Are you looking for volunteers to date your spouse?

I’m discovering something.  My blogs that have the most “activity” all have one thing in common: they deal with marriage.

That may for one of two reasons (perhaps both of them). First, I blog about it frequently because I’m passionate about marriage ministry.  When Christ comes into the marriage, everything about the home changes.  He established marriage.  He blesses it.  Why wouldn’t we invite him to be a part of it (John 2:2). Second, it’s being read because it’s hitting a need.  In a world where martial security seems to be extinct, people are hungry to find what makes the wedding day stick through the better and the worse, the richer or the poorer, and the sickness and the health. I’m gonna keep blogging and, perhaps, give you some tools to help create a marriage that sticks.

I’m a collector of quotes…especially on marriage.  There’s one I came across on July 30th of this year.  A pastor had tweeted a quote from Mark Driscoll.

“Men, if you don’t date your wife someone else may eventually volunteer for the job.” – Mark Driscoll

Dating is a big part of the courting process.  We put our best foot forward. We plan out where to go.  Our date waits with excitement and anticipation over what the date may hold. Why does it stop after “I do?”  Over the years , why have I heard in counseling the same quote, “where is the one I married?” “Where is the one that “won’ my heart?

This is a concept I have been teaching in premarital/marital counseling for years. Maybe I can reword it and take it a step further:

“Refusal to meet the needs of your spouse empowers others to volunteer for the job.”

I won’t give a free pass to anyone to have an excuse to engage in an affair. But, as a spouse, I won’t give my wife an excuse to go looking for someone else to fill a need.   Even a step further, if I am not meeting a need, I am, by my negligence, opening up an opportunity for someone to fill it.

Selah. (translated: think on this)

This is what challenged me to ramble on a few thoughts about NOT meeting the needs of our spouses.

Unattended needs (different from unattended wants) speak of: 

1 – Living selfishly.  Ephesians 5. Anne is to walk in respect of her husband. I am to love her as Christ loved the church. Marriage isn’t a 50/50 proposition. It means if I give enough to match what she gives…we’ll be okay.  Marriage is 100/100 proposition. I completely give all as she completely give all.

2 – Not actively listening. Proverbs 13:10. I’m either refusing to speak her love language or I refused to be trained to listen for it. I’m so preoccupied with my own desires and my way of communicating them that they trump hers.

3 – No assertiveness. Proverbs 10:31 says “A good person’s mouth is a clear fountain of wisdom…”You can’t blame a spouse for not knowing a need if you don’t communicate it clearly and effectively.

4 – Deferring responsibility. Proverbs 8:33. “Listen…be wise…don’t neglect.” By neglecting a spiritual, emotion, physical, and/or mental need, I am affording the opportunity to the next person who comes along.  I acquaint it to when our children were infants.  As infants do, they wake up crying because of diapers and hunger.  I would pretend to sleep so that Anne would have to get up to get the baby. Many times, our negligence, is another way of saying, “someone else get up and do it because I don’t want to” or “I don’t want to make the effort to do it.”

5 – Taking your spouse for granted. Proverbs 5:17. “That’s what young people do…we’re in a different season.” “He/she doesn’t like that anymore.”  “That’s just not real life.”  You’re spouse wants to be pursued.  Whether you realize it or not, but the enemy is pursuing them every day.  I’ll give you “TWIN TRUTHS”:

TRUTH #1: Your spouse isn’t the same person you married.
TRUTH #2: Neither are you.

You age. You transform. Every season of life presents new challenges. These challenges can be our excuses to not be Godly husbands/wives.  OR…these challenges can be what excites us into passionately pursuing our spouse.

IT IS NOT TOO LATE FOR YOUR MARRIAGE. Don’t give me the excuse, “this is just the way I am.” Let you’re spouse see you fighting for time with them.  Let you spouse see how much of a priority they are to you. Put away your own desires and go “all in” into theirs.

