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Friday, July 30, 2010
It is only by coincidence that next on my list of marriage blogs to review is Lori Lowe’s great blog “Marriage Gems.” She just happens to have a post out today that mentions two of my recent posts on intimacy, but that is not the reason I want to include her in my recommended blog roll.

I read and comment regularly over at Marriage Gems. Lori’s posts are always engaging and thought provoking. I am jealous for Lori’s ability to bring clarity to a subject in an engaging and approachable way. She is an excellent writer, and is a frequent guest-contributor at other marriage sites and blogs. I haven’t done the guest-post thing here yet, but when I do I will certainly include Lori as one of a small circle of writers that I would be comfortable posting here.

In her own words, she describes her passion for writing about marriage as “aimed at encouraging and strengthening marriages and families by providing research-based marriage secrets.” I like the way Lori references and expounds upon works by other writers and marriage research. It lends further credibility and strength to her posts.

Lori describes herself as, “married since 1995 and is raising two children with her husband, Ming. She has a passion for marriage, creme brulee and good grammar.”

Go check out Marriage Gems, and while you are there leave her a comment and subscribe to her by feed or email. You’ll be glad you did.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010
As I study the reader survey results, as unscientific as they are, I continue to draw some interesting conclusions. My first observation was a high level of interest by both men and women in the topic of intimacy, which I posted about here. Although this topic was had the highest level of interest for both men and women, further consideration made me wonder if they are really after the same thing.

Same But Different

If you’ve done much reading on marriage, you are no doubt familiar with the adage that women need emotional intimacy as a prerequisite for sexual intimacy. Men, however, are wired in reverse, and need sexual intimacy in order to feel emotionally connected to their wives. Of course these are generalizations, but I’ve seen this premise often enough that there must be some level of truth to it. It seems to at least be true in my marriage.

So in expressing a desire to see me write more posts about intimacy, I wonder if the husbands and wives were really asking for the same thing. Given the different tendencies I just explained, I suppose you could assume that men were seeking to grow in sexual intimacy while the women were seeking to grow in emotional intimacy.

In crude shorthand: men want more sex and women want to talk more.

Give-to-Get or Give-to-Bless

Savvy husbands and wives can divine pretty quickly that because of this difference in wiring, if they work to satisfy the intimacy needs of their spouse they are more likely to have their own intimacy needs met. As true as this is, there is a problem with taking a “give-to-get” approach to intimacy. It is a bit self-serving, and that is not going to be sustainable in the long run.

So, for example, rather than talking with your wife and connecting with her emotionally in order to get her to be more likely to say yes to sex, why not do so simply because that is what she needs and desires? Rather than giving her the minimum you think she’ll need to give you the green light later in bed, do it wholeheartedly, simply for her sake without expecting something in return. The same goes for wives. Instead of reluctantly saying yes to “duty sex” with your husband the next time he’s in the mood in order to get him to be nicer to you or more engaged, do it enthusiastically simply to bless him, without expectation of something in return.

The Fruit of Selfless Giving

There are two positive things that result when you learn to meet your spouse’s intimacy needs out of love, simply in order to bless him or her, instead of giving simply to get what you want.

First, when intimacy is returned in the manner you desire it, it feels like a returned blessing rather than simply a met expectation. How much better is it to get something you aren’t already expecting? On the flip side, if giving doesn’t result in the immediate reward you would otherwise be seeking, you will be less likely to be resentful and/or disappointed.

Second, whereas give-to-get steals the pleasure of giving and instead sets you up for disappointment, give-to-bless can help you learn to find joy in giving joy. Learning to give to your spouse in a way that meets his or her needs without imposing expectations in return is a fundamental part of living a surrendered marriage.

Caveats and Conclusions

First, an important assumption here is that your spouse is good-hearted and desires a good marriage. I am not proposing this approach if you are in an abusive marriage or your spouse purposefully acts with malice toward you.

Second, I know full well that human nature draws us all toward self-protection and self-satisfaction. I am guilty of that plenty of times. No one is able to give endlessly and never expect anything in return. I am also not saying that it is wrong to express your needs and desires to your spouse. In fact quite the opposite is true; for a strong marriage it is essential that you learn to express your needs in a healthy, non-demanding manner. How else will your spouse know how to give you what you need?

