Monday, 23 June 2014

Teachable Moments

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool (Proverbs 17:10, ESV).

For some time I have referred to teachable moments as times in the life of a child when we as parents can use every day occurrences to teach our children the lessons of life.  On rare occasions yelling at a child is the preferred method of communication, i.e. when you are fifty yards away and they are about to run into the street.  I’m not opposed to spanking but only when mom and dad are completely calm, the child understands what they did wrong, and past practices have proven that the threat of a spanking is an adequate deterrent to stopping unwelcome behaviors.  In my opinion teaching is a better way to deal with not only misbehavior but those times and when a valuable life lesson can be imparted.  Kneel down to their eye level and explain in language they will understand what you want them to learn whether it has to do with cleaning their room or not hitting their brother.

My main point in writing this blog has nothing to do with parenting per se, it has to do with how teachable we are as husbands and wives?  No one knows our spouse better than we do.  We see them at their best and their worst. God can use us to help each other to grow.  It begins with requesting our husband/wife to give us feedback as to how we can be more like the Son.  This is not an open invitation to give one another huge list of things you don’t like about one another.

What is said is to be said in love.  It is not to sound like nagging, a complaint or a criticism.  For instance we should be exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit, one of which is patience.  There are certain situations and people that bring out my impatience.  I want my wife to call those times to my attention.  She might overhear me use a less than polite tone of voice with another person, again it would help me to have her perspective.  In fact I may owe the person an apology.

This feedback should not take the form of a Bible dart.  “The Bible says you should never___ thhht (sound of a dart)  Also question your own motive for giving feedback, if it brings you joy most likely your heart is not right.

This will work as long as I don’t get defensive, or feel the need to counter with some critique of my own.  Through this process I should see growth.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Don’t Waste Your Pain

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28  NIV

“Don’t waste your pain, that’s easy for you to say. You don’t know what I’m going through.”   You are absolutely right if that is what you were thinking.  I have no idea what you are going through.  What I do know is that I have heard that expression from two people – one I admire greatly, the other I adore completely.  The person I admire is John Piper.  In 2006 he wrote an article entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  The person I adore is my wife who expressed the same sentiment which helped give her hope during a depression a number of years ago.

I recognize that two people does not a large sample make but the reason that both could make that statement was because of their personal beliefs.  John Piper’s words will give you a reasonably good idea of what he and my wife have in common in terms of their beliefs.  John wrote, “You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design.”

My guess is that this will not sit well with some of you who refuse to acknowledge that an all loving God is ever responsible for allowing and/or causing any form of calamity.  Job’s troubles were caused by Satan but allowed by God.  The Creator of the universe would not be all powerful and all knowing, which He is, if He was not able to control anything and everything.

Nothing happens that is outside of God’s ultimate will.  That is not to say that in some instances our pain is not a result of consequences of our actions but none the less they come from God.

So if your marriage is filled with much pain, rest assured God is well aware of it.  The pain is wasted if you just continue down the same road or if you were to get a divorce.  The pain should serve a purpose.  The question shouldn’t be “why God” but “what”?   God wants you to learn something about yourself.  What is your contribution to the state of your marriage?  Marriage issues are usually relational issues and relational issues are usually heart issues.  What does that mean – what’s a heart issue?

The heart, Biblically speaking, is the mind, will and emotions.  Such manifestations as stubbornness, self-centeredness, selfishness, being disrespectful, being angry, being unloving, nagging, etc. are all symptomatic of something that is not in sync with God.  In many instances it is your pain that is causing you to act out this way.  God wants you to use the pain to figure out what is causing the discomfort and deal with it in a way that will bring glory to Him.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part II

In Part One I shared one of the more valuable lessons that I learned in the early years as a counselor.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In that posting I said that each person has their perception of reality and their accounting of it can seem incredibly real.  My point was that until you hear the story from another person’s point of view you might only have a distorted picture of reality.

In Part One I discussed cases where women and sought out the counsel of Godly women regarding their marriage only to be told to seek a divorce.  These well-meaning women had heard only one side of the story.  In most cases the counsel did not line up with Scripture. The point is that if you are asked to give advice be aware that you are not getting the full story, and be certain your counsel aligns with Scripture. 