Make dating a priority.  Here’s some ideas Anne and I do:

  • Cook favorite meals.
  • Get a baby sitter (insert shameless plug for Cammi’s baby sitting service) and get out of the house.
  • Go to a movie we both would enjoy.
  • Go to a musical/theater (well…I would want that more than Anne)
  • We go for a walk (healthy bodies and healthy conversations)
  • Change things up and go out with another couple to create more conversation. Anne and I like double dates…just not all the time.
  • Surprise your spouse.  If he/she doesn’t like surprises, let  them know what you are planning.

The point is: DO SOMETHING!!!  At this point, they don’t care if you burnt the meal or you played Kenny G and it ruined the mood…they just want to know you cared.

I pray for marital health and strength upon you.  I hope that today challenges you, especially husbands, to stop neglecting your spouse, in essence, look for volunteers to do what you are supposed to do.  It’s your responsibility…and in my opinion it’s a fun responsibility.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Are you staring at rear ends?

He stared at rear ends every day.

The same ones.

Day after day…

…till the moment when his eye got a new focus.

1 Kings 19:19 “Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair.”

This was the life of Elisha. Plowing every day.  Staring at the same plow.  Looking at the rear ends of the same oxen. It was the same thing every morning after his stop at Starbucks (probably a well in those days with no caffeine added). Day after day after day….

It almost sounds maddening. For some of you, it sounds safe.

I’ve got one word for that: mundane. You might call it boring.  Some might call it routine.  Don’t get me wrong; routine can be a good thing. It’s nice to know what to expect.  There’s no stress.  There’s little to no planning.  But my view when it comes to our spiritual life, mundane is not just dull, it makes us dull.  Not the “dull” as in a personality that doesn’t mess with ours.  I ‘m talking about losing the “sharpness” and “joy” out of life that puts us in the place, like Elisha, where we return day after day doing the same thing, living the same life, never challenging ourselves, and never growing.  We get to that “safe” spot in our walk with God and we stop the discipleship process.  We stop the passionate pursuit of Christ.  We now grumble about serving others when we used to get excited about the opportunity.

It was a number of months ago I received a great book written by a pastor I really look up to. Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, had just finished writing the book “Greater” and I began to thumb through a copy.  It was this topic of monotony where Steven began to describe Elisha’s life.

“Regardless of who you are and what you do, succumbing to mediocrity will sabotage your spiritual vitality. You may not notice it at first, or even for years.  But sooner or later, complacent Christian living hits the point of diminishing returns. Your life isn’t tiding you over as effectively as it used to. You’re frustrated  and irritable. You’re feeling tempted in ways you can’t share with your men’s group. And you see only one solution: get back behind the plow. Mindless plowing is not your future.”

It was as if something burst inside of me.  Something  about this sparked a fire in my spirit and I had to share. I took it to our board meeting and shared a few pages.  I challenged our board not to live out monotonous spiritually.  I felt they heard and received it well.  Then I went back to my normal schedule.  Reminds me of hearing “We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.”

Nothing changed in me. That “spark” from a few paragraphs in a book were not meant for a board.  They were meant for me.  I was coming out of, perhaps, one of my busiest summers ever. I’m passionate about ministry. I love doing ministry.  But I felt as if the Lord was questioning me. It wasn’t my motives our my heart being questioned.  It was that the busyness of life was my routine.  Quite frankly I was irritable. I was annoying.  Time with my family was diminishing. My joy was depleting.  The schedule was safe.  All I had to do was plug-in and go.

But that isn’t what the Lord intended.

I needed something new.  It’s not a new job. It’s not a new wife. It’s not a new location. I needed that joy back…that enthusiasm back.  (in my head I hear Al Capone say “enthusiasms” in The Untouchables)

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without enthusiasm.” You have to have a passion to see something great happen. That’s why you need to nurture your enthusiasm if you want to get out of the “starting at rears” syndrome that Elisha was in.  Speaking from personal experience, especially this summer, it takes more than positive thinking or pep talks from Tony Robbins. It takes Christ in your life.

The word enthusiasm comes from a couple of Greek words. The word “en” which means “in” and the word “theos” which is Greek for “God.” To be enthusiastic means to be “in God.” When you get in God, you have enthusiasm deep in your heart.

