What do I wish I knew before I started in ministry?

I was asked to speak to a group of soon-to-be ministers at a local Bible College.  I was given a ton of freedom of what to speak on.  One of the topics I was given was “What do I wish I knew before I started in ministry?”

So I found myself sitting in a coffee-house sipping some Costa Rican coffee pondering that question.  17 years and 3 positions are nothing to take for granted.  But if I knew some of these life-lessons, I wonder if they would’ve saved me from some sleepless nights, bottles of TUMS, and fits of frustration. I thought I’d come up with anywhere from 7 to 10 things. But they kept coming and coming.  I read them to Anne and she recommended throwing them into the blog.

So here it is.  I wrote them as they came to me, not necessarily in order of importance…

  1. It’s the greatest “job” ever…PERIOD!
  2. A “successful” ministry doesn’t matter if your marriage is failing. Cheating on your spouse with your ministry isn’t a mark of great pastoral leadership or a dedicated ministry heart.  It’s a sad display of misunderstood ministry priorities.
  3. Don’t underrate authenticity in the pulpit. If preaching was a lawn mower, authenticity helps lower the blades to help accomplish what the Holy Spirit has set in your heart to do.
  4. Laughter is grossly underestimated in sermons, services, ministry, and staff.
  5. Let your kids (pastor/missionary/evangelist kids) grow up as normal kids.  Don’t put on them the pressure of the “PK performance”.
  6. You’re children must feel like the most important children in the church to you. It’s has nothing to do with favoritism or them feeling a sense of entitlement because of who their parents are.  They need to know that they have their parent’s heart and attention.
  7. Build The Kingdom and not your empire. You’re not in ministry to build a denomination or a church but the Kingdom of God.
  8. Far too much time is spent on unrealistic expectations.
  9. Ministry doesn’t have to be lonely.  Get out of your church/denomination and make friends with other ministers.
  10. Some people expect you to be omnipresent.
  11. In many cases, productive and lasting associate pastorate ministry (youth, kids, small groups, etc) begins in year 3. It takes 1 year to develop relationship and another year to start establish ministry.
  12. The Lead Pastor honeymoon period can be as little as hours instead of days, weeks, or year.
  13. I MUST remember: I don’t have all the answers.  But the pressure is real.
  14. Discernment is undervalued.  We value vision, change, drive…but the “right” of the pastor to do things doesn’t necessarily make it “right” or make the timing “right”.
  15. The Lead Pastor doesn’t have to do everything.  Delegate and raise up leadership. Multiply yourself.
  16. What worked in one church community doesn’t necessarily work in another.
  17. I am not the epitome of creativity. Get inspired by other pastors/ministries/churches.  Look, listen, ask, create, get inspired.
  18. Message prep time with God doesn’t replace personal time with God. (had to fix that…my dyslexia flip-flopped it)
  19. Camp out between your greatest criticism and compliment.  You can’t believe your greatest compliment nor your greatest critic.
  20. Busy-ness doesn’t equate to productive ministry.
  21. It’s okay to say “no”.
  22. Take care of your body and mind.  Be active. Guard what goes into you (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually).
  23. As a staff member, as much as I thought I understood it, I didn’t grasp the pressure of the Lead Pastor.
  24. Interview the pastor/board as much as they are interviewing you.
  25. Longevity enhances pastoral leadership.  Yet longevity doesn’t equate to fruitful ministry. Follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance AND release.
  26. How you leave is more important than the decision to leave.
  27. Be careful who you talk to. Ministers need outlets and those outlets are probably NOT in your church.
  28. With great social network power comes great social network responsibility.
  29. Look for people’s filters and process their actions and words through that.  You will understand people a lot better.
  30. If I expect others to be generous, I (their pastor) need to be generous first.
  31. Don’t apologize for having free time and/or days off.
  32. Leaders are readers.
  33. More “productive” ministry is done at a table than at a desk. Relationships build the pulpit you will preach from.
  34. Mean people go to your church.  Every church has them.
  35. Deal with offense biblically…ALWAYS.
  36. Don’t just make changes, but lead through change.  Changes in church culture are more painful for a congregation than a pastor will realize. Feelings and memories are attached to buildings and ministry.
  37. Unity is blessed. Uniformity is not.
  38. Be cautious of those who are frantically trying to be close to you and work diligently to develop relationships with those who keep you at arm’s length.
  39. Yours isn’t the only way and may not be the right way.  Be open-minded about other methods.  The the principles and heart behind your method may be correct but the method is not.
  40. It’s okay to be wrong.  It is not okay to not admit it.
  41. Ministry is like life. It isn’t fair.  It just isn’t.
  42. Ministry isn’t the highest calling.  Obedience is.  So stop acting like a diva.
  43. Trust takes time to build.  Don’t expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon.
  44. Keep evolving/growing.  The way you do ministry now will be different in 5 years.
  45. Figure out a healthy schedule.
  46. As a younger minister, don’t take “young criticism” too personal. You’re young and/or younger than some people in the church.  It’s gonna happen.
  47. Be cautious about serving in your home church.  As someone who has served in his home church, the position presents different problems/pressures/challenges that do not happen in outside ministry opportunities.
  48. Criticism isn’t a bad thing.
  49. Funerals and hospital calls are a privilege and should be treated as such.
  50. Protect yourself from liability.  You can’t be too careful…EVER.
  51. _____________________________