However there is a second category which may even have the appearance of seeking counsel but in reality it is a more slippery slope.  I am referring to going to someone of the opposite gender and sharing your personal life and talking down your spouse.  You may just be seeking sympathy or you may have a more hidden agenda.  Most affairs start because of some unmet emotional need not because there is some delusion that the sex is going to be fantastic.

As in the case of what I cited in Part I, you as the recipient of such an overture must understand (a) that you are only hearing one side of the story and (b) the person sharing with you may have an ulterior motive, even if it is only subconscious.  This is double jeopardy if the person being approached is also experiencing and emotional deficit.  In such a case it is only a matter of time before things start spiraling out of control.

The more convincing the individual the more certain you are that you are hearing fact.  This is rarely the case.  You need only remember that the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In the case described above you must refuse to participate in this “adult game”.  It is hard for well-meaning Christians who want to help their fellow man when he/she seems to be hurting.  Direct the individual to a Biblical counselor and offer to pray for them right on the spot.


Monday, 16 June 2014

The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part I

One of the most valuable counseling lessons I learned, I learned early in my counseling career.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In most cases the people who are sharing their story with me believe everything they are telling me is true.  It is their perception of reality and that makes it real to them.  In my “formative years” I found that if the person I was talking with was particularly persuasive, emotional, and/or articulate I would tend to accept their story as fact.  Then I would meet the ogre/witch that had been described and got a totally different picture.  I heard similar “facts” from a different perspective.  At times I still get trapped by someone who is particularly convincing, at least for a brief period.

I cite this experience for two reasons.  The first reason has to do with seeking Godly counsel.  I am aware of too many cases of women who have sought counsel from well meaning, Godly women regarding their marriage, have been told by those women to seek a divorce.  We should always check to see if the advice we are given lines up with Scripture.  In the cases that I am familiar with there were no Biblical grounds for divorce.  Equally important those who gave the advice heard only one side of the story.  One Biblical ground is unfaithfulness.  This can get dicey.  If a spouse has committed adultery, Scripture permits divorce, it doesn’t command it.  God hates divorce and would expect the couple to work through the pain and broken relationship.  Is pornography the same as adultery?  I’m certain it feels like it to the one who has been lied to and betrayed but pornography is an addiction and should be treated as such. That is not to minimize the pain and hurt it causes.  Certainly strong boundaries would have to be set, a commitment to taking all the necessary steps to gain victory over the addiction would have to be in place and the very real prospect of having to re-build trust over a long period of time is very real.

The second Biblical basis for divorce is if a non- believing spouse wants to leave a spouse who professes to be a believer, only if initiated by the non-believing spouse.  We need to be careful with this one.  It is not too unusual for the now potential non-believing spouse to have looked an awful lot like one who believes over a period of time and may have acknowledged being a believer.  Is it for convenience sake that the person is no longer considered a believer?

See Part II.

Friday, 13 June 2014

He Leads Me

“…He leads me beside the still waters…”  Psalm 23 NIV

I find that often I read a sentence or passage in Scripture without giving it a whole lot of thought, particularly if it is very familiar to me.  The twenty-third Psalm is rich with phrases that provide much comfort and encouragement and a good example of the familiar verses that I tend to gloss over.  I am reasonably good at explaining that which is to most, a blinding glimpse of the obvious, i.e. telling you that which someone with an IQ of 50 would understand.

Consider todays verse.  This tells me that God is not walking behind me, shoving me in the way I should go.  He is not walking along side of me, trying to keep pace with me.  He is walking in front of me, but He is not pulling me or tugging me, He is leading me.  I told you I could interpret the very simple.

These few words tell me a few other things.  He doesn’t run ahead of me although that would be incredibly easy for Him to do.  He is allowing me to dictate the pace at which we move forward, at least to some extent.  Because the waters are still I am assuming all is going rather well in most aspects of my life.  These are times when quite often I am not as vigilant in seeking Him out.  Sadly I am much more aware of His presence when the waters are not so still.

Then there is the real obvious.  The King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, the Great “I Am” is leading me.  He is taking a personal interest in me.  If I follow Him I know that I will go exactly where it is best for me to go.

Enough of the obvious, but it demonstrates that even small fragments of Scripture can have a powerful meaning.  When we read a verse such as Ephesians 5:33 “Husbands love your wife as much as you love yourself, and the wife must respect her husband” we have the comfort of knowing that He is there to lead us.

