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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Brand New Wardrobe is Yours!  For Free!

It is that time of year when many of us will reflect on 2012 and start thinking ahead to 2013. The coming New Year gives us all time to consider a fresh start.

Whether you make resolutions for 2013 or not, chances are there are things that you want to improve or change next year. I’m hoping that among those is a desire to improve your marriage. No matter how your marriage is today, there is always room to grow.

Today I’m kicking off a series, “Dress for Success,” which will challenge you to consider a new wardrobe for the new year. The great news about this new wardrobe is that it is yours absolutely free.

Dressing for the New You

Want some more great news? You’re dead!

That’s right. The Bible tells us believers that “You died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)  The old self is dead and gone, dealt with forever! What a relief!

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, you and I are completely made new. We don’t have to struggle to renew ourselves because we have already been made into the righteousness of Christ (Phil 3:9). It’s a done deal.

I don’t need to resolve to “be a better person” in 2013. I already am! I don’t have to strive to “be a better husband” in 2013; I just need to walk fully in the new nature that has been given to me in Jesus. My new nature includes all that I need to be the husband my wife needs.

However, I do need to consider what dress is appropriate for this new me. I have to consider what I should “put on” and what I should “take off.”
You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Col 3:9-10

How to Dress for Your Marriage

This concept of how you choose to clothe yourself relates directly to your marriage.

The third chapter of Colossians describes some of the things we should refuse to wear, such as sexual sin, greed, anger, lying, and slander.  Toss out these old clothes! It then goes on to describe our new wardrobe – one befitting our new nature. 

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with…”
  • tenderhearted mercy
  • kindness
  • humility
  • gentleness
  • patience.
  • make allowance for each other's faults
  • forgive the person who offends you

The passage then concludes, “The most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Col 3:12-14 NLT)

The most amazing part of this whole thing is that this new wardrobe has already been provided to us completely free of charge. All we have to do is choose to put it on! It is not a matter of striving and struggling. Simply choose to put on that which has already been provided!

So what does it look like to “dress for success” in your marriage? I find it fascinating and not a bit coincidental that these verses in Colossians 3 come right before Paul's admonitions for marriage just a few verses later (husbands loving their wives and wives living in submission to their husbands). Clearly, how we "dress" directly and profoundly affects our marriage.

In the coming posts, I’ll be unpacking (pun intended) some of these new clothes that Colossians 3 describes.

Wouldn't you love some new clothes to wear in 2013?


Next up in the series: Put on Love

photo credits: 
top photo - diego_cervo / 123rf.com
bottom photo -  savas40 / 123rf.com

Friday, December 21, 2012

Do you make the mistake of assuming that just because people go to church they have great marriages that are based on God’s design?

This is the third part in my series on how your marriage can be “salt and light” to those around you, in accordance with Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:13-14. You might want to check out Part 1 and part 2 as well.

Today I’m talking about being salt and light to the other couples in your church.

Don’t Assume


Do you assume that couples in your church know what a biblical marriage looks like?  Fewer than you think actually understand the depths to which marriage is meant to be passionate, intimate, selfless, exciting and enduring. Very few probably know the extent to which God is pro-marriage, pro-intimacy, and pro-sex.

Sadly, too many would probably describe biblical marriage with rules like “don’t get divorced” and “don’t have sex outside of marriage” and “pray together every day.” Sadder still, and maybe because of a lack of understanding of what marriage is really about, the divorce rate among “nominal” Christians is actually 20% higher than those with no religious affiliation.[1]

Christian World View of Marriage

Os Hillman, who I quoted in my first Salt and Light post, explains further our misplaced expectations of the media’s world view this way:
It is unrealistic for Christians to think the national media will report without their worldview eventually showing up in their reporting. The only way to change this is to impact the individual who will then adopt a Christian worldview. Sadly though, less than 19% of the Christian population has a Christian worldview. So, how can we expect the media to have a Christian worldview if we in the Body of Christ do not even have one? We are losing the culture both within the Christian community and outside the Christian community.
I don’t know where his 19% number comes from or whether it’s accurate, but my experience has been that there is certainly not a widespread understanding among Christians of what it means to have a thriving biblical marriage.

Trumpeting the good news of God’s great plan for marriage is the main reason I do what I do here.