For our upcoming series at KFirst, I’ve been diving into Romans 12.  In this portion of Romans, Paul tells us how to be enthusiastic in Romans 12:11-12, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

“Rejoice in hope” – even when things don’t go the way you thought…hang on to your hope in Christ and it will give you joy.

“Patient in tribulation” – Remain patient because you know Christ will use whatever you’re going through for good. (Gen. 50:20)

“Be constant in prayer” – When tough times come, you have a choice: you can either pray continually or you can panic. You can either be on your knees giving it to God, or you can give up.

For Elisha, something new sparked new vision and purpose.  He went back to the oxen and plow and broke apart everything that was leading to the mundane (1 Kings 19:21). Now, I can’t say that I came back to my office and broke everything.  But these past few weeks I have been on a mission.  I am determined to “break apart” patterns of my life that are leading to the mundane.  Nothing is sacred.  Everything is eligible for change.  The way I approach the office.  My devotional schedule. My time with my family.  My dates with my wife. How much I counsel. My sermon prep.  EVERYTHING!!! I’m not scrapping it.  I’m asking the Lord to re-order my life and my priorities.  I’m “breaking up the plow” and asking for new vision for my days, weeks, years, etc.  Don’t get me wrong.  All of those things are a part of me that I love.  I just refuse to do it with a mundane, dull, routine spirit.

What won’t change.  I will continue rejoice in hope…I will continue to be patient with affliction…I will be constantly in prayer.  This is how my “in God,” my “enthusiasm” will come back.  And, quite frankly, it has come back with a vengeance.

Are you sick of the Elisha syndrome? Are ya sick of “staring at rears”?  Let go of the plow and pick up Romans 12.  Let the Lord be your enthusiasm.  Let Him bring back joy into your life.  Don’t be content with being mundane.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Seducing your spouse with five senses

You’re thinking about that word “seduce” aren’t ya.  It’s one of those words you hear a preacher say in church that causes you to look at the person next to ya and ask, “can he use that word in church?”  I think people carry a list in the back of their head or bible of things you shouldn’t say unless in an Old Testament KJV context.

se·duce[si-doos, -dyoos]
– 
to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; corrupt
– to persuade or induce to have sexual intercourse
– to win over; attract; entice

I have EVERY intention on having this blog accomplish all three.

  1. I want to lead people astray from the mindset that marriage is or has to be boring or hopeless. I want to corrupt that “corrupt” mindset.  It’s time to bring joy and anticipation to our marriages. (Song of Solomon 2:10)
  2. I want to encourage sex in marriage.  I encourage sex in my marriage.  More importantly, God created it, blesses it, and encourages it. (Prov. 15:18)
  3. My main point today: I want to set you on a journey of “enticing” your spouse. I want to challenge spouses to strive to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally attractive.  It is NOT wrong or dirty.  (Song of Solomon 2:8-9)

When pondering this blog, I considered writing and dealing with sex.  If you’ve been at KFirst long enough, you know that I’m not afraid to deal with it.  I believe it has been largely ignored.  In fact, if it has been brought up, it’s been dealt with in such an absurd way that couples are not empowered to enjoy it to the degree I feel the Lord has designed it.  BUT…that blog is for another day.

Attraction goes beyond the physical.  It’s far deeper than that.  It’s an understanding that so many couples struggle with.  Their issues of attraction are so surface that any changes in body, season of life, or circumstances will catapult them toward scrapping the marriage and starting over.  I am not here to harp onto anyone who has gone through, is going through, and/or has been hurt by divorce. I’m hoping to foster an atmosphere of intimacy within the life of a couple and, perhaps, start the healing process in others.