What I’m suggesting is that as you become tuned into your spouse’s needs, work toward giving yourself fully to the task of meeting those needs simply out of a desire to love and bless them, without imposing expectations. It is a journey. You won’t bat a thousand. But commit to yourself to seek out the joy and pleasure found in selfless giving.

And...

Finally, since we started out talking about differences, let me point out the two areas in the reader survey where there were the biggest differences between men and women. By a significant margin, wives were much more interested in spiritual issues. Husbands, on the other hand, were much more interested in “understanding the opposite sex.” Interesting. Perhaps more later on this particular difference… Meanwhile:

Do you have any experiences with differing intimacy needs between you and your spouse that you’d be willing to share?



Tuesday, July 27, 2010
In communicating to men and women about God’s design for marriage, I am consistently faced with a difficult challenge: words.

The terminology around the topic of biblical instructions on marriage is so loaded, so filled with contentious misconceptions, that as I write I am continually reminding myself to clarify, expound and add the appropriate disclaimers. It makes it difficult to be succinct, but to do otherwise risks distortion and the likelihood of miscommunication.

Even in my best efforts to write sensitively and carefully, I realize that at times there will be room for mis-interpretation. It comes with the territory when writing on a topic that has been the subject of so much controversy over the years.

With that said, I thought it might be wise to spend a post jut talking about the words I often use and to give at least a brief description of what I mean when I use them.

Biblical Order or Biblical Authority – refers to the fact that in The Bible God set up families and marriages to operate under a definite structure. That structure gives husbands a certain authority and responsibility within marriage. (I don’t know why he set it up that way, but he is God, so he can do that kind of thing.) I like to think of this arrangement as “leading out in front” kind of authority, as opposed to a more hierarchical “controlling from the top down” form.

Surrender – I was purposeful in my choice of the word surrender in the titling of this blog because it applies equally to both husbands and wives. Principally it refers to the surrender of self-focused living in exchange for the life focused on your spouse. It also applies to husbands and wives equally in their relationship to Jesus. The wife’s surrender takes the form of submission to her husband; the husband’s surrender takes the form of sacrificial, servant-hearted leadership.

Submission – This is the word commonly translated in the bible to describe a wife’s surrender to her husband’s authority and loving leadership. It has to do with her relinquishing her own will and rights for the sake of her husband and the benefit of her marriage. It has to do with the complete giving of herself to her husband in serving him, respecting him, honoring him and trusting him It has nothing to do with her being less important or less capable than her husband.

Leadership or Headship – This is the role that a husband takes in walking out his own surrender. It has to do with relinquishing his will and rights, even unto laying down his life for the sake of his wife and the benefit of his marriage. It has to do with him giving of his complete self to his wife in serving her, protecting her, nurturing her and beautifying her. It has nothing to do with him being more important or more capable than his wife.

You can see from the descriptions above submission and leadership share many of the same attributes. Maybe that isn’t the common understanding of these terms in every day use, but the descriptions I give are based on my understanding of what the word of God says about the roles of husbands and wives.


How do you define these terms? What are your instinctive emotional reactions to these words? Do the feelings they evoke line up more with what the Bible teaches, or with how the world defines them, maybe even how they have been mis-used by the church in the past? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can more of what I have to say about these terms and concepts in my overview post defining a surrendered marriage and the  bridal paradigm.



Monday, July 26, 2010
Yes, you read that title right, men. This week's Man-Up Monday post is about being a bride.

I believe strongly that in order for us husbands to adequately grasp our biblical role in our marriages, we MUST learn first-hand what it means to be a bride. Now let me clarify; I’m not talking about experimentation with cross-dressing! No, I'm not asking you to don a wedding dress. What I am talking about is learning what it means to be the bride of Christ.

Let me remind you what Ephesians says about biblical roles in marriage:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.     Ephesians 5:24-25
Honest question: which verse did you focus on? Wisdom says you only get to focus on the instructions to you, not the ones to your wife. Got that guys?  You wife's submission to you is not your job to work out, it's between your wife and God.  Your job is to love your wife as Jesus loves the church.  Not so sure about that?  Well, let me jump a little further down in that chapter:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.     Ephesians 5:31-32
The first verse is a quote from Genesis. I talked about it in my post on intimacy. But what I want to emphasize is the second verse. Paul is saying, in no uncertain terms, that there is a divine mystery in the husband-wife relationship, and that is that it echoes the relationship between Christ (our Bridegroom) and us as the church (his bride).