As you can see, the list is incomplete.  Why?  Because you can’t EVER stop learning.  You can’t stop growing.

If you are reading this as a minister, do you have anything else to add to the list?

Thanks for letting me ramble…

What my parents didn’t teach me about marriage – Part 2

Last week, we started this new blog series that focused upon the things my parents didn’t teach me based upon some of the issues we see today.  Again, please don’t take any of the following blogs as a guilt trip to those who have struggled or have made mistakes.  I do not elevate anyone above Christ. But I do obey scripture to “give honor to whom honor is due.”

To catch up, read Part 1 of the series here.

Part 2…what didn’t my parents teach me?  They didn’t teach me to operate separate from my spouse.  They showed a unified front

When I think of the definition of “oneness”, I think of my parents.  As stated in Part 1, I don’t think they’re perfect in the least bit, but I’m grateful for them NOT teaching me certain things.

One of things they NEVER taught me was “disunity.”

When I saw them make decisions, I heard discussions.  They both gave input.  Sometimes they asked us kids what we thought (even thought our opinions probably had no baring on a decision). But nevertheless, we (Rach and I) felt a part of things.  When dad and mom made the decision to go into ministry, tons of changes were coming to our lives.  They told me of the news together.

To take this unity thing further, never once did I feel they vied for the position of “favorite parent.”  I never heard language or saw actions in which one was trying to be the “nice parent” and the other would be the “disciplinarian.”  It wasn’t about “wait till ___________ gets home.”  When it came to encouragement AND discipline, both parents shared the roles and walked in unity with those roles.   If they disagreed on how the other one parented (which probably happened as I know it happens to me and Anne), I, as their child, never saw it and assumed it happened out of earshot of us kids.

Let’s go another step deeper: When dad and mom had disagreements, we (Rach and I) were not pawns in the midst of conflict.  Our heads were not filled with parents wanting us to take sides.  We were not in the awkward position of hearing information that kids should hear.  Our young minds didn’t go through the agonizing conflict that so many parents put their kids through pressuring them to “side with mom/dad”.  We were spared from being a part of the conflict. They kept it between them.

One of my favorite scriptures to quote when talking marriage is Psalm 133.  For where there is unity,

“…there the Lord commands His blessing.”

There wasn’t perfection in our home.  There wasn’t a world with rose-colored glasses (idealism). We lived modestly.  We lived real.  There was laughter and tears;  excitement and disappointment. It was just a real home, with real issues, but approached by a marriage in a unified manner.

And for that reason, I believe the blessing of God was on us.

For that reason, I thank you mom and dad for “one”.

Till next week when we look at Part 3.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Antagonizing Your Spouse

I’ve got an amazing sister.  3 and a half years younger yet people always wondered if she was older than me.

