves as their wives stand with one foot on their back, their hands on their hips, and their nose high in the air proclaiming victory over their husbands.  Yes we screw up, but even if we have owned up to the sin, received forgiveness from God, and are pursuing what is upright, she still will keep a foot on our head to make sure we don't forget what we’ve done. 

Other ways I have seen this play out is by a wife never allowing the husband the opportunity to lead the family.  He may be a fantastic guy, great with the kids, and hard working, but some wives are so controlling and untrusting they refuse to let go of any control within the home.

The sad reality of these scenarios is that both are robbing men of what they desperately are seeking…respect.  Respect is the rechargeable battery of a man’s life.  The more deposits he receives through friends, work, school, and especially at home the stronger the charge will be, the longer it will last, and the more productive he will be in all areas of his life. 

Please stop rolling your eyes.  :)

Ladies, it very well may not make any sense to you.  My advice would be for you to add it to the list of things that don’t make sense about a man.  However, the sooner you realize this isn’t a need for our egos to be stroked and more about confirming your confidence in us the sooner your marriages will improve. 

If manipulation, criticism, and disappointment can somehow melt into motivation, encouragement, and respect, then I guarantee you will see a change in the man you love.  Believe me, all of us as men want to provide for our families and love our wives well at our core.  We just need to know that you see that and are there with us through the ups and downs. 

Ladies I would encourage you to consider where you are at in your marriage right now and perhaps consider some of these as you do.

·      When was the last time you thanked your husband for working hard to provide for your family just because?

·      When was the last time you brought up something from his past as a way of reminding him of what he did to you?

·      When was the last time you refused sex as a way of punishment or a way to show disappointment with your husband?

·      When you go out to dinner with your husband, are you trying to look nice for the people you are going to see or for your husband?

·      Moms, when is the last time you encouraged your husband as a father?

·      Moms, when is the last time you invited your husband to read scripture to your kids and you?

·      When is the last time you encouraged your husband to pray before a meal?

I always believe that actions speak louder than words or mumbling under your breath.  Consider these action steps as you pray about your marriage.

  • What are 3 things that you could do right now that could help show your husband respect with little to no personal sacrifice to you?  (Ex: Tell him thank you, compliment him on how he looks.)
  • What are 2 things that you could in the next month that could help show your husband respect with minimal personal sacrifice?  (Ex:  Ask your husband what perfume he likes that you wear and buy that, plan a date with your husband with him in mind, create 15 minutes of “decompression time” for him when he comes in before asking for anything)
  • What is 1 thing you could do within the next year that could help show your husband respect with noticeable sacrifice to you?  (Ex: If you do the household budget ask him to review the bills with you to see if he sees something you don’t on how to save money, when the next major decision arises in the family allow him to make the decision and support him in it regardless of outcome.)

Let me be clear.  All of us men are works in progress, and of course if your husband has a raging gambling addiction, is cheating on you, or is abusive, it isn’t a good idea to give him the reigns of your life.  However, for the lion share of marriages out there you have good men that may just need to be encouraged and given permission to lead.

I’m just asking…we are just asking for you to respect that God is doing a great work in us too and we need to show you what we’ve learned.    

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What Have You Done For Her Lately?

I loved being married. 

Over 8 years with my amazing wife Cherie I can honestly say I've enjoyed way more of the minutes than I've hated. :)

Granted, it is the most unique relationship you will ever have in your life if you think about it.  One man and one woman with all of their baggage, expectations, anticipations, dreams, hopes, fears, and Faith are placed into the cage of life with the a timer that reads "until death do they part".  You can only imagine what "fun" comes up with that scenario.  Yes, only God could have come up with such a plan…but I love the plan.

I love it because in order for it to have any chance it requires Faith, hope, love, and fun for it to work.  However, for it to thrive it requires one key ingredient…teamwork. Man and woman working side-by-side tackling all of life's obstacles and mountain top moments.  Each separately wired with unique God-given abilities, but asked to  work together to make the relationship click. 

But men I want us look at ourselves for a moment and ask this question:

"What Have I Done For Her Lately?"

Now, before you get your Flintstones club out of the closet and beat your chest while you grunt in disagreement, pull up a rock and keep reading.

I'm not sure when the definition of being man was somehow tied to how much we can make our wives do for us so we can do what we want, but it seems to be happening more and more.  I see so many wives staggering to maintain the weight of being a mother, a homemaker, an employee, a friend, a peacemaker, and wife.  All the while their husband will come home from work only to hop on the computer, play video games, watch TV, play softball, or talk Fantasy Football with their buddies like Junior High girls.  And that's just the guys that come home in time for their wives to see them.  There is a whole other group of workaholics that have weekend families at best.