A TRUTH that I have shared for years with both youth groups as well as adults is simply: Holiness is sexy. In other words, showing the attributes of Christ in your life makes you irresistible.  My disclaimer on the word “irresistible”: being more Christ-like will increase intimacy but doesn’t guarantee more sex (sorry guys).  But I promise, Godliness won’t lessen it.  Being Christ-like in your marriage becomes a seduction  (a draw, an attraction, a persuasion, an enticement) toward what should be the foundation of a healthy marriage.  It creates perspective and appeal that cannot be found in anything else.  I though a great way to give marriage perspective and develop appeal is through the five senses.  So bear with me while I ramble…

Taste

Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste sweeter than honey to my mouth!” It reminds me of a custom of Jewish teachers covering the writing slate of young students with honey.  Before they could write words of Torah upon them, they were to lick off all of the honey to remind them of this scripture.  Every taste of honey from that point must have reminded them of the sweetness of the Word of the Lord.  The way to your spouses heart is not through their stomach per say, but the flavor you place upon your marriage.  Some of us, with our attitudes, or selfish demands place such a bitter flavor upon our marriage that, instead of enticing our spouse, drives them away.  Or worse, the sweetness of your marriage shows up in words but not in deeds.  It’s like tasting an apple to find out it was rotten inside.  Don’t be all show and no substance. Take moments to speak and/or pray the Word over your marriage.  Read scripture with your spouse.  Cover your lives with the Psalms 119 “honey” and watch the flavor/taste of your marriage sweeten.

Smell

One simple rules when approaching your spouses sense of smell: Bathe.  After a long workout, my wife does not want to be close to me till I shower.  It’s it the dripping sweat…yep.  But more than that, is the smell.  I don’t smell like a workout unless I have been working out.  You don’t carry an aroma of Christ unless you have been in His presence.  To our spouse, we should carry the aroma of our savior into our homes.  That aroma should be caught in all of our marital circumstances…yes even our conflicts.  What “scent” do you carry with you? Does it repulse you spouse?  Does it attract/draw/seduce you spouse? Proverbs 30:12 “There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.” Is the atmosphere of your home improve because you are home? Do you leave a sweet atmosphere when you leave the room?  They’re tough questions but need to be asked.

Touch

This seems like an easy one for me.  This is my love language.  But this was by biggest struggle early in our marriage.  I only thought about “touch” on one level. The more I counsel couples I realize that this is the most abused sense.  One spouse will touch for one reason: sex.  They haven’t learned the art of non-sexual touch.  Now they have condition their marriage that touching only occurs in sexual circumstances.

It’s a shame.

We need more touching in our marriages.  Touching that goes beyond foreplay but conveys a meaning connection point that reaches to the very soul of our spouse.  What touches the heart, mind, and emotions of your spouse? Is it art? Is it food? Is it music? Is it your body? Is it flowers? Is it time with you?

Song of Solomon 1:1-2, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love [is] better than wine.” The first ‘Kiss’ in these scriptures speak of  “nashaq” , which means to put together, gently touch. It comes from the idea of ‘putting things in order.’ The second ‘Kisses’ in the scriptures (from this context) speaks of a continual work of the heart being ‘put together in order, through gentle touches.’

What ever the “touch point” is, master the art of touching your spouse.  Find out their love language and become of student of that language.  Learn that “touch” goes beyond holding a hand but reaching into the deepest part of their heart and lets them know you are still pursuing them passionately.

Vision

Men are visual.  So are women…but in very different ways than their male counterparts.  Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” The heart is reflected, visually, in your life.  September 30th we preaching “from the abundance of the heart a man speaks.” The heart is not hidden.  It is reflected in our lives. You don’t have a choice in the matter.  If you have filthiness inside, like water reflects the face, you’ll give a visual representation of what is lingering on the inside.  Do you hold onto issues your spouse assumed you forgave (because you said you forgave them)? Do you bottle up bitterness? Do you hold in issues because you don’t want to burden your spouse?  Conflict, if handled correctly, doesn’t drive a spouse away.  Releasing your heart won’t deter  them.  You’ll seduce/attract/win them over.

Hearing

This is the easiest sense to use to tap into. Two things I’ll say to this:

1. Learn and use these four line in a meaningful way:
I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
I forgive you.