Who Owns This Problem?


I’ve said for a long time that Christians should have the most amazing marriages. We have the secret! We know the One who designed it! Yet the contrast between the church and the world is not what it should be.

Barna Research’s Project Director Meg Flammang said of their findings on divorce statistics: "We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but ... in the area of divorce rates they continue to be the same." Truthfully, the Barna data is misleading in that it doesn’t distinguish between those who are actively practicing their faith and those who simply report themselves as believers (more on the Christian divorce rate myth here).

However, I stand by my contention that there isn’t a big enough distinction between marriages inside and outside the church.

One reason is that most churches focus a lot more on pre-marital counseling and divorce intervention for marriages in crises than they do on strengthening “average” marriages. This is supported by a recent survey conducted by fellow marriage blogger at Mission Husband.  Gerald writes: 
For the most part, most of this survey turned out like I had assumed it would. Sadly, I think ministry to “normal marriages” in the church (ie ones that aren’t falling apart yet) is for the most part coming up very short in most of our churches. From: “The Church and Marriage; Are we doing enough?”
So whose job is it to get those in the church to take marriages to the next level? Pastors? Church leadership? Christian marriage counselors? No! It’s our job, yours and mine. It’s up to everyday believers like you and me, who know and want to share about God’s design for marriage.

But What Can I Do?

The 2011 State of Our Unions report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia offers some insight into this question. They report that:
Husbands and wives with high levels of social support for their marriage are at least 23 percentage points more likely to report that they are very happy, or almost 50 percent more likely to be very happy in their marriages, when family and friends are invested in their marriages. Moreover, a high level of support from family and friends is one of the top five predictors of marital quality and stability for married mothers in this study.
Simply stated, you can make a huge impact on other marriages simply by providing marital support to your friends. Here a few ideas on how you can impact the marriages immediately around you in your own church.
  • Start a marriage small group in your church (or join one).
  • Set up a date night babysitting exchange for couples with young kids.
  • If your marriage is struggling, find and befriend some couples whose marriages you admire.
  • If you have a strong marriage, get together with some couples you think could benefit from your experience.
  • Ask your church to plan a marriage-building retreat into next year’s calendar and budget.
  • Offer to lead your church’s participation in this year’s National Marriage Week events this coming February 7-14.
What do you say? Are you ready to get engaged for the sake of the marriages around you? Do you have some more ideas on what we can do in our local churches to strengthen “normal” marriages? What have you already done or are you doing? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Eve is only a week away! If you still don’t have any idea what to do to  make this a romantic Christmas, I’m here to equip you for the task.  

[I’m interrupting my “Salt and Light” series for this emergency “what do I do about Christmas” broadcast. Our regular programming will resume shortly.]

Not everyone sees Christmas as a time for romance. Indeed, the priority during this season should be on the spiritual and family dimensions of the holidays, but don’t neglect this opportunity to add in a little romance with your husband or wife.

Ideas, Ideas, and More Ideas


Because I’ve waited until so late to do this post, I’m able to point you to the many fellow marriage bloggers who have done the groundwork for me!  Here they are in no particular order:

From Brad and Kate at One Flesh Marriage
From Paul, The Generous Husband
From Lori, The Generous Wife
From Lori at Marriage Gems
From Sheila at To Love Honor and Vacuum
  • keeping Christmas sane and at the end the three gift of Christmas suggestion: something they want, something they need, something for their soul
  •  Get Sheila's 31 Days to Great Sex ebook and plan to start together in January! Great way to kick off the new year by investing your marriage.
From Debi and Tom at The Romantic Vineyard:

A Few Romantic Gift Ideas of My Own

Husbands:
  • Skip the poinsettia this year and bring your wife a beautiful Christmas flower arrangement
  • Give her a Tea or Coffee gift, according to her preference, along with a note suggesting that the two of you enjoy it together during ten minutes of connection time each day (or on designated days, if daily isn’t possible).
  • Tickets to a concert, play, ballet or other performance that you know she would love to see. Pick it based solely on her desire, not your own, and make sure you are enthusiastic about going with her.
  • Sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 14 Day Intimacy Challenge for Husbands.Take the challenge as a "secret" gift, or you can tell her that she has 14 Days of Intimacy coming her way, but tell her nothing more.
Wives:
  • Buy something for his desk at work (a pen set, desk organizer, a framed picture, etc.) and write a hand-written note that says “Every time you look at this/use this remember how proud I am of the way you work hard to take care of us” or something to that effect in your own words.
  • Lingerie – and I’m talking about the kind that is primarily for his viewing pleasure - you know what I mean. If you aren’t sure what he'd like to see you in, get a gift card and suggest you shop together. If either or both of you are too shy to go into a lingerie shop, a gift card from an online retailer would work instead.
  • Tickets to a sporting event, boat show, or concert that you know he really wants to see but might not ask for, in deference to your preferences. Make sure he knows how excited you are to go along with him to whatever it is. 
  • Sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 14 Day Intimacy Challenge for Wives. Take the challenge as a "secret" gift, or you can tell him that he has 14 Days of Intimacy coming his way, but tell him nothing more.
If you are on already on top of this Christmas, romantically speaking, share your ideas below! Caution: you might want to post your comment anonymously if your spouse also reads my blog!! Don't want any Christmas spoilers!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Are you hiding your marriage under a bushel basket or putting it out on a stand for all to see?

Last week I wrapped up my short series on how to have a counter-culture marriage with a post about combating the media and entertainment worlds’ marriage-maligning messages. I suggest that we do battle by doing what it takes to make our own marriage great.

After all, nothing promotes marriage like great marriages!

What is a Great Marriage?

There were many excellent comments on my last post about what it means to make your marriage “salt and light” to the world around us (you might want to go back and read them).

Robyn, who blogs at Up With Marriage and Pearl, who blogs at Pearl’s OysterBed, reminded me of the important distinction between a “great marriage” and a “perfect marriage.”

We need to be genuine and real about our marriages. Being salt and light is not a matter of pretending to have the perfect marriage (such a thing doesn’t exist anyway). A great marriage is one with the same real struggles and problems that all marriages face, but one that comes through it all stronger and closer than ever.

These comments were an especially pertinent prelude to today’s post. I want to talk today about how being salt and light, as Jesus said we are to be, takes more than simply having a great marriage. It involves helping others to have great marriages too.

Helping build great marriages is not just the job of pastors and church leaders. It’s not just the job of marriage counselors. It’s not even just the job of marriage bloggers. It’s the job of the church. That’s you and me. That’s everyone.

Promote (Your) Marriage

Part of being salt and light in the marriage context means promoting your own marriage.

Here is a question I posted a while back: “What are you doing on a regular basis to demonstrate how important your own marriage is to your life, to the fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, and to your daily happiness?”

If I were to ask your friends and co-workers how important your marriage is to you or how happily married you are, what would they say? Stop and think about the image of your marriage that you are projecting.

Don’t misunderstand me, promoting your marriage doesn’t mean being boastful or arrogant. It just means you should not hesitate to make it known how important your marriage is and how much your spouse adds to to your life.

Here are some examples I gave previously:
  • Don’t hold back from saying “I love you” or using other words of affection to your spouse when you are talking to them on the phone when others might overhear. (Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband specifically mentioned this on in his comment on my previous post)
  • Tell your friends about great date spots you and your spouse have found. Mention how important it is to you that you have regular date nights and alone time together.
  • In an appropriate setting, re-tell something special or thoughtful your husband or wife has done for you recently.
  • Hold hands in public. Depending on your comfort level with PDA, even hold each other and/or kiss in public.
  • If you see an obviously happy couple, don’t deride them to your friends but praise them. ”Isn’t it great to see such a strong and happy marriage.”
  • Never tear down your spouse in front of your friends. Rather, praise him or her and express thankfulness for marriage and your spouse. Be generous with positive words.
Promote your own marriage. Brag on your spouse. Let people know how great it is to be married. When you do these things, you are casting a positive marriage light to those around you. I believe great marriage are contagious.

I’m sure you can think of more ways to promote your marriage. Let’s hear them!



Image credit: siwasasil /123rf.com

Friday, December 7, 2012

Does “reality TV” truly reflect reality?  Is “The New Normal” TV show actually representative of the new normal in our society?