Listen I'm not saying any of those things above are inherently bad.  Heck, we all need a release, a hobby to enjoy, and to provide for our families but when these start to come at the expense of our wives sanity and/or our marriage that's where the problem lies. I know when I feel the best about my world as a man is when I know my family is taken care of in ALL respects including how my wife is doing.

Recently, I prayerfully did a self inventory of how I was doing as a husband.  With a lot of feedback from my wife, I realized I needed to step up in some areas.  Understand I did this so we could improve on our solid marriage not so I could get a little more "action".  Your missing the point if that is you goal  I'd much rather have you accept the challenge to assess how you are doing as a husband in the effort to make your marriage a success. 

Perhaps consider these:

  • If you asked your wife on a scale of 1-10 how you are as a husband how would you rate?
  • How much of who you are as a husband (good or bad) is determined by your father growing up?
  • How much do you look to Scripture for wisdom on being a husband?
  • Dads, when you come home, who do you kiss first?  The kids or your wife?
  • When was the last time you and your wife talked for over 30 minutes at one time without an agenda?
  • What does your wife want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
  • What are 3 things that you could do right now that could help your wife and marriage with little to no personal sacrifice to you?  (Ex: Fold the laundry, empty the dishwasher, get the oil changed in her car)
  • What are 2 things that you could do in the next month that could help your wife and marriage with minimal personal sacrifice?  (Ex:  Plan a date night and you find the babysitter, quit a recreation team for a season and let you wife have that night to herself, turn your cell phone off when you get home for 30 days)
  • What is 1 thing you could do within the next year that could significantly help your wife and marriage with noticeable sacrifice to you?  (Ex:  Alter your work schedule to work a day from home, ask for a transfer to a location closer to home, (if she desires) look for ways for your wife to quit her job so she can stay at home with the kids full time)

Please hear me, I'm not saying I have it all figured out.  In fact my 1-10 rating in my mind is much lower than even my wife said!  What I do know, is that I desperately want to have a marriage that is God honoring and set-up for success.  I know I love my wife so much that I would go to the ends of the earth for her and that includes sacrificing things I enjoy so she is cared for. 

Marriage is awesome, difficult, awesome again, a little more difficult, add a side of frustrating, and then back to awesome but in the end is totally worth every up and down.  

Men we need to show our wives through our actions that we are pursuing Godly marriages and relationships and I think it can start by asking ourselves, "What Have I Done For Her Lately?" 

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: Can You Really See Me Up There?

The other day my wife Cherie and I were standing in the loft area of our townhouse watching Aniston play on the deck with her kitchen set.  At one point we saw her take one of the toy forks and try to “comb” our dog Pachino’s hair with it. 

That poor dog has been through so much in the last 2 years the last thing he needs is to be impaled.

So before she had the chance to thrust, I said “Aniston, don’t do that to Pachino” in my deepest daddy voice I have.  You would have thought God himself had just spoken because the look on her face was priceless.  She didn’t know that we could see her and she didn’t seem to be able to see us through the window which made for a great “how the heck did he know?” moment.

I also remember when I was in Subway a few months ago I placed my order with the sandwich artist behind the counter only to quickly realize that he was a rookie.  He wasn’t a completely new person so he started to construct my meatball sandwich on his own.  He got the bread cut, the cheese down, and started to put the meatballs on before an employee came over to help out.

Through the fakest smile I’ve seen in a long time the fellow employee said to the newbie.  “Be careful not to put too many meatballs on the sub because she is watching.”  The newbie said, “who is watching…Sue?” darting his head looking for the manager.  Still smiling, the employee continued “Yes, she has a camera that when she’s not here she watches from home and will call into the store to yell at people putting too much food on the sandwiches.” The newbie said “no way, can she really see me up there?” as if he thought he was being hazed for being the new guy, but quickly recounted the meatball and took one away after seeing the seriousness of the other guy’s face. 

Do you ever think God can’t see you?

I mean, do you sometimes allow yourself to believe that God has to be doing more important stuff than watching the TV monitor with your life on it in the Heavenly control room?

Now, I’m not saying that God is waiting to slap your hand for giving a great guy like me an extra meatball, but He is watching. 

Look at what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 33:13-15.

From heaven the Lord looks down

and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches

all who live on the earth –

he who forms the hearts of all,

who considers everything they do.

This should actually come as a great relief to us as Christians.  To know that the Coach is watching, and what we are doing does matter should give us a great deal of reassurance in why we live how we live.

Let’s face it, instead of having to guess what’s on the test (like I had to do in Organic Chemistry in college), I like knowing that it all matters.  It all counts.  Knowing that doesn’t let me take a break or roll the dice thinking that He won’t ask about this little sin.

Now, where I would be extremely concerned is if I had to make amends for all of the stuff I did that He does see.  Every slip of the tongue, every white lie, every miss use of my money, every choice word I have for that guy that just cut me off.  If I was held accountable for all of that…I’d be nervous.

But as a Christian I am free of all sin because of Christ. 