I don’t know about you, but that wrecks me every time I think about it. Jesus wants to be one with you and me, the same way a husband and wife are one in marriage. Now don’t go goofy on me, of course it isn’t a sexual relationship we have with Jesus, but the level of intimacy and oneness echoes the sexual relationship in marriage, with the same power and passion.

As a husband, in order to be like Christ to your bride, you simply must endeavor to comprehend what it means to be the bride of Jesus.  Knowing this love is the only way you can give this love. This is no easy task. It’s a lifelong pursuit that has no endpoint this side of heaven. In fact, Paul tells us a few chapters earlier in Ephesians 3, in his prayer for the church, that we cannot fully know this unknowable love of Christ; our limited human minds simply cannot comprehend the depth of his passion and the height of his desire for us, the length of his zeal and width of his jealousy for us as his bride. Yet, we must pursue the knowledge of our bridegroom’s love if we are to lavish that same kind of love on our own earthly brides. Ultimately, knowing this love is how we are to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

I’m going to make a bold statement:

  • If you think that the passionate pursuit of the knowledge of the love of Jesus is just a wishy-washy, touchy-feely thing for the women folk; if you refuse to make your role as the intimate and desirable bride of Christ a centerpiece to your life in God, then you will never completely fulfill the role as husband that God intends you to fulfill.
What do you think? Am I overstating the importance of men needing to understand their bridal identity?



Saturday, July 24, 2010

I’ve actually known about Paul and Lori Byerly for several years, long before my blogging days, and I have always found their marriage advice honest and helpful. They actually have three great web resources that I want to bring to your attention:

The Generous Husband and The Generous Wife are daily blogs with short words of encouragement for married couples. They are widely read (as I write this Paul has over 2800 Feedburner subscribers alone) and widely respected (I have seen many references to their website around the Christian marriage online community).

I encourage you to go on over to these sites and subscribe to their daily marriage insights for husbands or wives. I especially like the way they sprinkle in their own real-life stories and circumstances into the postings, giving the advice they offer a real sense of authenticity.

Together they run another site called The Marriage Bed. Here’s a blurb from their home page that does a better job describing what they are about than I could:

The Marriage Bed provides a Christian alternative for married and engaged couples seeking information about marital intimacy. We combine the truth of the Bible with biological facts to educate, edify and minister to those seeking God's best for their marriage relationship. Whether you are just starting out, have some problems, or just want to improve an already good love life, we offer information and resources on many areas of sexuality and marriage enrichment.
There you will find many informative articles about sex in marriage, an active discussion forum, and links to other hepful, safe sexuality resources.

I heartily recommend you avail yourself to all of Paul and Lori’s resources.



Thursday, July 22, 2010
I’m just beginning to digest some of the reader survey results (more on that in an upcoming post). Something that stood out was a clear interest in the topic of intimacy. The question was intentionally vague, so before we unpack the subject very much we should try to define this elusive, ubiquitous goal of intimacy that we all seek in our marriages.

I should start by saying I don’t know that there is one right answer to this complex question. If there is, then I surely don’t have it! But the question is certainly worth exploring, and I hope you will comment with your own definition of intimacy. We can all learn from each other.

Intimacy has commonly become an interchangeable euphemism for sex, which somewhat shortchanges the concept. On top of sexual intimacy, you also hear phrases like emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy and even intellectual intimacy. You also see conflicting opinions on the importance of intimacy in marriage. There’s the camp that says it is the most important ingredient for a happy marriage. And then there are those who say an overemphasis on intimacy causes marital gridlock.

So what are we to make of all this intimacy business? Like I said, I don’t really know the answer, or even if there is a single right answer. But I have two theorems on intimacy, and I’d love to get your feedback on them.


Bringing Your Whole Being

The fullest and most enduring kind of marital intimacy is the kind that involves the entirety of your being: spirit, soul and body.

As it is in our relationship with God, marital intimacy starts with spiritual intimacy. It’s at least partly tied up in the “great mystery” Paul describes in Ephesians 5 when he talks about a man and woman becoming “one flesh,” quoting from Genesis.