I intended to wrap up my series on how to have a counter-culture marriage with a post on how the mass-media and the arts and entertainment world (mis)treats marriage. There is no doubt that the enemy has had his sights on the media and entertainment world for a long time. These are two of what Os Hillman calls “The Seven Mountains of Influence.” Especially for young people, these are huge influences in our culture.

So when I first started preparing for this post, I gathered a bunch of blatantly anti-biblical, marriage-maligning examples from today’s media and entertainment industries. It was easy to find tons of atrocious examples of such shows and movies. For example, the new TV show, “The New Normal” advertises itself this way: “Two gay dads and a baby mama create a totally new kind of family comedy.” Family Comedy? Normal? Really?

Suffice it to say that examples like this are everywhere.

But then I came across an article by Os Hillman that struck me rather dramatically.  His article opens with this thought:
Christianity has become a sub-culture that is more known by what we don't like than what we believe. In the eyes of the secular world we have become a right wing political action group instead of a loving, caring Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our message has been shut out because of the way of the messenger. We still have the right message, but we have failed to deliver it in a manner consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus modeled love and mercy and sought to change the hearts of people before He expected to see change in their behavior. Few people are attracted to Christ through a boycott.
That’s a pretty stinging indictment, and it really convicted me. Protests, boycotts and even blog posts filled with outrage will do little to reclaim our culture.  So, I decided there is little point in me writing a rant against today's movies, TV shows and music. For the most part I’d be preaching to the choir anyway.

So What Do We Do?

I’m calling you to consider a different kind of action: be salt and light. That’s what Jesus calls us to be. In Matthew 5:13-14 He put it this way:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.  Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.”
I don’t mind if you feel compelled to write letters of objection to networks or to boycott advertisers of certain shows that you find offensive. Do what you feel is right. But I agree with Os, these actions will do little to actually change the hearts and minds in our culture.

And it’s hearts and minds that God is after. When hearts and minds are changed, behavior follows. That's the way Jesus did it where he walked here on earth.

Start with Your Own Marriage!

First and foremost being salt and light for marriage starts by you having a great marriage yourself.

Nothing promotes marriage like terrific marriages!
So here are a few of my thoughts on how to counter the media's negative marriage messages with your own marriage:
  • Know what you believe about marriage and why. Explore the fantastic biblical truths about marriage how God designed it to work. Read the Bible. Read what trusted authors and scholars have to say. Talk about it with your spouse. (My own "What I Believe About Marriage" series starts here.)
  • Make your marriage a priority. Invest in your marriage with your time, attention and energy. No more giving your spouse and your marriage the leftovers after you’ve invested yourself in everything else.
  • Be rooted and grounded in love. Ephesians 3 tells us that knowing the Love of Christ is the key to fullness in God. It’s also the key to fullness in marriage. You cannot fully know how to love your husband or wife if you do not know the love of Jesus. And “know” in this verse means an experiential knowledge, not head knowledge.
This isn’t exactly the post I thought I would write concerning the media and entertainment – and probably not what you expected from the headline.  Still, I’m absolutely convinced that the best way to counter the media’s negative messages concerning marriage is to have an overwhelming number of great marriages as a shining example of what marriage can be like.

What do you think it means to be “salt and light” with your marriage?


Next up: More on Being Salt and Light

Image credit: reich / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The winner of the "31 Days to Great Sex" giveaway is Curt:
Curt said...
I think that they are all equally important because they are all a part of the plan to become closer to God. Physically and emotionally connecting with each other in the marriage bed as He intended helps to fulfill the spiritual aspect and bring us closer to him. If any of the three are removed or not given equal importance, we risk not participating fully in His plan for us.
Congratulations Curt. Please email me through the contact tab on my website to claim your free e-book!



Thanks to all who left a comment on the question: "Which is the most important aspect of sexual intimacy: physical, emotional or spiritual." You should definitely go back and check out the wide variety of answers.

I would say there was no clear consensus, except that, in general, all three dimensions are important. And they all are.

If you didn't win, you can still get your copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" now.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't miss the giveaway details below!


I’m following up today on my last counter-culture marriage post, Sex is a Big Deal.