Frankly we are incapable of carrying out that command without the help of the Holy Spirit.  When as a couple we seek God’s direction for our lives, when we pray together, when we spend time with Him individually we have the assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will lead us.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Labels – are You Wearing One?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love you one another” John 13:34-35 NIV

I was recently listening to a pastor out of South Carolina who talked about the clothing labels we wear.  His point was that the labels we choose to wear say a lot about us.  There are many of us who will choose to wear a Ralph Lauren polo shirt, or wear Tom’s shoes.  In both cases we are making a statement.  In the first case we are saying “I enjoy the finer things in life.”  In the second case we are saying, “I want my purchases to not only meet my needs but also to help out someone who is less fortunate.”

This made me think, which is always painful and dangerous.  Surely labels must apply to more than just clothing.  If someone has a reputation and/or a characteristic behavior they might receive a label from people who know them.  “That person is a great encourager.”  “That person is not the sharpest tool in the shed.”  “That person always goes around with a frown on their face.”  We also have particular stereotypes which lend themselves to being a label.   When someone uses the term liberal or conservative a particular set of values flashes through our mind.  We may have a particular opinion about a certain Christian denomination, a specific political party or people who are conscientious recyclers.   I even know some football and hockey fans who have some rather unflattering labels for people who cheer for the other side.

Frankly if you are a Christian you should be wearing a label, the label that Jesus has asked us to wear.  We should be labeled as a follower of Jesus Christ not based on the clothes that we wear, or the political party we vote for or the team for which we cheer. It is our love for one another that should label us.

How do your family members label you when you are not present?  What about your friends?  Are you known as a person who is inviting and loving?  Are you known as a person who is filled with grace?  Are you an encourager?  Are the Fruit of the Spirit readily observable as you go about your daily routine?

When the final curtain is drawn the only label that is important is whether or not we are “a child of the living God.”


Monday, 9 June 2014


“The earth is filled with the love of the Lord” Psalm 33:5  NIV

In their book Love & War, John and Stasi Eldredge identify the core of much of our unhappiness.

The human heart has an infinite capacity for happiness and an unending need for love, because it is created for an infinite God who is unending love…Every woman now has an insatiable need for relationship, one that can never be filled.  It is an ache in her soul designed to drive her to God…A man aches for affirmation, for validation, to know that he has come through.  This also explains his deepest fear – failure.”

We tell ourselves that we deserve happiness and we look to blame someone or something when we are unhappy.  We live in a world in which most things are upgradable.  The Eldredges remind us that

“Your spouse’s unhappiness doesn’t mean you’re an “F” as a person, as a spouse.  Your spouse’s unhappiness – and yours’ means you both have a famished craving within you that only God can meet.”

So the core of our unhappiness is that God created us with a need for love, a love so vast that only He can completely fill it.  Our attempts to have this void totally filled by another person, an addiction, power, money or prestige will always fall short.

We cannot experience such a love by merely believing in God.  Many good people, and some not so good people, have an intellectual understanding of who God is.  Our knowledge is not sufficient to experience of God’s unconditional love.  We still look to our spouse or something else to make us happy.

What we need is a personal relationship with Him.  We can cultivate a personal relationship with God the way we developed our relationship with our spouse, children or close friends, i.e. we spend concentrated time with Him.   Spend time in prayer.  Spend time in His Word.  Spend time sitting silently and listen for what He may want to say to you.  Get involved with people who love the Lord, who reflect His grace.

Gary Thomas is famous for saying that God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.  That does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be happy, but rather God would prefer that we be filled with joy, where God is the source and object of our joy.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Desires of Your Heart

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV

I suspect at some time or another each of us has taken a Biblical verse out of context and applied a meaning to that verse or portion of a verse that was not intended by the ultimate Author.  Take today’s verse for example.  If I put the emphasis on the back portion of this verse I am looking to God to meet my desires.  I always desired to be good enough at basketball to play on the high school team.  Sadly I was too short, too slow and not a good shot.  I always desired to be a jazz pianist.  I didn’t desire to practice.  I have had a strong desire to be a better than average golfer.  As of now average would be a huge improvement.  So what am I missing?

It wouldn’t take a genius to understand that all my desires are about me, accomplishments that would make me feel good about life and about me.  News flash, life is not all about me but it is about my relationship with God.