Next comes intimacy of the soul (mind, will and emotions). Some call this emotional intimacy, romantic intimacy, and others toss in intellectual intimacy. I think all three of our soul’s components are part of the equation here – something we commonly describe as being soul mates.

Last but not least we have physical intimacy. Yes, sure, we are talking sex. But we are also talking about non-sexual touch, kissing, massage and every other aspect of the joining of our physical bodies.

To me there is a logical progression in these areas, or an intimacy food chain, if you will. My food chain theory goes like this. Spiritual intimacy paves the way for intimacy in the realm of the soul, which in turn provides fertile ground for physical intimacy. I think that’s the best, most enduring path to intimacy. Sure, you can have physical intimacy without the other components, but in general it will be shallow and meaningless without them. Likewise, it’s much easier to be intimate with our thoughts and feelings if we have a firm foundation of spiritual intimacy.

Naked Without Shame

I have a fairly simple definition of intimacy:

Genuine intimacy comes from being fully known and completely loved.

If you take intimacy out of the marital context for a moment you’ll see what I mean. Think of your closest friends. These are the ones who you are comfortable being yourself with, the ones who you know accept you for who you are, the ones where you are free to get real with each other, without judgment or fear. It’s no different in marriage.

Intimacy with Jesus is really the same thing too, isn’t it? It’s that whole bridal paradigm thing all over again. We come to him in our weakness and brokenness, and how does he respond? Total love, acceptance and forgiveness. Oh, that we can get the amazing power and intimacy of this kind of grace and apply it to our marriages.

The phrase I often use for this kind of intimacy is “naked without shame.” It comes from Genesis. In the context of God giving us the one-flesh directive for marriage, look what comes next.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”    Genesis 2:24-25

That’s right, naked and unashamed. I love that! Just as being one flesh is about so much more than physical intimacy, so is being naked without shame about so much more than having sex with the lights on! It’s about bringing the fullness of who you are to your marriage, without fear of rejection or judgment, and receiving total love and acceptance from your spouse in return. It also means receiving their nakedness in the same fashion.  That is the pathway to real intimacy.

This is a simple in concept, perhaps, but difficult to achieve in reality. Fear and shame are such powerful forces. Past hurts and disappointments, human frailty and strong emotions all will send you running for the fig leaves. But hopefully, as you learn to give and receive grace, you’ll gradually get comfortable taking them off.

What do you think of my two intimacy theorems? What is your own definition of intimacy and how to achieve and sustain it in marriage?

(For more on this topic, see my series “On Being One Flesh” listed in the “Notable Series” widget on the left sidebar.)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
You’ve probably noticed that the construction around here continues, unless you are reading by RSS or email, in which case you really must stop by for a visit to see my budding html mastery for yourself.

Of note is the updated left sidebar feature called “New Here?” I wanted to give visitors a handy set of links for getting familiar with The Journey to Surrender. I’ve gathered the Reader Survey (last plug, take it NOW if you haven’t yet) and email subscription links in there too. I’ve added two new pages under the “about the author” section: More About the Author links to some random facts about yours truly, and Our Love Story links to a new page about the beginnings of our relationship, as well as a link to the post I wrote recently introducing my lovely wife.

The other new feature is the Notable Series tool on the sidebar. Links are provided there, using an expandable/collapsible list, for each of three series (so far). I’ve added mouse-over descriptions to each of the series blog entries, so you can get a better idea of the subject beyond the title. Yeah, I know, sheer HTML genius.

Last but not least, I’m introducing today a semi-regular feature called “RRR: Reviews, Reads and Resources.” I’ll be reviewing some of best of the many marriage books, blogs, websites and resources that I’ve come across. So without further ado…

RRR: Project M by Kathleen Quiring

Kathleen’s blog, Project M, is one of the first marriage blogs I came across when I first started blogging this year, and it is still one of my favorites. She is witty and genuine in a way that I find completely refreshing. About her penchant for truth-telling, she writes that it is:

Because I believe that writers have a moral obligation to share our experiences with others so that we don’t all have to feel so isolated in this lonely world.
Her blog subtitle is “Musings on Love, Marriage, and the Madness that Ensues.” Here is an overview of her blog in her own words:

Project M exists to tell stories and share thoughts about marriage rather than offer advice; to represent marriage realistically, and offer a younger perspective, from someone who has not been married for forty years but hopes to be someday.
She is an unabashedly young-and-newly-married woman, and happily so. She and her husband, Ben, have been married for about 4 years. Her writing is full of hope and enthusiasm, tempered with the reality of what happens when two people are suddenly thrown together through this mysterious and holy institution we call marriage.