2. Talk. Talk about your day, talk about your thoughts, talk about your worries, talk about what you are learning, anything! Just start talking. When you have run out of things to talk about then just start telling your spouse all the reasons that you are glad you are married and why you would choose him/her all over again! Proverbs 16:24 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

These are some suggestions to read over and ponder, but I think you will find that they can be quite effective. I’m hoping, first, that I’ve helped corrupt a “corrupt” mindset that was hopeless.  Second, if touching the senses of your spouse leads to the bedroom (or any room for that matter)…you’re welcome. And lastly, I hope this does set you on a life-long journey of pursuing your spouses senses.

Do you have other way’s of tapping into your spouse’s 5 senses? Guys, what do you think? Women, what would you recommend?

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Are you talking nautical to me?”

Is anyone else a fan of Sig Hanson?  Any Discovery Channel geeks out there?

If you’ve never partaken in this amazing show, “Deadliest Catch” is a documentary series chronicling the real-life high-sea adventures of the Alaskan crab fishermen. It is professed to be the most deadly profession in the world (and for good reason). Sig Hanson is by far my favorite captain to watch on the show.  He commands the Northwestern as one of the more successful crab fisherman.  I’ll admit, his crew is one of the more entertaining crews to watch.

Watching the show pulls me into their world of fishing the Bering Sea. Anne has heard me more than once proudly proclaim that could do that job.   I see myself working for 36 hours straight pulling crab pots.  The reality, for the first few days, I’d be clutching the railing throwing up from sea sickness. One episode in particular, stands out to me. A  “greenhorn” or the newest crewman on a fishing vessel, has a freak-out moment and is ready to jump ship.  The deep, the waves, the intensity of the moment has caused this man to call it quits. He is so consumed with fear that has forgone rational thought.  The boat is forced to abandon its journey to take this greenhorn back to shore.  His final scene is him shamefully leaving the boat and walking down the dock in his Lions jersey (kinda indicative of most Lions seasons).  We all watch and think we’d handle it much better.  How scary can it be?

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” 2 Peter 1:19

The words “To pay attention” is a very cool Greek word (prosecho). It literally means, “to have direction toward something”. It was a nautical term used to describe steering a ship on course. In the days when all ships were sailing ships, “prosecho was a very important concept. In the open water, there are no street signs.  There are no exits to pull off to get directions.  If you didn’t know how to set a course, you could easily get lost at sea.

Who is writing this? Simon Peter

What was his “trade” before following Christ? Fisherman. (Maybe he’s the Sig Hanson of Biblical times)

Just like KFirst isn’t surprised when I use a football metaphor, we shouldn’t be alarmed that Peter is reaching back to his roots to help us understand what the Lord is speaking.  He is telling us the something about steering our course in life: Pay attention to the wind and the heavens if you want to stay on course.

God has equipped us with a word from heaven and the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to guide us. But we have to pay attention. I’ll give you a TRUTH to ponder: Reaching your destination won’t happen if you let the currents take you wherever they happen to go.

Before the age of nautical technology, sailing far beyond the site of the shore was a not easy.  It was a scary thing. At one time, there were people who believed the world was flat and if you sailed too far you’d fall off the edge of the earth. Unless you had the proper training and/or you had a compass, without the shore to guide you, it was pretty hard to know which way to go. This is the reason why many trips were done at night. The stars were the guides. Lamps and city lights shining from the shore were easier to see.

This writer…this fishermen knew how important it was to have an illuminated marker when he found himself out on dark waters.  Dark waters have so much potential of driving fear and anxiety because three things:

  1. Their depth.  (they’re dark for a reason)
  2. Their reputation.  Beneath the surface lies dangerous creatures as well as the wreckage of former vessels who did not make it.
  3. No shelter.  Out in the deep. You cannot hide. You have to face whatever comes your way

If there is anyone understood what it was like to go through “deep waters” or dark fearful times, Peter is a prime example. Matthew 8:23-17 is the story of the disciples and Jesus sailing.  Most of us have read the story.  We remember the ending.  What we, many times forget: some of the men freaking out are experienced fishermen. Their reaction speaks of the severity of the storm. It shows the urgency of the moment.  They needed Jesus to stand up in the storm speak to the darkness. More than storms on the sea, Peter knew what it was like to go through dark times. Whether it was his denial of Christ or winding up in jail, he was experienced in going through moments where he needed help.  He needed direction. Simon Peter needed something to guide him.

