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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
That’s right, with today’s entry I’ve reached that vaunted 100th post milestone. I suppose it’s time for the obligatory somber reflection that typically accompanies such landmark accomplishments.

OK I promise not to be too somber.

I jumped into the blogosphere less than a year ago, with no prior blogging experience, having only limited knowledge of html, Javascript, RSS feeds and the like. I really had no idea where it would go or if it would be sustainable. I didn’t know if I would enjoy being forced to write as frequently as blogging requires, much less if anyone else would actually read what I was writing.

It’s been a fun and interesting ride so far.

Here’s what writing 100 posts on Christian marriage has taught me:
  • The technical stuff (html, javascript, etc.) turned out to be the easy part
  • Trying to write relevant, approachable, interesting posts twice a week or more is HARD WORK
  • There are hundreds of lurkers for every person brave enough to offer a comment
  • Other bloggers comment 10-to-1 over non-bloggers. Blogger pity?
  • I got a lot less push back than I expected on some pretty controversial stuff I’ve written
  • BACK. EVERYTHING. UP. Often.
  • Spell checker is not enough. Edit. Edit. Edit. Then edit again.
  • There is a picture for almost everything. Google images is my friend.
  • More men read here than I expected - about 40% according to the readers who took the survey.
  • People genuinely care about their marriages, but they also care about the marriages of others and about the institution in general
  • Writing in the public domain is scarier than I thought it would be. More fun, but definitely scarier.
  • I rarely struggle for something to post about. I have way more ideas than I can possibly blog on and I find that one of the frustrating things about this endeavor.
  • I struggle with brevity.  Conciseness is not my gift.
  • I have discovered an entire community of wonderfully talented marriage bloggers. I enjoy reading their stuff almost as much as I do writing my own.
  • There is no way I could do this without the support and encouragement of my lovely wife, Jenni. Thanks lover!
Are you a blogger? Does any of this ring true for you? Do you have any other observations about your own blogging experience?


Saturday, November 27, 2010
In the next few weeks we’ll be wrapping up the marriage small group that my lovely wife and I have been leading. It’s been great fun, and we’ve learned a lot by working through each of the twelve marriage principles that formed the basis for our weekly discussions. As part of most weekly lessons, we developed some simple, practical exercises meant to prompt action and discussion around the week’s topic. I thought I’d post a few of these exercises here in an attempt to answer the call for more practical, actionable marriage suggestions.

Yes, I just spent most of the last few posts (part 1 here and part 2 here) explaining why it is more important to think the right way about your marriage and your role in it than it is to just do the things that someone else prescribes. But I thought sharing these exercises might spur you on to some thoughtful action. Almost all the exercises are open ended and designed to get you to think about your marriage and your spouse anyway. You won’t find a lot of “just do this” in the exercises.

The first joint exercise is actually something I posted way back here. It is designed to answer two questions. The first one is, “Does your spouse really know what you love about him or her?” The second one is, “Do you know what your spouse loves about you?” If you didn’t do it yet I strongly suggest you take the time to do it now. It can be very revealing.

The other exercise is one I’ll call the “Little Love List.” The idea is this:
  • Make a list of 10 “little things” that you know your spouse appreciates as a gesture of love.
  • By little things, I mean it shouldn’t be anything that requires major planning, expense or extraordinary effort.
  • It may be something to which he or she has responded to positively in the past or something they have expressed as a wish. The idea is to think in terms of what love expressions mean the most to them. It may not be anything that floats your boat, but your boat isn’t the point.
  • Over the next ten days, make it a point to do one little love expression each day. You don’t have to make a religion out of it. Be flexible as you need to be. The main thing is to do it consistently over a period of time.
  • Plan these things into your to do list or your daily routine. Making a deliberate attempt to show love to your husband or wife not only shows them your love in their terms, but it also gets you into the habit of thinking of ways to bless your spouse..
There’s a follow up part to the exercise we did that is also helpful. (We did it as part of the next week’s exercises). At the end of the ten days, or however long it takes you to work through your list, show your spouse the list and let them give you some feedback on it. Did you put some things on the list that really don’t say “I love you” to them? Are there some little love expressions that would see as more suitable? Use the feedback to improve your list and keep it handy. Pull it out periodically, and do something on the list.