She writes of herself, “I love Jesus, Renaissance literature, languages, etymology, museums, and carbohydrates. I hate exercise.” At a minimum, she and I have that first and last thing in common.

Of Ben, she writes, “Ben also loves Jesus, and enjoys fixing cars and eating pancakes. He hates everyone who happens to operate a motorized vehicle at the same time as him.” Again, that first and last thing Ben and I have very much in common.

So do yourself a favor and click on over to Kathleen’s blog. You’ll be glad you did. And while you are there please join in the conversation by leaving her a comment. Feel free to leave one here too to let my readers know your opinion of Project M.

Oh, and one more new feature.  On the right sidebar I'm starting a list of favorite blogs, which will be expanded as I review them as part of my RRR feature.




Sunday, July 18, 2010
As part of the redesign of The Journey to Surrender I will be introducing some new regular features. The first of these to be rolled out is Man-Up Monday.

Welcome to the first official installment.

What is Man-up Monday? It is a series of topics and challenges, posted every Monday, written especially for husbands. You could say my post “The Body Image Battle,” which has been my most read post to date, served as part of the inspiration for Man-up Monday. If you haven't read it, go do it now.  Go ahead, I'll wait for you to come back.
The other reason for Man-up Monday? Your wife wants it.

When I started this blog, I honestly expected to get a lot of grief from wives. I supposed that the notion of the bridal paradigm (that marriage was designed by God and modeled for us in the relationship between Jesus, the bridegroom, and the church, his bride) would generate a lot of negative response from women. I expected to hear such things as “Submission? Oh please,” or “That’s not fair,” or “What, am I supposed to be some kind doormat?” or similar statements, in response to the biblical notion that a man is to be head of his wife and lead her in a manner that reflects Christ’s love for the church.

So far at least, I haven’t heard much like that. Rather, what I can tell you, men, is that by an order of magnitude the most popular search engine terms that have landed people on my blog have to do with husbands not stepping up as leaders. Here are just a few recent examples (direct quotes from my blog tracking system):
  • Christian husband won't assume leadership role in family
  • when your husband won't lead (phrase appeared 3 separate times)
  • husband won't step up and be the leader
  • what to do when your husband wont lead the family
  • how can i get my husband to lead
  • my husband doesn't lead this home
And these searches are only from the last two weeks.

The bottom line men, is that your wives are eagerly looking for you to lead them and to step into your God-given role of authority in your family. Don’t believe me? Just ask your wife. But don’t ask her unless you are ready to respond by “manning up.“

What does it mean to man-up? Short answer: it means being like Jesus toward your wife. Tall order, you say? Yes, it is. But you are called to nothing less.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

Have you made the mistake of buying into the lie that “modern” families don’t require any kind of leadership or authority on the part of husbands?

Stay tuned to future Man-up Mondays, where we’ll continue to unpack these simple biblical truths that have the power to radically impact your marriage. Consider subscribing by email (see left side bar) so you don’t miss an issue!


You may have noticed a slightly different layout and look to the blog.  Things will be continuing to evolve over the next few days as I begin deploying some new sidebar tools.   Hang with me if you encounter a few hiccups, and please drop me an email if you find any issues. 

Thanks!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I recently read the book “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent.

It’s a touching and inspiring story of “A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together,” as the subtitle puts it. It’s fascinating to read how each of these two men from very different worlds, with the help of an extraordinary woman, slowly work through their stereotypes and presumptions about the other to become best friends.

The book has a few interesting and valuable lessons for marriage.