So the deeper meaning to this verse must be found in the beginning of the verse, i.e. “Delight yourself in the Lord…”  What does that mean? 

To delight in someone means that I derive enjoyment from our relationship, or that I take pleasure in being with them, or I find our time together mutually satisfying and gratifying.  To follow this train of thought might suggest that to the extent that my relationship with the Lord is rich, to that extent I will be able to thoroughly appreciate my time with Him.  God becomes the object and source of my joy.  The desire of my heart will be to spend more and more time with Him.

What if because of the joy I derive from my relationship with the Lord I desire to please Him.  One way to please Him is to be the husband/wife that He has called me to be.  This is important because God only created two institutions, both were to be show cases for His love, grace and mercy.  Specifically God created the Church and marriage.  Each of which provides a witness to the watching world.

As I relook at the verse my focus has changed from it’s all about me to its all about Him.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Is Heaven for Real?

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

There has certainly been much conversation over the past several months about the existence of heaven.  Much of the talk has been driven by recent books and a few movies.  While the topic makes for an interesting conversation during a dinner party it is much more germane to everyday living.

I guess there may be many options open when you consider the subject but only a few come to me.  Choice “A” there is no heaven, life ends at death.  Choice “B” there is a heaven, which by the way 68% of Americans tend to believe.

Here’s where it gets a little dicey.  When these sixty-eight percent were asked if they thought they would be going to heaven the majority answered in the affirmative. When asked on what basis they thought that God would allow them to enter invariably the response was “I’ve led a fairly good life.”

I have limited Biblical knowledge but two things I do believe the Bible makes reasonably clear.  First there is a heaven and there is a hell.  Every person on this planet will go to one place or the other when they die.  The second point is that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  You are part way there if you believe in the resurrection account and all that it implies.  There should be evidence of a transformed life, the Fruit of the Spirit should be in evidence.

It is my opinion that merely having an intellectual assent is not sufficient.  Satan acknowledges the existence of Jesus and knows He rose from the dead but I assure you he won’t be in heaven.  So what is a transformed life? It means that the life you are attempting to live, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is progressively becoming more like the life of Christ when He was on earth.  By progressive I do not mean a consistent growth or trajectory up and to the right as we see in corporate projection charts.  I mean that over time there is evidence in the way I live my life that I am being influenced by Biblical principles.
This brings me to my final point which has to do with marriage – I bet you thought I’d never get around to that topic.  If you believe there is a heaven and you truly understand that believing in Jesus is more than an intellectual assent then the way you treat your husband/wife would be an indication of whether or not your life is being transformed.  Just sayin…

Monday, 2 June 2014

As for Me and My Family…

15 “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”  Joshua 24:15  the Message

The wife says to her husband “you say that you would die for me, but you never do.” As corny as that is don’t many of us essentially say something similar when we say “I love you Lord” but act in a way that belies that statement.

I don’t think anyone who professes to be a Christian would say that it is “bad to worship God” or that they would consciously acknowledge that they have “chosen” to serve another god.  The reality is that at some point in any given week, more likely any given day, each of us who profess to be followers of Jesus worship at the altar of another god.

Before you protesteth too much let me ask you have you been impatient this week?  Have you gotten irritated with someone this week?  Have you done something this week that didn’t glorify God?  Have you lost your temper, sought food for comfort, or watched something on the internet that you would be ashamed if your children were to see,etc.

Ideally God is first in our life and if we are married our spouse is number two.  Any time something leap frogs in importance over either of those two choices we have erected an idol, if only for a brief time.  That idol is a form of god.

To make matters worse, I usually neglect to ask God to forgive me for my transgressions.  This is not a salvation issue but it could be a relational issue.  There is certainly some Scriptural basis for believing that my inappropriate behavior, when not acknowledged, might affect my prayer life. (1Peter 3:7)

All this is to say that all of us, yes even me, will continue to sin and “occasionally” worship at an altar of a false god.  But if I am determined that in my house we will worship the living God, there will be much evidence that I want to put Him first.  The evidence will manifest itself in the way I treat my wife, children and neighbors.  It will be in evidence if you looked at my calendar or checkbook.  Finally I will notice that the Fruit of the Spirit is more apparent in how I live my life than it was two years ago.