Not so that I can be cocky about having a “Get Out Of Hell Free Card”, but so that I might be humbled and grateful for the gift of Grace given to me by Jesus that I desire to live differently for Him. 

That’s why I’m glad this Psalm didn’t end with the weird Guy watching me in the sky part, but continued:

But the eyes of the Lord are on those

who fear him,

On those whose hope is in his

Unfailing love,

To deliver them from death… – Psalm 33:18-19

So, live your life glad that your Dad is watching and make Him proud by how you live.  

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It’s Expensive To Be A Christian

It’s not rocket science that eating crappy food will make you swell up like a Beluga whale.  Not shocking.  I mean we are the most overweight country in the world to the extent that even our homeless are overweight compared to the rest of the world. 

So once we cross the River De-Nile and realize that we need to eat things that don’t end in –ostess or –itto we face another staggering reality.

Eating healthy is expensive!  I mean really, really expensive. 

Now, if you are one of those Extreme Coupon freaks that snips coupons for 18 months straight and then can buy $4,500 worth of groceries by some how paying for it with an extra button off your flannel shirt then maybe you won’t relate.  But for the rest of us it can be expensive. 

The cost of taking care of yourself and doing what is right for your body can be high, but it’s worth it.

Did you ever consider that being a Christian is expensive too?  No, not because you are buying all the WWJD chachkis or schools of fish for your mini-van, but the actual cost of following Jesus in your life.

“We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment”.

1 Corinthians 4:10-13

As American Christians we will never fully grasp the context of what Paul writes here.  The persecution and very existence of a follower of Christ in his day was extreme, but yet in our own worlds we too must be prepared for opposition and challenges in our walk with Christ.  There will always be people that seem to have it all together or are comfortable in their lives that will look down on you for your stance for Christ. 

When we place our hands in the air and start to follow Christ with radical changes in our lives instead of just a t-shirt on our chest–the price to follow goes up.  You can expect “friends” you had to start to fall away, family members may mock you, how you spend your time and money will change, your moral compass will start to reset itself, and above all the world you once knew will start to come into focus for what it truly is…lost.

Yes, the cost of following Christ can seem high in the worlds we live in, but it’s worth it.  The temporary discomfort we face in this lifetime will soon melt away to reveal an eternity of joy.  Lonely nights filled with tears will seem like a blink compared to our next life with Christ.  The painful words by a “friend” that hurt so deeply in that moment will be an afterthought when we hear the words “well done good and faithful servant.  Come and enter your rest.”  

So hang in there. 

Keep fighting.  Keep pursuing God.  Keep being an example to your friends and family.  Continue to shed Light in this dark world.  Keep giving more of yourself than you ever have before for the sake of Christ.  

And don’t worry about the earthly cost, because at the end of it all the payout is worth the investment.

 

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: I Keep Coloring Even After She Stops

I noticed the other day as Aniston and I were coloring that she actually wasn’t there anymore and yet I still was.  She had long gone off and played with something else, but I was still meticulously coloring in a giant mermaid and alternating between different shades of green to give it some texture.  I think I may put it in one of those contests, but BG isn’t getting royalties on this one. 

What the heck!? 

Maybe you can relate to this too.

It’s almost the same as when you are driving on a long road trip and suddenly realize you can’t account for the last 25 miles if your life depended on it.  You may or may not have hit 9-10 animals, driven on the shoulder, and possibly listened to a country station, but road amnesia struck and you have no idea.

We all have these moments from time to time when we let our minds wander.  Normally it isn’t a bad thing and most times you arrive to your destination without too much road rash, but there are times when it can be dangerous.

I’ve sat down with couples who are on the verge of divorce because of infidelity and in nearly every case they can pinpoint a moment of mind wandering that led them to the wrong conclusions and into someone else’s bed. 

I’ve met men who are chest deep in a pornography addiction because of a moment of mind wandering that made them want to dig a little further.

I’ve met women that have allowed themselves to travel so far from the reality of who they are that they have spiraled into a self-induced depression all because of a mental excursion. 

Our minds are so very powerful, but yet so very fragile and swayed at the same time.

God’s design and desire for our thought life is one that is controlled and filtered through Him.  Listen to the words of Paul:

  • We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  - 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:5 
  • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. - Romans 12:2

In a day and age where the advice is to “follow your heart” and “do whatever you think is best” we need to follow these Scriptural Truths more than ever.  Let’s face it, we have tried to be god in our own lives and look where it’s gotten us. 

All Satan needs is for you and I to think enough about the wrong thing to get us off track.  It’s not the five-car-pile-ups in our life that screw us up the most, it’s the detours we take to get somewhere faster that mess us up. 

Maybe it’s time to actually follow the plan the Big Man designed and start filtering our thought life through Him.  This way we don’t end up in a ditch or coloring princesses on our own.  

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