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She’s carried the hardworking genes of my parents into her life.  An exceptional mother of 5.  A nursing student. A wife of a police officer.  There are very few that can match the resume that she carries.

Yet my most fond AND frustrating memories of our childhood together was how the both of us would antagonize each other.  Isn’t that what brothers and sisters do?  We find ways to “egg on” our siblings into conflict by annoying them.  The beauty of antagonizing them?  They’re the ones usually caught for being bad.  We, the antagonizers, sit back and say, “What? I don’t know why they’re freaking out.  I wasn’t doing anything.”

So immature.  So childish. Yet, I see it so often amongst grown men and women living in holy matrimony.  Some call it “egging their spouse on” into conflict.  I call it “baiting” them.  One spouse has become a silent predator baiting and setting their spouse up for disaster.

How does this happen?  What does this look like?

Spouse #1 begins to antagonize Spouse #2.  The moment happens and there’s a subtle reaction…but all is still calm.  Spouse #1 thinks, sets at bait, and the antagonizing continues.  The pressure begins to build in Spouse #2, but the volcano is still dormant. The trap is reset again with more bait/antagonizing.   This is it. The sleeping giant is awakened.  The pressure is released.  Heated words are released into the atmosphere. Harsh tones with lined with verbal shrapnel fly through the air.

Spouse #1 gets to walk away telling friends, family, and/or the marriage counselor, “Spouse #2 has some anger issues.  You should’ve seen what happened the other day.” Spouse #1 then uses Spouse #2’s responses as his/her excuse to step into unhealthy marital choices.

Being an avid sports fan, there’s a term in hockey called the “retaliation penalty.” You won’t find it in the rule book.  It’s the term reserved for the guy who gets a penalty who is simple retaliating to the other player who was baiting him. It’s childish.  It’s nothing more than a manipulation  We do things to get a reaction from our spouse that makes them look bad when it’s really us seeding the poison into them.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve watched spouses antagonize in front of me. Yet I cannot say that I’ve never done that in my marriage.  We are all susceptible to this.   

Take a look at Proverbs 4:23-27 MSG:

Keep vigilant watch over your heartthat’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust. 

I love the beginning and the end of this passage out of The Message.  It speaks to this issue of being the antagonist in our marriage. “Keep vigilant watch over your heart…leave evil in the dust.”  The reality is, those that antagonize their spouse into fights and conflict have done the literal polar opposite.  Their heart has become selfish.  It’s not about “how do we look good.” It’s about “how can I antagonize so that I LOOK GOOD.”

It’s time to grow up.  It’s time to throw off the childish games.  It’s time to apologize to our spouse for what we are doing (trust me…he/she knows what you’re doing).  Strive to watch your heart and leave evil in the dust.  Make sure that your goal in marriage is to make the “we” look good and not just the “me.”

I’d love to say that Rachael and I have grown out of antagonizing each other but that hasn’t happened…and probably never will (as brothers and sisters normally don’t).  But if there’s something that could be said of your marriage, let it be said that you and your spouse refuse to manipulate each other by antagonizing.

Today, keep watch over your heart.  Leave evil in the dust.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Marriage blog: Unnatural Aphrodisiac

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Basil, figs, oysters, strawberries, avocados, and, of course, chocolate are just a few of the many of the foods that  have been rumored to have aphrodisiac properties. By definition, an aphrodisiac is a food, drink, or substance that increases sexual desire. How do foods like these accomplish that task? They can reduce stress, increase blood flow, and/or positively affect the neurotransmitters in your brain all of which can improve or affect your libido. Hey, I’m all in for a higher libido in my wife, but serving her a plate of Fig Newtons and Oysters is a bit too obvious and, quite frankly, not an appealing combo.

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I can’t tell you which natural aphrodisiac works best.  I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist.  (My medical knowledge is limited to my dvd collection of M*A*S*H.)  I imagine everyone responds to different foods…well…differently. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 15+ years of marriage is what, I found, is the most affective aphrodisiac is THE unnatural one.

Let me explain.