Friday, 30 May 2014

Contagious or Contentious

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1 NIV

I want to be very careful that I don’t miscommunicate what I am trying to say.  It would be easy to misread what I intend.  I have had the opportunity to meet with many couples who were struggling in their marriage.  Most often neither the husband nor the wife have much of a vertical connection with the Lord, i.e. they come to church with some regularity, normally for the kids, but God has little impact on how they lead their lives on a day to day basis.  This makes it difficult as a counselor who wants to rely on what the Bible has to say about marriage to help them.

While it is difficult to work with such a couple, at least they are starting at roughly the same spiritual level and they have come to a church for help.

On occasion I have a couple where either the husband or the wife knows as much Scripture as a seminary graduate.  They have a verse for every situation and they are quick to spout it off and hit their partner over the head with it.  They basically beat their spouse into the ground with the Bible.  This is not only not very helpful, it is a total turnoff.  Such an approach of self-righteous indignation would drive me about as far away from Christianity as possible.

If we are living a life that would bring glory to God our demeanor, character and behavior would be contagious.  We would be filled with joy, eager to get up in the morning to see what the Lord has in store, and certainly demonstrate some form of compassion to someone with whom we come in contact.

The person who is so full of themselves because of the amount of Scripture they have memorized and the theological knowledge they have amassed only intimidates others.  There is no humility, no transparency and very little empathy in the lives of such people.  There is little love but a great deal of judgment and condemnation. 

The partner who truly has been born again understands how imperfect they are.  They see the plank in their own eye before commenting on the spec in the eye of another.  They recognize that they are a sinner that needs to change.  They have a growing understanding of how much they have been forgiven.  When both partners come to counseling, when they are both repentant, broken, contrite and humble they can make great strides

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Guilt Free

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
    you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you
    and you’re holding nothing back from him.” Psalm 32:1-2 the Message

Okay let me say at the outset that while I prefer this particular translation of these two verses, I dislike the use of the word “lucky”.  Luck plays no role in the Kingdom of God.  Other translations start with “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven…” which better appeals to my sensibilities.  So you’re thinking “Then why did you use the Message version?”  You were thinking that weren’t you?  The reason is because I prefer the words that follow, i.e. “you get a fresh start…” and “God holds nothing against you…”

Most of the couples who come to see me as a counselor have many things in common.  Let me name two.  First, the problem with the marriage always resides in the other person and secondly each partner comes in with their own list of grievances of how they have been hurt by the other.

My approach to counseling is more prescriptive and it stresses being future focused.  If I keep replaying in my head all the ways my partner has hurt me how helpful is that?  Do you think those messages are coming from God?  If so, guess again.  God doesn’t forget our sins but He chooses not to remember them.  “The slate is wiped clean.”  The more we understand God’s grace toward us the more ready we are to forgive someone else.

As I see it couples who are struggling in their marriage have a few choices.  Seek fulfillment somewhere else, find the one person in the universe, who doesn’t exist, who will make you happy.  Or you can stay together, live parallel lives, and try to minimize further damage.  OR you can do everything it takes to have joy in your marriage, which would be God’s desire for you and your spouse.  But you don’t know what my husband/wife is like.  Your right, I don’t but I have seen enough couples that I know it is pride and self-centeredness that is often what derails couples from making their marriage work.

First you each need to have a vertical relationship with the Lord.  The stronger the vertical relationship the stronger the horizontal.  You need the Holy Spirit!  Secondly you need to be able to approach your marriage as though you are the biggest problem in your marriage and are willing to change, even if you think you are only contributing one percent to the problems.

Why the Holy Spirit?  Because without Him it is unlikely that you will be able to make the changes that each partner will need to make.  That’s why those who enter marriage as a covenant relationship will do the work because they realize that there is no exit strategy and they are not willing to be miserable for forty more years.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.  Psalms 139:14 ESV

When you wake up in the morning do you thank God because you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”?  Do you thank God that your partner for life is fearfully and wonderfully made?  I didn’t think so. 

I for one always wanted to be much taller, have hair, have a great singing voice, have a photographic memory and be able to play music by ear among other things.  It is interesting that as I’ve gotten much older I’m just thankful that thus far none of my original parts have been replaced. 