If you do the exercise, stop by and let us know how it went for you. I’d love to hear your stories about what you learned from the exercise.


Thursday, November 25, 2010
I have so much to be thankful for today!

We're away in the mountains with my one true love and our three lovely girls, enjoying the beauty of  creation, the warmth of a roaring fire, the love of family and the goodness of God! Not to mention too much good food!

I'm also thankful to be a finalist as a Top Ten Marriage Blog of 2010.  Be sure to check out the list of great marriage blogs over at The Marry Blogger.  Many of my own favorites are finalists as well.

If Journey to Surrender has been helpful to your marriage in the past year, I'd appreciate your vote. Click below and scroll to the bottom of the page to enter your vote.  Thanks!.

Vote For Journey to Surrender Here

Monday, November 22, 2010
Since my last post in response to those looking for “practical” marriage advice, I’ve been further considering the whole idea of thinking, being and doing.

My reflections, as they so often do, relate to the bridal paradigm, the spiritual parallels that can help to inform our understanding of marriage. It may not be obvious where this headed at first, so hang with me.

Relationship vs. Rules

There is a broad misconception about Christianity, in my opinion, that paints it as little more than a religion of a bunch of rules; an extensive list of do’s and don’ts. For many, including some in the church, Christianity is mostly about doing, perhaps even more pervasively about NOT doing.

Do you count yourself among those who think that you have to do the right things in order for God to like you? Or at least do enough of the right things to counterbalance all the wrong things you do? Do you see God as mostly mad, sad or frustrated with you? If that’s how you see God, then this little post probably won’t do a whole lot to sway your viewpoint, but let me just say I think that is complete wrong thinking.

God went to all the trouble of creation with one purpose in mind: to have a people he could love. He made you for that very purpose. He went so far as to step out of the perfection of heaven and put on humanity, to come to us as Jesus, our loving Bridegroom, and even to die, in order to make a way for you to dwell with him in intimacy for all eternity.

Yes, the Bible is basically a love story. And yes, God wants to marry you.

You see, our walk with God is all about relationship, not rules. Oh sure, the Bible has lots of exhortation to the kinds of things we should/shouldn’t do, but it’s all there in order to remove the stuff in our lives that hinders love. Love for God, our knowledge of his love for us, and our love for others.

God is after our hearts. Our sincere “yes” to him in our hearts causes all the angels in heaven to rejoice. The very heart of God is struck by our slightest glance in his direction. Doesn’t that amaze you? It does me. He is able to see us a beautiful and perfect because of the yes in our hearts to the extravagant grace of Jesus. It’s not that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s that his love is completely unaffected by it, because of our greater yes to him.

What if?

I’m sure you are wondering what exactly all this has to do with marriage and the whole thinking vs. doing question.

Well, suppose for a minute that a right understanding of God’s love led to right thinking about the way you are to love your husband or wife? Suppose for a moment that you saw that the primary purpose of your marriage was so that you could love your spouse and not so much so that you could get them to do what you want (or even so that they would love you back). Suppose love was your only motive.

Now turn it around. Suppose love was your spouse’s only motive. Suppose you knew that they were after your heart and not your conformance to a set of expected behaviors. Suppose what mattered most to them was to live in intimate relationship with you and not how they could get their own needs met. And further suppose that they were able to love you “as if” your love was already a perfect reflection of the selfless love of God, even when you behave otherwise.

How would it affect your marriage if BOTH of you thought of your marriage in this way?