In the midst of our sex-craved culture, we find a heart of selfishness.  Selfishness is natural. It drives individuals and ultimately destroys intimacy. Couples fight about that all the time. Everything is about “what I need to meet MY desires.” People, therefore, resort to actions in order to position their spouse into a mood to have their personal needs met. Proverbs 18:1 says, “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Selfishness produces unfriendly spouses. Unfriendly spouses defy any type of wise judgement. Unfriendly spouses destroy sexual desire in their marriages. Again, you don’t have to teach selfishness.  It’s just natural.

I understand needs.  I believe that your “needs” (not wants) need to be met. But I’d challenge you go after the ultimate unnatural aphrodisiac: Serving.

There’s nothing so counter-productive to marital intimacy as selfishness.  But there’s also nothing so potent to growing  AND increasing intimacy as serving. Proverbs 11:25 says “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Simply stated: if you want an enriched sex life stop being selfish (“one who waters“)…learn to “bring blessings” by serving your spouse.

Serving isn’t natural.
Serving punches pride in the face.
Serving says, “it’s not about me.”
Serving says, “my spouse comes first.”
Serving takes hard work.

What Anne and I would love to speak into you on Valentines day is when it comes to intimately “serving” your spouse, remember: 

1. Your spouse’s needs are a gift to you. This is a perspective change you need to have. Instead of seeing your spouse’s needs as an inconvenience to you.  You need to see them as opportunity to bless your spouse.  Serving helps the perspective change and chases away selfishness.

2. Look for ways to serve with no strings attached. Find what melts your spouses heart and serve with no expectations. Get out of the mode that you are doing something to get something.  That’s called “selfishness.”

3. Intimacy doesn’t always have to do with sex.  When you are serving and meeting intimate needs, you need to get out of your mind that all intimate needs are sexual.  Again, if you serve and it’s laced with selfish expectations, your severing wasn’t serving at all.

4. When it comes to sexual intimacy needs, you are the ONLY ONE who can serve your spouse. No one in person, on a computer, or on a movie screen can and should meet your spouses sexual needs other than you.  It puts a heavy responsibility on you to make sure you are consistently meeting those needs.  That may seem cumbersome.  But if you BOTH are serving each other, you’ll discover more fun than you’ve every experienced.

Valentines day is the perfect day to start a new trend.  Begin to live out Proverbs 11:25 and enrich your marital intimacy with the unnatural aphrodisiac.

Serve your spouse.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Tit-for-Tat

Dave and Anne walking

I told Anne my blog title and idea and she adamantly warned me to do some research on the origin of the phrase before using it. The look on her face reminded me of “The Princess Bride” where Vizzini keeps using the word “inconceivable.”

Inigo responds, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

My findings confirmed what I already knew about the expression while giving me a fill of historical understanding behind this lifestyle that people choose to live in.

Yes I said lifestyle…and some of you operate your marriage this way.

Wikipedia simply calls it an “equivalent retaliation.” But there’s more to it.

The phrase “Tit-for-tat” Is a blow or some other retaliation in return for an injury from another. 

The words “Tit” and “tat” (thanks to Phrase Finder) are both the names of small blows which originated as “tip” and “tap”.  Tip meant a hit, a shove. Tap was a retaliatory hit. These are recorded by Charles, Duke of Orleans in a book of poems that he wrote in 1466:

“Strokis grete, not tippe nor tapp.”

It’s a childhood game of “I got you last” turned into a marriage mentality. A punishment meted out to pay back an offence, measured to be equal and proportionate.

You yell at me, I yell at you.
You hurt me, I hurt you.
You cheated, I cheat on you.
You lied to me, I lie to you.

Tit for tat.

Marriages can get like that, tit for tat, tit for tat, tit for tat. The resentment and retaliations build until you feel powerless NOT to respond. The hurt builds and becomes habituated and before you know it, the lifestyle is set in concrete.

The tit for tat just is your marital banter.

Ephesians 5:21 challenges husbands and wives to submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  So many times, couples stuck in the cycle of “tit for tat” and will contend that they won’t change until the other changes. Looking at it from different sides,  it can sound like equity and justice.  In my view, this lifestyle reveals a TRUTH:

The tit-for-tat marriage leads to an insane, mutually assured destruction. 