However I can say that I have been incredibly thankful for the way God has made my wife.  She is wonderfully made.  He has given her wisdom, an incredible ability to figure things out, much creative and artistic ability, and what seems to be an incurable infatuation with me, for which I am most thankful.

In my line of work I normally hear couples grumbling about one another.  “If he would only…; if she could only …” News flash – each of us was fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are as unique as a snowflake.  Your husband / wife was “hand crafted”, so to speak, by the ultimate Designer, the Creator of the universe. Shame on us if we have overlooked the incredible attributes of our spouse while focusing on some flaws.

I wonder what would happen if over the next 30 days we looked intently for a different, positive quality, or trait, skill and/or attribute AND at the end of thirty days presented the list to our spouse.  The first week this might be easy but most likely it will become increasingly difficult as you approach 20 then 30.

Try to stay away from such things as “he can dress himself and tie his own shoes” which may have been flattering when he was three.  Each day thank God for your husband/wife and in particular thank Him for having given him/her the trait you selected for that day.

Friday, 23 May 2014

It’s Not Always Intuitive – a message to men

 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33 NIV

Let’s assume that you, like me, are an avoider, i.e. you dislike conflict. If you are a male, like me, you are probably clueless and oblivious most of the time.  So if your wife seems to be particularly overwhelmed, frenzied and/or frustrated you will not always know why, and if you are like me, you will attempt to flee.

Here’s where the intuitive part comes in.  Perhaps the best thing you can do at a time like this is to give your wife a big hug. “Are you nuts!? “ That is what you said isn’t it, though you may have used more colorful language.

I would never suggest that I have any great insight regarding the emotional makeup of most women – make that of any women.  What I think is true of some women, because they tend to be more relational than men, is that when they are upset they want to connect relationally.  They want to be comforted, loved and hopefully understood.

And your next question is “Are you telling me a hug accomplishes all of that?”  No!  But it is a start.  As a true, committed avoider, you just want the tension to subside and a hug might accomplish that.  Your next words are very important. They should be something like, “I just want you to know I love you, can I help?”

Remember husbands are told that we are to love our wives as much as we love ourselves.  That does not mean that you treat your wife the way you want to be treated.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, frenzied or frustrated you might want people to leave you alone. 

You might spare yourself some discomfort by asking your wife, at a time when things are reasonably serene, if in fact that would be her preference.  If she says, “no” you will have avoided embarrassment.  If she says “yes” and you follow through the next time the chance presents itself you will have avoided an uncomfortable situation and made your wife feel loved.

For the brave among you, you might even try the same approach if your wife is angry, agitated and/or irritated.  This takes a bit more nerve and could backfire if it should be blatantly obvious that you are the cause of her distress.  A hug from you might be the last thing she wants.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Secondhand Anger

26 “When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin.[a] Don’t let the sun set with anger in your heart or 27 give the devil room to work.” Ephesians 4: 26-27 the Voice

We have all heard the term, “secondhand smoke” (SHS) which is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Have you ever heard anyone talk about secondhand anger which in my opinion may be almost as lethal?

Secondhand anger often occurs in marriage when one’s partner displays anger with some regularity even though it might not seem warranted.  It is secondhand because if the truth were known (or recognized) the anger being expressed is not, in all honesty, rooted in current circumstances but is a response to hurts suffered when the individual was much younger.

Often this condition is referred to as the “baggage” we tend to bring with us into our marriage.  The woundedness and previous hurts can come from any number of sources.  What we, who bring such baggage into our marriage, fail to realize is that in some ways we are looking to our partner to make us “feel all better”, much like a child who has just fallen down and skinned his knee.

We want the affirmation that we didn’t receive growing up, or maybe it is the affection that was missing, or the unconditional love, perhaps there was little encouragement, and no support.  The list of our unfulfilled emotional needs is endless.  Then one day we meet Mr. or Ms. Right, get married and assume that this person will fill the void that was left from our childhood.  First of all that person is incapable of filling that void and secondly there is a chance they bring their own version of emptiness to the relationship that wasn’t revealed when you were dating.

Why is secondhand anger so dangerous?  Because it reflects a lack of forgiveness.  The hurts become a root of bitterness, a root that will grow up inside and ultimately manifest itself in some emotional disorder and/or physical disease, and will likely wreak havoc in your marriage.