The Gap

Now obviously we are not able to love as perfectly, as selflessly or as consistently as God does. There’s always going to be a gap between what we think in our minds and we actually believe in our hearts. And there’s always going to be a gap between what we believe and what we are able to demonstrate day in and day out in our actions. We are prone to human frailty and failing. True enough.

But, if you both know that the other has the right mindset and right heart toward your marriage, then these “gaps” don’t have to undermine your relationship and your desire for intimacy. Your spouse’s greater “yes” toward you and your marriage makes intimacy much more attainable and sustainable.

Once you both have your minds renewed to a different, love-centered paradigm (“right thinking” as referred to in my last post), it’s a lot easier to bridge the gaps that happen in real marriages involving real people.

Changed Mind => Changed Self => Changed Marriage

In the end, you ultimately want to be a better husband or wife and do the kind of things that bless your spouse, that make your marriage stronger and that build intimacy. In the end there has to also be right doing.

I believe that once you are able to think about your marriage, your spouse and your self in the right way, once you really believe that selfless love is the path to true intimacy, your attitudes and beliefs about your marriage and your spouse can’t help but be changed for the better. And as you gradually become more the husband or wife you want to be, your actions can’t help but be changed as well. It’s immutable.

But in this marital model, better behavior is not the goal. Rather, it is but a byproduct of a new way of thinking and believing.

What do you think (pun intended)? Does my theory on thinking and doing hold water in your own marriage experience? Am I being too high minded, too philosophical or too idealistic? I’d love hear your honest opinion.


Saturday, November 20, 2010
There's still a few days left to nominate your favorite marriage blog over at "The Marry Blogger" where Stu is running his second annual top ten marriage blog list.  I would be honored if you consider nominating Journey to Surrender, but regardless of who you choose, please take a moment to nominate someone.  The marriage blogging community would be very grateful!

Nominations run now through November 23rd, and voting for finalists runs Nov 24th- Dec14th. One nomination per person. You'll need the url of the blog you are nominating.  Mine is:  http://surrenderedmarriage.blogspot.com/ .

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming...


Friday, November 19, 2010
First an apology for my previous paltry posting performance. I can’t believe it’s been more than ten days since my last post!

Prompted by the number of new respondants, I just took a glance at the latest reader poll results for some direction on what readers are interested in next. (If you missed my series on the most requested topic, intimacy, be sure to go back here and check it out.) It turns out that a close second in requested topics is “practical marriage tips and advice.”

As I thought about what that really means, I decided I should have thought about what that means before I put it in my survey. Oh well, live and learn. I decided, after much consideration, that people are asking this question: “What should I do to make my marriage better?”

One Size Does Not Fit All

It’s a good and valid question. Unfortunately it’s one that’s difficult to answer. I was struck by this post by Paul at The Generous Husband that decries one-size-fits-all marriage advice that guarantees to fix your marriage if you just “do this.” It’s as if some think there is a magic three step set of things to do that will miraculously and effortlessly catapult every marriage to new heights. I’m with Paul: Hogwash!

Now I understand our propensity for quick, straightforward answers. I am a problem solver by nature and by training as an engineer. It’s what I do. But here’s the thing: universal advice is universally worthless. I understand that, and so I think that’s why I shy away from offering much in the way of prescriptive solutions to marriage issues. Every couple is made of unique individuals and when you bring them together you get uniqueness squared.

I don’t pretend to have a panacea.

Instead what I focus on is a way of thinking about your marriage and your role in it. I spend a lot of effort identifying and explaining the principles involved, mostly based on what the Word of God says about marriage, about love, focusing a lot on insights from the kind of Bride-Bridegroom relationship we have with Jesus.

I’ve said before that “right thinking will lead to right doing.” If I were to focus more on the doing part of the equation instead of the thinking part, chances are my advice would miss the mark by a wide margin. Because, truthfully, you are going to be much better at figuring out what to do than I would be. It’s first about getting your head and your heart in the right place so that you can apply these marriage principles to whatever real-life situations arise in your relationship.