Can the insane carousal be stopped?

Absolutely.  It just takes one to do it.

For those marriages that find themselves stuck in the spinning tit-for-tat carousal, it only takes one to begin the process of forgiveness, change, and healing.

For those marriages experiencing strain and sadness…
For those marriages bowing under the weight of bad habits…
For those marriages that feel stuck in a rut of unhealthy patterns…

…healing can begin with only one of the spouse’s buying in “out of reverence for Christ.” I’m saying that your love for Jesus can motivate and empower you to decide, BY YOURSELF to shed old habits, act differently, and to refuse to return the equivalent retaliation.  It starts with you. And, yes I know it takes two to make a marriage.  But it only takes one to start the process of healing and change. And sometimes just getting that process started is enough to change the cycle and break the logjam in the relationship.

If being a Christ-follower means thinking of yourself less and if being a Christ-follower means turning the other cheek, then…

(brace yourself)

certainly being a Christ-follower within your marriage means not having to be right all the time. Not having to win. Not having the last word.

Make the choice…

Don’t go for the win.  Go for the love. Make the choice to forgive as Christ forgave you. Decide, today, to personally stop the cycle of insanity that is “tit-for-tat.” Chose to step into new habits of healing “out of reverence for Christ.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Things I’ve Never Said

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“Dancing with the Stars is on.”
“I enjoy instant coffee.”
“I really like your shell necklace, bro.”
“I’m bummed that Oprah is no longer doing her show.”
“Football season is too long.”
“I love April when it’s 37 degrees and raining.”
“I can’t wait to wake up early tomorrow!”

These are a few things I’ve NEVER said. They are things I don’t plan on saying ever.

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Ford Probe: A car NEVER to buy!

What got this thought going was today’s date with my wife.  Anne and I were talking about me having a bit of writer’s block about today’s marriage blog. We were driving and a Ford Probe passed by. My first thought: “wow, it’s still running.” Followed by, “You know what I’ve never said? I wish I’d bought a Ford Probe.

Then lightning struck my brain (quote from “Hook”).  What began to flood though my mind were 16 years of conversations I’ve had with married couples.  At some point, I hear the same statement that I hear other married couples say:

“My husband/wife would never say that.”

What type of things don’t they hear from their spouse?
– “I’m sorry.”
– “I was wrong.”
– “I forgive you.”
– “I need you.”
– “I can’t wait to see you.”
– “You turn me on.”
– “Can I pray for you?”
– “Can I help with anything?”
– “I love you.”

It’s not as if these statements were never said (sometimes that’s the case). For some people, these lines have been retired to an early time of martial bliss.  Sometimes they’re only used as foreplay or manipulation to get what he/she wants. More often than none, I hear a spouse say, “I don’t need to say it, he/she knows how I feel.” Nevertheless, silence has become the deadly killer in communication and has brought much more pain and agony than one can anticipate. Let me share some wisdom from scripture:

Proverbs 15:23 (NLT) says, “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!

You’re spouse needs you to “step up to the mic.” He/she needs the “fitting reply” that no one else can say but you.  Words like “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, or “I forgive you” that come from your mouth will do more for your spouse than it would coming from anyone else.  That’s why your silence is so damaging.  That’s why WRONG replies are so hurtful.  The person that your spouse is most vulnerable to (emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally) is you.  You’re words matter and the RIGHT words can and will have phenomenal results.

The two results from Proverbs 15:23:

1 – Joy. It ways, “everybody enjoys a fitting reply.” Don’t let you ego/pride get in the way of giving your spouse a fitting reply. Proper responses to your spouse don’t fall into the category of “things better left unsaid.”  Open your mouth and  use your vocal cords to speak what needs to be said. Your words will bring healing to him/her.  Your words will usher in “joy.”  The word “joy” in the hebrew means: mirth, gladness, joy, gaiety, pleasure.  To withhold your words is to deny your spouse mirth, gladness, joy, gaiety, pleasure.  Speak up and give “a fitting reply.”