And now this fisherman tells us that our lives in Christ need the same sort of markers that a ship’s captain would need. Peter knew the sea. He knew its dangers and its deceptions. But he was confident in spite of the turmoil of life because he paid close attention to the beacon of the Word. In the darkest part of our lives, a little light can be seen from a great distance. Be watchful for the light and it will direct your course.

When we start to feel surrounded by dark waters, there is a lamp shining in the darkness. It is the Word of God, the same word that Psalm 119 describes as “a lamp unto my feet“. NOTE:  the Word won’t make any difference to us unless we pay close attention to it.

I’ll end with this: Admit the depth of your need, celebrate the lavish power of grace, and get up and follow by faith.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Are you having trouble with profanity?

Happy Monday…er Tuesday! I’m late in getting this out.  I had a great time speaking yesterday at Zion Bible College – GR.  I love connecting with future/present ministers!!!

We are in the thick of the fall season and I’m excited about what’s happening in our church community. If you were not able to join us, we had an amazing day of ministry that makes it exciting be a part of this church community.

I’ll kick off Tuesday with a simple TRUTH: “The question today is not whether you will worship, but rather what you will worship. Your glorious Creator or something he created?” Today is a choice.  Every moment is a choice.  You get to choose whether your life will worship the Lord or your own desires. Live a life of worship today and “hallow” His name today. This is a great segway into recapping our Sunday and looking forward to this week.

Here are 5 things I want you to know about…

#1 – KFirst continued our series “Dust” on Sunday. We focused on “Keeping the Name Safe.” We corrected the mindset of profaning the name of Jesus.  It’s not all about what you say.  When you profess Christ but refuse to live that out before men…you are living profanity. Our actions can succeed in bringing shame on the name of Jesus around the world. In the lives of normal people, we can be guilty of hillul hashem (profaning the name).

But when we lift our hands in worship…And hate our neighbor

When we go to church and profess our relationship with God…but refuse to help a neighbor who is hurting

We are profaning the name.

Our goal?  Read the words of Christ about the “Name”:  John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Go live out “hallowing” the name of Jesus.

If you missed the message, download it from iTunes  later on Monday or hit the website.

#2 – Annual Business Meeting is a this week.  Our trustee nominees are presented in a handout at the information center and in the church office. I’d ask that you take some time intercede over this as we approach 3 trustee positions with prayerful hearts.  We have such an awesome list of nominees and I am excited for the future of our board.

#3 – On Sunday we are launching a 1 month reading plan.  I’m going to challenge our congregation to read all four Gospels in ONE MONTH.  October 1 will be our start date in this amazing journey.  The reading plan will be available online, via this blog, and available at the information desk.

#4 – You can’t afford to miss Sunday, October 7 for an outreach announcement. We have a great opportunity for local outreach that I believe can have explosive results in connecting to the community. Don’t sleep in that day.  I can’t wait.

#5 – Pray over our new series coming up in October.  We are going to do a short 3 week series “Vampires: Dealing with people who suck the life out of you.” I think we’re going to laugh. I thing we are all going to be challenged.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got “Vampires” in my life.  But more specifically, I think that I’ve been a “Vampire” to others.  We are called to give life…not “suck” it out of a person.  We are supposed to be sources of joy…I better stop. I’ll start preaching the series too early.

That’s all we have today.  Love the Lord…and don’t let your lives be “profanity” to the world.  Show the world who Jesus is.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Want to sabotage your marriage? I can help!!!

If there’s any one subject I’m very passionate about outside of Christ and pastoring, it’s Marriage. Luckily, marriage is a big part of my pastoring. As far as topics, it’s the one that I read about the most. I won’t go to the place where I will proclaim to be an expert or a “know-it-all” on the subject. But the Lord has given me a drive for knowledge and wisdom about issues that cause marital health decay. I am determined to see our families grow strong. I’m determined to see our children trained in the way they should go. I believe the way to do that is through healthy marriages.