Maybe you’re thinking that’s just a copout on my part. Nah, it’s just the truth. I don’t have the answers to what you should do (sorry to burst your bubble) but you probably do.

Right Thinking, Right Being

As a footnote/addendum/clarification/extension to my postulation of “right thinking leads to right doing,” let me add, “Right thinking also leads to right being.”

By that I mean that when you begin to internalize the marriage principles that God lays out for us and begin to understand God’s design for marriage, it slowly will begin to transform who you are as a husband or a wife. Over time these principles move from your head to your heart as they become part of who you are and as you step more fully into your role.

Although thinking about your marriage and your role in the right way will help you make decisions that grow your marriage and solve your problems, it’s when you get to place of right being that you can be most consistent at right doing.

There, I’ve done it. I’ve managed to answer the “What should I do?” question without actually answering it at all. Sorry to disappoint. But I do believe strongly in this idea of how important it is to see your marriage, your self and your spouse in the right way. It’s much better advice that if I’d just said:
  1. Husbands – buy your wife a diamond.
  2. Wives – give your husband more sex.

Not that there’s anything wrong with either one of those ideas!

Monday, November 8, 2010
Before I get to today’s post, I want to first offer a quick welcome to all the new readers, followers and subscribers here. Also, I appreciate it that a number of you who have taken the New Reader survey (upper left side-bar, in case you haven’t and would like to). I hope you enjoy being part of my own marriage journey, and I want to encourage you to take part in the dialog by offering your comments on what you read here. I really do appreciate and welcome your thoughts, questions and insights!

Over the course of my blogging on marriage this year, an issue has arisen from time to time that was reinforced to me by several recent respondents to reader’s survey.

What do you do when your spouse isn’t willing to join with you in the Journey to Surrender?

Let me start by saying I haven’t any personal experience in this matter, because my beautiful bride is completely on board with the idea of a surrendered marriage and we are taking the journey together, step by step, hand in hand. Obviously this is the ideal case and the way God intends it to be whenever possible. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a spouse will find that they are alone (or at least feel alone) in seeking to make the marriage a reflection of the bridal paradigm, one that is a reflection of the intimate love relationship between Jesus, our Bridegroom, and us, the church, His bride.

Second, let me say that what I propose below is in no way meant to discount the often painful reality of the situations many face. I don’t offer these suggestions as a quick fix or a magic bullet. Rather, my intention is to offer some biblical and hopeful perspective.

Your circumstance may be that of an unbelieving spouse who simply has no perception of the deeply spiritual nature of marriage and doesn’t see it as God’s very own creation. It may be a spouse that is ill-willed or embittered and has put up walls that seem impossible to penetrate. It may be a spouse that has withdrawn and refuses to invest in improving the relationship. It may be some combination of these things or something else entirely.

The question is, though, what do you do when, for whatever reason, you find yourself feeling alone on your marriage journey?

Seek First the Kingdom

You’ve heard it a thousand times: Seek God first, and all the other stuff will be taken care of (my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33). Sure, it sounds like a trite and over-used expression, but it is only as we gain a deep and intimate knowledge of who God really is that the truth of it begins to ring true. The knowledge of God, especially of his infinite love, is the key to fullness in God (Ephesians 3:16-18)

The Bible implores us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). God is a faithful lover, full of grace and mercy, one who only has good in his heart for us. He is our source of strength to face even the most difficult circumstances. Press fully into the heart of God, discover who he is and how he feels about you. Let it be his presence that carries you forward in your journey.

Truth Is Truth

The truth of the bridal paradigm is real regardless of whether your spouse chooses to walk along side you in the Journey to Surrender or not. The biblical marriage principles of selfless love, respect, trust, transparency, intimacy and the others you’ll find among the pages of this blog hold true regardless of your circumstances or your spouse’s beliefs. Living your life and trying to walk out your marriage by these principles will definitely bear positive fruit.