2 – Fruitful marriage. I like the ESV translation of this passage. It says, “and a word in season, how good it is!” It gives off the sound of a tree that is seeded in its proper season has its fruit enjoyed by all. When a fruit is out of season, it’s not as flavorful and definitely not as juicy. To speak the right words at the right time is called “in season.”  In addition, Proverbs proclaims “how good” those words are!!! The word “good” in the hebrew means: good, rich, valuable.  Give your spouse something rich to feast on.  Learn when to apologize.  Learn when to speak romantic words. Learn how to read your spouse to know what they need to hear. Speak up at the proper time and let them enjoy the fruits of the blessing.

That’s it for today.  Don’t let it be said of you “My husband/wife would never say that.”

Speak up!! Bring joy to your marriage.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Sexual Atrophy

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I use sticky notes quite a bit.  I get ideas for this blog, and I’ll use them. There’s one that has been stuck to the surface of my desk for a month.  It has two words at the top…one specifically that I haven’t been able to let go of.

Atrophy.

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My Sticky Note

It  was 2005 and I had torn my rotator cuff in a softball game. Post surgery, I found myself meeting with my physical therapist. It’s there I heard this word, that perhaps, I had never really thought of.  It’s a word I need to blog about.

Atrophy [a-truh-fee] a wasting away of the body or of an organ or part, as from defective nutrition or nerve damage; degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from disuse

My left shoulder and arm had a significant difference from the right.  Because of my pain, I really hadn’t taken the time to examine my shoulder. I just kept it covered. I had a hard time looking at the damage (I can deal with other people injuries but not mine). My PT went on to explain because of the pain, the damage, the lack of usage, and the procedure, atrophy has set in.  Before I could reply, she warned me if I didn’t take the necessary steps (physical therapy) to get the strength back, the shoulder would never return to full range of motion (full health).

This month, we’ve been blogging on the subject of sex. I’m wondering if there are couples that are dealing with “Sexual Atrophy”: a deterioration of intimacy, desire, and affection.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says,“Live happily with the woman you love through all days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.”

Simply said, the Lord desires you to live happily with your spouse.  And yes, it includes sexual pleasure as well. Sex wasn’t meant just to be JUST enjoyed during the honeymoon phase.  It’s meant to be enjoyed through all the days of your lives together.

When comparing with my previous experience with “atrophy” it’s caused me to see some parallels with what can lead to “Sexual Atrophy.” I’ve used the signs of physical atrophy to help show atrophy in our intimacy.

Perhaps…
1 – “You haven’t noticed” any sexual atrophy. There’s no desire to check for health and/or change because you’re fine with where you are at regardless of how your spouse feels.
2 – Current “pain” (hurt, frustration, bitterness) has caused atrophy.  You tend to steer away from the subject with your spouse because you don’t want another fight. Perhaps you just don’t want to let go of the pain. Perhaps the pain has become a safe place.
3 – “Lack of activity” is destructive.  You may be fine with little to no sex.  How does you spouse feel? Are their needs being ignored. In many marriages, there’s usually one person that has a greater sex-drive than the other.  I’ll say this, I’ve never dealt with a marriage who had issues with too much intimacy.
4 – “Previous pains”/damages have led to atrophy. We carry our past into our marriage.  Sometimes couples go thought atrophy because there was previous pain that wasn’t dealt with.  Now it’s been carried into the bed.  That pain has built a blockade that is preventing affection.
5 – There is a “fear of correcting the hurt”.  Perhaps previous attempts to fix it have failed.  Maybe you feel like you will be working alone in it. Perhaps you know the problem lies within you and you don’t want to admit it.

No matter what is causing the atrophy, you need to heed the same advice I was given: Take the necessary steps to bring the health back.  I’m not saying that you’ll be back in “honeymoon” form (even though that’s not a bad thing so I won’t discourage it). What I am saying is this TRUTH:

The choice to live with “sexual atrophy” is damaging to the oneness of your marriage. 