Marriage is an institution established by the Lord. The design of man and woman in their unity reflect the beauty and complexity of the One that created humanity in His image. Your marriage is not a life of two but one. The oneness must remain healthy. BUT…You can’t expect your marriage to grow merely by circumstance and chance. You must be intentional.

If you are not intentional about heath…you’re being intentional about death. Some people are bent on ignoring issues because they don’t want to make waves. I’ll give ya a TRUTH: Ignoring a problem is like giving it steroids. Deal with marriage problems quickly, before they become monsters.

I like how The Message speaks about marriage. “ Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out…” I know the context of the section in 1 Corinthians 7 is about sex. But the statement goes far beyond the bed. It’s about laying down our pride and selfish desire and serving for the health of the “oneness.”

Perhaps you don’t believe me. So I’ll approach it from the opposite side of health. If you’re looking for ways to absolutely blow up your marriage? I’ve got some foolproof tactics that will help.

#1 – Refuse to grow
Refuse change. Just because businesses that don’t embrace usually go in to bankruptcy…Just because churches that don’t embrace change go into irrelevancy…doesn’t mean that will happen to your marriage. WRONG! Marriage NOTE: Every husband and wife need to be determined that they will pursue personal, spiritual, and marital growth. Every season of life will hand another level of circumstances that will necessitate continual growth. If not…you are sabotaging your marriage.

#2 – Keep Quiet
Talk to your friends and coworkers about your spouse and not to them because doing so will be awkward! Even better, using the silent treatment is really an amazing weapon when it comes to refusing to communicate. Never mind that’s how the kids in the nursery deal with each other. Marriage NOTE: Work on your words, tones, mannerisms, and timing and learn to open the barriers and talk.

#3 – Expect your spouse to possess mind reading abilities
Just expect your spouse to know what you are thinking. Remember: You shouldn’t have to ask…your spouse should just know! You could give a hint. But if your spouse loves you, he/she will by osmosis know everything that you know. Marriage NOTE: At this point I’d go into a cliché about the word “assume” but that may not be appropriate.

#4 – Turn off your hearing aid.
Refuse to be a listener. Especially during conflict, interrupt your spouse to immediately correct them. Then quickly trying your best to make a stronger point always helps tear a relationship to pieces! Marriage NOTE: Your spouse wants to hear you…BUT he/she wants to know that they have been, not heard, but listened to. Find a connection to what they are saying as well as what they are feeling.

#5 – Spousal Pessimism
(a term I got from Perry Noble) Always assume the absolute worst about your spouse. As soon as you hear (or even think about) something negative about my spouse it is absolutely essential to carry that thought to its fullest illogical conclusion. Don’t EVER ask for an explanation or clarification. If you do, you may spawn some open communication will lead to a stronger marriage! Marriage NOTE: Please sense the sarcasm

#6 –It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big
(Okay, that line came from the “Mighty Ducks”)Win at all costs. Remember: the goal is to win…not to actually bring resolution. If you realize you’re wrong about something, don’t drop your pride. It’ll invite a barrage of accusations that actually have nothing to do with what the original argument/discussion had to do with in the first place! Win at all costs, even if it means saying things that hurt and wound deeply. Remember, it’s not you that’s hurt…wait…what about that oneness thing? That’s right. When one is hurt, both hurt.

#7 – Friends don’t make good lovers
You cannot see your spouse and you as being on the same team if you want a great marriage. After all, don’t opposites attract? Doesn’t more fighting make for a stronger marriage? Make sure you view everything as some sort of game and make it a goal to COMPETE with your spouse and not actually COMPLETE them. Marriage NOTE: Make sure that the only sex you’re having isn’t always “make-up sex.” Make-up sex has one level. Strive to deepen your friendship and I promise it will take the sex to whole level than “make-up sex” could ever do.