Anger is often caused by fear, a need to control and/or an irrational perception of reality.  For example take a woman whose father walked out on her and her mother.  She remembers feeling abandoned.  She now finds herself in a marriage that is not going well and fears that she will be abandoned again.  Perhaps a man was made to feel inferior by his father and only received affirmation when he performed academically or in sports.  He is now experiencing criticism from his wife and it brings back all the feelings of inadequacy that he experienced growing up. 

Only the love of Christ can fill such voids.  Leave your anger at the foot of the cross.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Do You Need a “Plasectomy?

But those who chase riches are constantly falling into temptation and snares. They are regularly caught by their own stupid and harmful desires, dragged down and pulled under into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money—and what it can buy—is the root of all sorts of evil. Some already have wandered away from the true faith because they craved what it had to offer; but when reaching for the prize, they found their hands and hearts pierced with many sorrows.

11 Timothy, don’t let this happen to you—run away from these things! You are a man of God. Your quest is for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 1Timothy 6: 9-11

Financial troubles are usually one of the top five reasons cited for seeking a divorce.  Most often one of the contributing factors is that the couple did not come into marriage with the same outlook toward spending and saving in general and acquiring debt in particular.  Some statistics suggest that the average American couple has in excess of $14,000 in credit card debt alone. 

Dave Ramsey, well known Christian financial consultant, has a cure for this problem.  Have a “plasectomy party”.  Invited to the party are the husband and wife (and children if you have them), a pair of scissors and all but one of your credit cards.  You then gleefully cut all your remaining cards into pieces.  The only reason for holding out even one is purely in the case of a dire emergency and no that doesn’t mean a new dress or the latest golf equipment.

The sooner you realize that you are in a war the sooner you might start fighting back.  The love of money and possessions are talked about in Scripture as much as any other topic.  The enemy is the one who has convinced you to buy the flat screen TV that you can’t afford.  He has told you that you are entitled to drive that new BMW because you have worked so hard.  Satan has prompted you to buy that home with the reverse mortgage so that you can raise your children in a better school district.

The spenders among us can rationalize almost any purchase they make, while some savers among us are so worried about the uncertainty of the future that they obsess needlessly about every dime they spend.

God promises to supply all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)  In most cases we don’t “need” anything that causes us to incur debt we can’t pay off in thirty days.  If we have been faithful stewards of what God has provided we also don’t need to worry about the future.  Hold a plasectomy party, you’ll be glad you did and your children will remember it forever.



Friday, 16 May 2014

Marriage is Like a Dance

“Submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 NIV

To say that I have two left feet would be giving me more credit than I would deserve.  I can clap in time to music but that hardly equates to having a sense of rhythm.  All this is to say that if marriage is really like a dance my wife and I could be in real trouble.

In general the man is responsible for leading his fair maiden around the dance floor.  The more adept he is at guiding her the easier it is for her to follow his lead and for them to appear to be graceful.  The man isn’t forceful, he doesn’t push and shove them around the floor but by merely using the slightest pressure on his partner’s back or by moving his arm in such a way that she natural goes where he is directing her they move in unison.  This is poetry in motion.

All this is to say, though seemingly not politically correct, someone has to lead and it should be the man.  I am not a chauvinist nor a domineering, control freak.  Most anyone who has taken a class from me is aware that I am quick to acknowledge how clueless most of us men tend to be.  I am just convinced that it was God’s plan that man should be the servant leader, protector and provider of his family.  I am not big on the “S” word unless it is as stated in Ephesians 5:21 which says that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, NOT out of reverence for one another.

I do not believe that God does anything haphazardly, without a purpose.  There was a reason man was created first and Eve taken from his rib.  God could have created them simultaneously.  God could have created a creature that was fully contained in one body, needing no one else but someone else just like himself/herself.  God created them equal in every way but different in terms of their makeup.  Adam was given authority to name the animals.  That assignment was symbolic of where Adam stood positionally in the kingdom.  Eve was created to be his helper for surely Adam needed one.  The Hebrew term for helper is ezer, meaning “to make up for the deficiency of”.

There seems to be a movement on today to make women more like men and men more like women.  It is unfortunate that verse 5:21 comes before 5:25 and 5:33.  I would hope that any woman would defer to any man who was attempting to love her as much as Christ loved His bride and as much as he loves himself.  By definition he will always have her best interest at heart.