Here are some necessary steps to help bring the health back: 

1 – Prayer. Most people wouldn’t think that prayer and sex go together. I can’t say it’s foreplay that will get the motor revving. I will say, it will put your heart in the right direction. Pray for him/her by yourself. Ask the Lord to bless them and change you. When you are with your spouse, pray WITH him/her.  Take anything of selfishness out of your prayers and let your spouse hear you speaking over them. Pray over your intimacy. God’s not embarrassed.  He created you, your body parts, and the pleasure that comes from them joining together.

2 – Communication. Do you and your spouse talk about ? Is that conversation always one-sided? Are your minds already made up before the talking takes place? Does your spouse feel heard?  How do you know your spouse feels heard?  Have you communicated the hurt/concerns behind your lack of desire?  Have you told him/her what you like in bed? Does your spouse know the foreplay that you enjoy?  Does you spouse know what turns you off?

These are simple questions to begin the conversation between you two. Some might feel awkward. But too many couples are experiencing “sexual atrophy” because of a stupid word called ASSUMPTION. Don’t assume. Communicate!

3- Frequency.  It’s difficult to fix “sexual atrophy” if you don’t attempt sex.  I agree with fellow blogger, we live in a oversexed society full of undersexed marriages. Sexual frustration is high for men and women for a growing number of reasons (I’ll save that for another blog). I can’t hand you a magic “frequency number.” It will change over time and through seasons of life. I do ask that you find balance. Again, I’ve never dealt with sexually active couple that lacked joy, strength, and health.  Plan date nights that include sex…or just plan sex nights. It’s up to you. Don’t fall for the trick that “planning” isn’t romantic.  The reason why “planning” works great for couples is it take the pressure off of the other days of the week. Does it mean “unplanned sex” can’t happen?  Nope…that’s called bonus sex. (cha-ching)

4 – Desire. My wife and I have dealt with this quite a bit.  Like many couples, I (husband) have a stronger desire than Anne (wife).  It’s not the rule. We know couples that are the opposite.  In helping a wife, Anne spoke some great words of wisdom that I want to include here.  Anne says,

“Does your husband have a similar sex drive (zero desire)? How do you know? Have you asked him lately if he wants more sex? I never have to ask because I know Dave wants more. (LOL) As a woman I understand where there is “non-interest” or a not a huge sex drive. But if your husband is needing intimacy, you need to fulfill that need. This might be a deep issue that is not said because there’s no communication on the subject. If he has more of a drive, he missing out and he either is not communicating or doesn’t feel like he can. Is he settling for your drive because he doesn’t want to “rock the boat.” If he IS missing out on what he needs, it will, eventually, come back to weaken and hurt your marriage.”

As spouses, our desire has to come from desiring our spouse’s desires.  I can’t tell you how many games Anne has sat through and how many “chick-flicks” I’ve watched.  We (Anne and I) did it to please our spouse, and, in turn, brought us pleasure to see them happy.  Imagine if we approached sex in that manner.  The sexual experience wouldn’t just feel better. It’d be more fulfilling.

5 – Help. Don’t feel like you are alone.  You’re not the only one dealing with this. I’ll share another TRUTH: Atrophy isn’t a death sentence. It’s not weakness to ask for help.  It’s weakness to, out of pride, NOT ask for help.  Find a Christian counselor. Why not a non-Christian counselor? Psalms 1:1 warns us not to.  Get someone who will be open, honest, AND be scriptural based.

Anne and I were at a marriage seminar a few years back and the couple leading it said, “If you’re suffering from a lack of desire, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor.  Don’t let fear ruin your marriage bed.” Anne turned to me and said, “I hope every lady in the room heard that.” The truth is, every man and woman needs to heed that advice.

To wrap up, if you or your spouse is suffering from “sexual atrophy”, it should be a loud warning bell that something is wrong in your marriage. I realize that sex is, many times, a symptom rather than the problem, but the deficiency of sex is an indication that something is wrong. Couples, or spouses, who ignore this, are ignoring a warning that their marriage could be in trouble.

It’s not just sex. It is an indication of the overall health of your marriage.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says,“Live happily with the woman you love through all the days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…