Lesson 1: Stereotypes Aren’t Very Useful

In my recent post “What if My Personality Doesn’t Fit My Role,” . I discussed the fact that stereotypes aren’t really very helpful other than for the convenience of making some generalizations about groups of people. The fact is that we are all individuals, uniquely crafted by our creator with differing talents and shortcomings, strengths, and weaknesses. Before they could form a bond, Ron and Denver, the stories two main protagonists, had to be willing to examine each other for who they really were instead of who they assumed each other to be.
  • Don’t be too quick to make stereotypical assumptions about your spouse. Rather take the time to discover who they really are deep down. Chances are they don’t exactly fit the many preconceived notions you may have.
Lesson 2: There Are (at least) Two Sides to Every Story

I love the way the book was told in the voices of the two opposite-world protagonists. It brings into stark reality the way two people can look at the same set of events, the same statements and circumstances and see a completely different picture of reality.
  • Remind yourself that your reality might be quite different from your spouse’s, especially if your family backgrounds, personalities and life experiences differ greatly.
Lesson 3: Change Often Comes Slowly

The story paints the slow, years-long progression of the men’s understanding of one another. The doubt and suspicion dissolves over time into a solid, lasting friendship, but it is a step-by-step progression. Denver (the homeless man) was so uncomfortable sleeping in a bed after years sleeping on the streets, that even when offered a comfortable bed in Ron’s home, he chose to sleep on the floor. Over time Denver learns to appreciate the comforts offered him by his friend, but it takes him a long time, and he often takes refuge back in his comfort zone on the streets.
  • It takes a great deal of grace and patience to love each other through our evolution toward maturity, because some habits and behaviors, hard though they may be to understand, simply die hard.
Lesson 4: God Unites and Redeems

Ultimately this is a story of God’s redemptive nature and of the uniting power of faith. In this story God redeems some tragic circumstances and uses them to draw these two men into an unlikely bond of unity. You’ve no doubt seen the marriage triangle (pictured right). It is used to explain that as the couple grows closer to God they also grow toward one another. It’s a bit trite and over-simplified, but it does portray the simple truth:
  • As God redeems us and grows us up from what we were, transforming us into his image in the process, we will quite naturally grow into the reality of being one flesh, because God’s nature is one that values unity and intimacy.

How about you? Did you read the book? Do you have any thoughts on the lessons I divined from the story? Do you see other marriage lessons in the book?




Friday, July 16, 2010
The reader survey results are rolling in!  I will be sharing the resulting summary of the marriage profiles of my readership a bit later, but I do have one preliminary result that I'll share now.
 
The average time it took to complete the survey was 1:10.  That's right, an astounding one minute and ten seconds!!

Thanks to those who have responded so far.  If you haven't yet, please take a minute to do so now, so your marriage information will be tabulated in the results.  Most importantly, it is also your chance have your voice heard regarding topics that the Journey to Surrender should explore in the future. You can optionally get a pop-up survey using the link on the right side bar, third item down.

Thanks!!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Before  you read on, please take the two minute
reader survey if you haven't already! 
There's also a convenient pop-up survey over there --> (3rd item) 
Thanks! 


As I indicated in my post about my lovely wife, Jenni, she has a dynamic ministry in enlightening Christian educators about bringing children into the fullness of faith and experiencing God from a very early age (as opposed to the common approach of babysitting and entertaining the little ones while the adults get the real deal). This ministry has blossomed in the past few years through God’s blessing into a global traveling ministry of significant proportions. (She leaves tomorrow for ten day trip to Malaysia!) This is in addition to her position as head of our church’s children’s ministry team.

My own calling, on the other hand, has little to do with children’s ministry. I am a long-time musician and worship leader as well as a songwriter. About as close as I got to what my wife does is when I spent three years raising up, training and setting in place our church’s high-school aged worship team.

Yet, despite the disparate callings that my wife and I have, I still consider that we are in ministry together. My belief is that, even when it doesn’t necessarily appear to be so on the surface, a husband and wife are always called as a couple. Because we are one, a part of me is called to children’s ministry and a part of her is called to worship.

Huh, you ask. How exactly does that work? Well, let me describe briefly how it works for us.

Priesthood of All Believers

My wife and I believe that regardless of whether we work in the marketplace (as I do) or in the church (as my wife does) we are all called to be ministers in one form or another. God wants to use every life for his kingdom and for his glory.
  • Realize that you do have a ministry, whether it is formal or informal.