At the end of that post, I mentioned a terrific new resource for boosting your sex life called 31 Days to Great Sex, an e-book by writer and fellow marriage-blogger Sheila Gregoire. She blogs at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

A Quick Book Review

I am a big fan of the Sheila’s holistic approach to sex. As I mentioned yesterday, sex is much more than a physical act, and the book is written around that very principle. Her thinking is much along the lines of my 14-Day Intimacy Challenge, and I found myself nodding in wholehearted agreement throughout.  Of course, her book gives you a much more in-depth treatment to each daily topic and runs more than twice as many days!

The book is full of wonderful insights and advice for both husbands and wives.  It is 131 pages in length.
Here is little overview.
  • Section 1, Days 1-8, is “Turning Sex into Something Positive.” It is a fitting on-ramp to the rest of the book, addressing some of the major mental hang-ups we have about sex. The mind is your most important sex organ!
  • Sections 2, 3 and 4 (covering 17 days in total) deal respectively with the emotional, physical and spiritual dimensions of your sex life.  A few samples of the daily topics include “Ways to Flirt with Your Spouse,” “Turning Foreplay Up a Notch,” and “Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy when you Make Love.’
  • The book wraps up with six days dedicated to keeping the sexual momentum in your marriage going into the future, with such helpful topics as “Quickies Can be Fun” and “Sex After Parenthood.”

Why You Should Get It

I’m re-emphasizing Sheila’s book today for several reasons.

First and foremost, it is a fantastic resource for married couples in all stages of life. Whether you are newly married or, like my wife and I, married more than 30 years, you will find Sheila’s insights on sex and her daily challenges to be of great benefit to your marriage.

Second, I am offering a free copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" as a give-away to one lucky commenter. Just answer this question in the comments: “Which dimension of sex do you think is the most important (physical, emotional, or spiritual) and why? Not an easy question, I know, but I’m very curious to hear your thoughts.

Third, I believe in and want to help Sheila get the word out in support of strong marriages full of fantastic sex. As she says, “Married sex should be the best sex,” despite what our prevailing culture says to the contrary.

So, please help me help Sheila and order your copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" today. And since I’m part of her affiliate network, I benefit too when you order through the link below. Regardless of whether you get it through me or somewhere else, do get it!
31 Days to Great Sex


<< CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER TO ORDER YOUR COPY



Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered into the contest. (Email readers click the link!) The drawing happens at noon on Tuesday, December 4th. 





PS  Don’t wait to order, because Sheila has graciously offered a copy of her successful book, “Good Girls Guide to Great Sex,” in the event that you win and have already ordered!



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our culture would say that sex is no big deal. Not true! Sex is hugely significant to your marriage.

This is the third part of my look into the damage that some prevailing cultural norms can do to your marriage. (See my earlier posts on Entitlement  and Equality/Fairness).

Let’s examine a few of the sexual myths that get widely propagated:

Sex is only physical

Sure, sex is a physical act, but the truth is that sex is also inherently spiritual. It is more than a mingling of two bodies, it also involves the joining your soul and your spirit with your spouse. When you ignore or downplay this deeper level of sexual connection, you also limit the fruit you can enjoy from your sex life.

Sex is for me

Our self-centered society would tell you that is all about you: your pleasure, your convenience, your desire and your satisfaction.  In truth, sex is a gift that you give to your spouse for the benefit of your marriage. Yes you benefit from it too, but when you view sex from a selfless viewpoint, it makes it so much more intimate and powerful. If you believe what the Bible says about sex, then you believe that your body actually belongs to your spouse and that it is designed for his or her pleasure.

Sex is optional

Sex is the one thing that makes your marriage relationship unique from all the other relationships in your life. It is NOT optional. Statistics vary, but somewhere around 15% of all marriages are sexless today. That is tragic. For many more, sex is relegated to a low priority. Do you frequently postpone sex until you have more time and more energy? Maybe you should look at your priorities and remember that sex is the glue that holds your marriage together. Don’t forget the glue!

Sex is bad

This is not actually a cultural message. Rather, it is the church’s widespread overreaction to the many ways in which society at large has corrupted what God design to be sacred and holy. Sex is powerful; therefore sex is also dangerous. But that is no reason for us to ignore it, be ashamed of it, or shun it from discussion in our churches. In fact the power of sex is the very reason we should reclaim it for the Kingdom! Sex is good! Sex is God's!