#8 – Point the finger
If there’s anything you communicate, make sure it’s ALWAYS about how much they are “not meeting your needs” and how they need to “step up and do better” as often as possible. By all means do NOT take a look at yourself and what you could do to improve the marriage. Everything MUST be blamed on them and you’ve got to see yourself as flawless and perfect. After all, they are the one with inadequacies and shortcomings….wait, if they constantly make bad decisions, what does that say about their decision to marry you? hmmmm

#9 – Be dull
Step away from anything fun. Dating was done when you said “I do.” You have your friends and your spouse needs theirs. Don’t have mutual friends…and for the sake of sanity you don’t want to be connected to other couples. Don’t do anything fun as a family. If you have to go out together, spend as much time on your smart phone (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) because communication with your spouse will do nothing except make your marriage stronger. (That one hurt to type…I, possibly, might be guilty of that one.)

#10 – Stop laughing
Take everything serious. No smiles. No warmth. I know that laugher tends to break the tension. Do I really want my spouse to see things in me that remind them of our dating relationship? Isn’t it better to keep the marriage on edge? Isn’t life too serious to lighten it up and live? (sorry…I’m laughing just typing that)

I hope the list brings a few smiles and, at the same time, causes a bit of introspection. Marriage is hard work. Two broken, imperfect people come together to form a union, covenant, and a life. If you expect to get healthy as a marriage, you BOTH have to be intentional about your decisions to keep it healthy.

rejoice in the “spouse” of your youth”

Have fun.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Are you good at counting?”

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

I swear it’s part of my DNA. I didn’t ask  for it. I was addicted to it. I also know it’s not just me. You might be guilty of it too.  You may still do it. Counting.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

Believe me, I should be the last one talking about mathematics.  Ask Cammi. As an eighth grader, I think she’s surpassed my mathematical abilities. I’m both proud of her and embarrassed that I can’t remember my algebra.

But that’s not the counting I’m talking about.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

Like an umpire in baseball uses a “Ball Strike Counter,” we have a tendency to count every strike, every offense, every hurt..

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

We’ll say we forgive…but we don’t stop counting.  We’ll say we’ve let it go…but we don’t stop counting.  We profess to be Christ-followers…but we don’t stop counting.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

N.T. Wright says it best, “If you’re still counting how many times you’ve forgiven someone, you’re not really forgiving them at all, but simply postponing revenge.”  We feel it’s our right. We feel it’s our duty.  What we are really doing is stockpiling emotional weapons and ammunition like we are some form of “offense militia.”  We  thank the Lord for His forgiveness for our sins…but we keep counting.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

I don’t proclaim this as in easy issue. I’ve been hurt before.  I’ve been fractured by leaders.  I’ve been betrayed by friends.  My dreams have been stomped on by people I had respected.  I forgave…but I started counting.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

Around 2003, something changed.  I stopped counting.

1…

My ability to count ended because I caught some perspective.  Not mine.  My perspective is limited to what I know and see.  Many times it becomes my reality.  This revelation came from Romans 4. It says in The Message: “….the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man: Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, whose sins are wiped clean from the slate. Fortunate the person against whom the Lord does not keep score.” I thought I was good at forgiving people.  I probably boasted about my ability to forgive. Yet I still kept score.  My counting came to a crashing halt when I began to comprehend how often I act out in my emotions…how often I crossed the line with my anger…how often I trusted myself instead of the Lord.

Daily. Weekly

1, 2, 3, 4, 5….

YET “….the one who trusts God…without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man: Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, whose sins are wiped clean from the slate. Fortunate the person against whom the Lord does not keep score.”

If Lord keeps score, he’s not forgiving. He postponing revenge.  “Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.” He forgives. He stops counting.  How can I keep counting?  How can I stockpile offenses? “If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”

How often have you needed forgiveness?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

Today is your first step on a new journey of healing. Yes it is a journey.  It’s an every day decision. Let offenses go the way Christ let your offenses go. Trust Him. Lean on Him.  Stop hoarding the hurt.  Stop holding on.

Stop counting.

Thanks for letting me ramble…