Mutual Support

The main thing for us is that we both fully support the calling of the other. I see the call of God on my wife and am determined to do what I can to see that fulfilled, despite the personal cost to me. She feels the same way about my calling and ministry. Support can come in many forms: finances, time, prayer, education, discussion, and encouragement.
  • Ask God to clearly reveal to you the calling he has on your spouse, and then let him or her know the importance of their ministry and your desire to see them walk it out in fullness.

Spiritual Covering

As Jenni’s husband, my covering of her spiritually extends to her ministry. That covering comes in the same form as my covering over her as husband: to love her sacrificially and to lay down my life to see her ministry flourish. It is not my job to control or micromanage her ministry, but to partner with Jesus in bringing it about. In like manner, Jenni submits herself to work in concert with the calling God has on my life, while purposefully keeping her own ministry under the protection of my covering.
  • See that your roles as husband and wife extend into your ministries. The bridal paradigm should extend to your callings.

Look for Crossover Opportunities

Jenni and I look for chances to minister directly together, because there is nothing we enjoy more. She has attended worship conferences with me. I led worship for a training conference she recently hosted at our church. I traveled with her to Alabama to minister at a church, helping with the PowerPoint, logistics and playing a few songs to open each session. We have just been invited to South Africa where she will teach on children’s ministry and I will do the same regarding worship.
  • Seek out opportunities where your ministries might cross over. Be willing to take a supporting role if necessary.


So that’s how it works out for us. We are still learning and growing in how to do our separate ministries together as a couple.

Please share your own story. How do you and your spouse walk out your individual callings as a couple?
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sorry that I've not posted in more than a week.  I've been travelling on vacation last week and then suffering the normal re-entry mayhem this week. 

While away I started working on an update to the blog design that should be ready next week sometime.  Look for the "new and improved" Journey to Surrender soon. 

Meanwhile, I wanted to point out that I've put up a VERY SHORT reader survey that I would really like to urge you to participate in.  I've told you about me, and in my last post I told you about my lovely wife, Jenni.  Now it's only fair for you to tell me about YOU.  The main purpose of the short survey is to get a profile of the marriages of my readers: marital status, length of marriage, and whether or not you have children at home. It's completely anonymous, so no worries about privacy.

There are three ways to get to the survey, which is only a few questions long, and shouldn't take more than two minutes.
  • Click on this survey link  (email and RSS reader please do it NOW!!)
  • Get the flyover (pop-up) survey using the right sidebar link
  • Visit the survey site using the right top menu button
Very Important:  At the bottom of the survey is a question about what you want to see more of here at Journey to Surrender.  I really value hearing from my readers about what interests they have, so even if you skip the other questions, please answer the last one. 
Monday, July 5, 2010
Kathleen over at Project M (a great blog you should definitely check out, by the way) did a post introducing her husband, and encouraged fellow marriage bloggers to introduce their spouses. So, without further ado, here’s the woman I call “my one true love.”

First of all, this is a somewhat futile exercise, because to know my amazing wife, Jenni, you really have to meet her. But since inviting all of you over to my house would land me in a great deal of hot water, I’ll do my best to give you a glimpse at her here.

First, a few basics facts about us:
  • We met in sixth grade
  • We started dating our senior year of high school
  • We married at age 22, weeks after we both graduated college
  • We just celebrated our 28th anniversary
  • (I’ll save you the math… we are both 50)
  • We have three daughters, ages 15, 19 and 23
Jenni has a zest for life that is completely contagious, and she finds joy even in the tiniest of things. For example, she screams excitedly every time she sees a bunny in our yard or as we drive along (yes this can be a hazard when I am driving, but I’ve gotten attuned to it).

As children of that age often feel, our teenage kids all tended to be a bit embarrassed of their mother’s quirky, fun, outgoing nature. The thing is, all their friends just LOVE Jenni, and wish she were their mother too.

She is a total anglophile. She loves everything English: tea, scones, English movies, British accents. (The pictures on this post are all from our various trips to England.) We have traveled there together “on holiday” three times in the past six years, and she went there last year without me to do children’s ministry training.

Which leads me to tell you that my wife has an amazing and undeniable gift with children. She has a way of reaching them and connecting with them that astounds me and many others. She says it’s because she is really just a six year old inside. She has taught school at various times throughout our marriage, and now leads our church’s children’s ministry team. She has a heart to see kids of all ages, from the youngest to oldest, connect with God in a genuine way.