That said, you also have to have realistic expectations. Because these principles are certainly most fruitful and helpful to a marriage when a couple chooses to go after them together, don’t be disillusioned if you don’t suddenly see all your marital problems evaporate. Be thankful for small steps forward and let the light of truth be a lamp to light your way forward.

There Is Hope

God is by nature a redeemer and a restorer of lost things. Know that his desire is to see your marriage not only survive but thrive. He is able to make something out of nothing and repair even the most damaged relationships. Pray for restoration, walk in faithfulness, and let the God of hope fill you.

Finally, I leave you with this prayer. It is my prayer for you in your marriage journey:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The truth is that those who walk with God never walk alone.



(Cautionary note. Of course in situations involving physical abuse you should immediately seek refuge from the abuser. In cases involving verbal abuse, substance abuse, infidelity or other serious issues, you should seek marital or other professional counseling.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010
This is the sixth and final post in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and to get a complete list of the related posts in this series.

So far we’ve covered a number of choices that will help put and keep your marriage on the Path of Intimacy. We’ve addressed the fact that the deepest form of intimacy involves your whole being: spirit, soul (mind/heart/emotions) and body. We’ve seen the importance of being transparent and open, bringing the fullness of your self to your marriage, acknowledging the important role that trust plays in bringing about an atmosphere of living “naked without shame.” Last time we looked at the fact that you can have as much intimacy in your marriage as you choose to work for and that you can always have more if you go after it.

So what is left? What is the key ingredient that remains?

Grace.

Grace is what keeps your marriage on the Path of Intimacy when other forces would knock you off.

Grace is nothing more than unmerited favor, mercy and kindness. Easy to say, but really hard to do. But grace is one of God’s most significant attributes and one that we would do well to mimic in marriage. It is God’s grace, mercy and loving-kindness that draws us near to him in intimacy. It’s his kindness that leads us to be transformed and renewed in the way we think and act, not his judgment or wrath (Romans 2:4). Grace has the same power to transform you and your spouse in your marriage.

“But wait,” you say. “You don’t know my [husband/wife]. You don’t know what I put up with!”

OK, I’ll admit it, I don’t. But here’s the crazy thing about grace. God knew everything about you, every sin and weakness, every bad choice, angry word and spiteful act you would ever commit, yet he chose to let his own Son, Jesus, be put to death so that he could have intimacy with you forever. That is grace. Ridiculous, extravagant grace. It is reckless mercy. It is what we are called to duplicate.

“I’m not God,” you reply.

Neither am I. I’m not anywhere near as good at this grace thing as God is. Nobody will ever be. But I know enough to know that there is a promise in grace. That promise is intimacy.

Yes, our spouses are full of flaws and mistakes and at times will come out with unkind words and careless actions. As long as there are people involved in marriages, there will be pain. Plenty of it. Don’t let the pain knock you off the Path of Intimacy. At least not for long.

You have to want intimacy more than you want perfection.

It’s really that simple. I’m not saying it is easy. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I do know the power of grace. It’s simply amazing. (Wait, isn’t there a song about this Amazing Grace…)

So if it is the Path of Intimacy you want, choose the way of grace. Be extravagant in giving it and gracious in receiving it. It will do wonders for your marriage.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Today is voting day!  If you haven't already - get out and vote!! Lest I go off on a political rant, that's all I'll say about that. VOTE!

And since you are in the voting kind of mood, click on over to "The Marry Blogger" where Stu is running his second annual top ten marriage blog list, and nominate Journey to Surrender.

I'd be honored to be among those who make the finalists for 2010, but either way be sure to check out the blogs that end up in the contest - there are some really great resources out there.  I know I'm looking forward to checking out the blogs that are new to me. 

Nominations run now through November 23rd, and voting for finalists runs Nov 24th- Dec14th.   One nomination per person, and you'll need the url of my blog in order to nominate me:  http://surrenderedmarriage.blogspot.com (yeah, I know, some day I need to get my own site address - it's on the list...)



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