She now also travels the globe spreading the message that kids deserve the full gospel experience, not to be babysat in a back room while their parents get the real deal. In her travels she trains other children’s teams and also ministers directly to children. In the few years she’s been doing this she has been to: The Netherlands (twice), Ukraine, England, and several US locations. She’ll shortly be going to Malaysia and has invitations for South Africa and Canada. All this for a woman who was afraid to fly a few years ago.

We tease that she is a strong-willed child (remember she is really six years old inside). Tell her NOT to do something and she feels compelled to do it. She has two gold molars to prove this fact from the time I once cautioned her not to walk out on some slippery rocks.

Jenni is an open book. She wears her emotions very close to the surface, whether it’s anxiety or joy, doubt or enthusiasm, disdain or love, you pretty much know what she is thinking and feeling. She is the opposite of me in this regard, and it sometimes causes her to speak before thinking, which can get her into trouble. Examples are too numerous to list here.

She has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. One way this comes out is the way she is very generous in giving people the benefit of the doubt. At one point when I became angry at another driver’s abysmal road etiquette, she said to me, “Maybe his wife is having a baby and he is rushing to the hospital.” Really, she said that. And I think she meant it.

I love this woman with all my heart. As I said earlier, I could never give an accurate portrayal in mere words. But hopefully I’ve given you a fair glimpse of this amazing woman I get to call my own.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I was prompted to ask a question by this article on kyria.com. The question: should happiness be the goal in marriage?

You hear this kind of thing a lot as you peruse books and websites on marriage: How to Have a Happy Marriage, The Keys to Marital Happiness, Find Happiness with Your Spouse, How to Make Your Spouse Happy. But is happiness the right thing to be seeking after in your marriage?

At first blush happiness, either for yourself, your spouse or your marriage, may seem to be a worthy and appropriate goal. After all, who doesn’t want to be happy? But should that be what we strive for, what we long for, what we make our main goal? I don’t think so. Read on and see if you share my position.

As I often do when it comes to questions about marriage, I seek out the spiritual, bridal paradigm equivalent for insight. So, in our relationship with Jesus, our Bridegroom, is happiness the goal? I can’t find much in scripture to support that idea. I can see all kinds of things we are called to pursue in our spiritual journey, but happiness seems to be conspicuously absent.

To me, happiness has the connotation of relying external influences. If I could just have…, If my spouse would only…, If one day I can…, then I’d be happy. I have a theory that if you strive for happiness, you will never actually find it. It's always "out there" somewhere. You see, I think happiness happens as a result of going after the other, more important things.

So if it’s not happiness we are after, then what? I don’t claim to have the definitive answer, but let me list a few alternatives.
  • Selfless Surrender – If you’ve read much here at Journey to Surrender, then you know how important I think it is to give of yourself to your spouse. You can call this what you will, mutual submission, sacrificial love, biblically ordered marriage, etc. The bottom line is that when a couple is fully engaged in a lifestyle of giving to the other, happiness flows freely.
  • Oneness – The Bible describes marriage as being "one flesh."  For me, this is a call to marital intimacy,  a key component of our marital happiness. Intimacy comes from being fully known and yet completely loved. An atmosphere of being “naked without shame” before each other is blissful and tremendously freeing.
  • Reaching Your Full Potential – It’s hard to be happy if you feel like your are being stifled, either by your spouse or by circumstances. A marriage partnership is about each helping the other to obtain your full potential, to be all that God intended you to be, to continually grow up in God and in your marriage relationship.
  • Joy and Peace – These are sometimes confused with happiness, but the difference is that these come from inside instead of outside of you. Joy and peace come from God, from knowing who he is and who you are in him. They lead to contented living and a lack of striving.
  • Holiness – The original article cited above talks about feeling called to holiness instead of happiness. While I don’t agree with everything the author stated, I do agree that ultimately God must be the source of our happiness and fulfillment. If you are waiting for your spouse to be perfect before you are happy, you’ll be waiting a long time. You can find what you need in God, even when your spouse disappoints or frustrates you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below. What do you define as the goal in your marriage?

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