Have any of these cultural myths about sex negatively influenced your marriage? What have you done to combat them?



For some more counter-cultural perspectives on sex and some great common sense sex advice, get Sheila Gregoire’s fabulous new e-book, 31 Days of Great Sex today!
(aff link)
31 Days to Great Sex
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This is part of short series looking at the ways in which the prevailing culture can negatively impact your marriage.  Part 1 explored Entitlement.

Today we consider the closely-related topics of equality and fairness.

Equality is a Myth

We’ve come to mistake equality with interchangeability. If two things are equal, it doesn’t mean they are the same. A husband and wife can be completely equal in human value, but very different in their marriage roles. Why does this make so many people uncomfortable? I think it’s because they fear unfairness (see below).

The bottom line for me is that equality is just the wrong measuring stick for marriage. It sets up a competitive, score-keeping environment that has us constantly measuring the degree of our equality.  We find ourselves constantly asking whether we are winning or losing.

The quest for equality is a silly notion when you stop and consider that a husband and wife are actually one. When my wife “wins,” so do I. Likewise, when I “win” the benefit accrues to her as well. Since we are one, it makes no sense to split our marriage into separate, competitive halves.

While the idea of a 50-50 marriage is often held up as the ideal, I would answer that a 100-100 marriage should actually be the goal. Each partner should go for giving 100%, doing all he or she can for their spouse and the relationship.

Don’t fall for the equality myth.

What many champion as equality is actually a desire for fairness.

Fairness is a Falsehood

The issue of fairness begs a similar set of questions. The difference is that fairness is an even more ambiguous measuring stick.  Who decides what's fair?

The dictionary defines fairness as being “free from bias or injustice.” Whereas a desire for equality seeks to eliminate all differences, a desire for fairness instead seeks justice. The question is, whose standard of justice do we use?

The Kingdom of God does not conflate fairness and justice. Ever heard, “The first shall be last?” How about, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”  “When I am weak, then I am strong.” And "God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”

What is fair about the very Son of God giving His life for you and me, so that we could be in relationship with Him for eternity?

Fair? Not.

More often than not, when one group cites fairness as part of its doctrine, it’s a front for selfishness. “I/we didn’t get my/our fair share!”

Alternative Measures of Success

What if instead of using equality and fairness as the measure of a successful marriage, we used selflessness and surrender? These are a lot closer to the Kingdom values that I am familiar with.

What if instead of trying to out-get from each other, we strove to out-give to each other? What if selfless, extravagant, unconditional love became the norm in your marriage? I can tell you this: if it did, you wouldn’t have any reason to even talk about equality and fairness. They would be a non-issue.

Has our culture’s preoccupation with equality and fairness affected your marriage mindset? Do you spend too much time and energy measuring and competing in your marriage? Have your eyes been opened to the way the Kingdom of God looks at these questions? Let me hear your stories.




It's not too late to get your free e-books!

Click on the book image, left, to sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy newsletter, and get the two 14-Day Intimacy Challenge e-books (one for husbands and one for wives) for free.
Friday, November 23, 2012

Sorry this resource is no longer available. 

For my latest free offer, click here.




Don't miss out on two important chances to enhance the intimacy in your marriage!

Free E-Book

First, in case you missed it, my new e-book, The 14-Day Intimacy Challenge, is available for free in PDF form. The terrific resource for building intimacy gives you three daily challenges: something to think about, something to act upon, and a question to ask your spouse.

Hundreds participated in my online 14-day challenge.   The response was so positive that I decided to offer a convenient digest in e-book form for those who may have missed it. There is a separate edition for wives and husbands.

You get it free when you sign up for my Pathways monthly email newsletter.

Pathways

The first edition of my Pathways newsletter will be coming out in less than a week. Don't miss it!

Now is the time to sign up to receive insightful thoughts, tips, teaching and testimonies, all relating the the intimacy in your marriage. Whether you are looking to enhance emotional, spiritual or physical intimacy, this publication is for you.

The purpose of Pathways is to keep your marriage headed down the Path of Intimacy  Whether you took the Intimacy Challenge or not, this is a resource you don't want to miss.










Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fellow marriage blogger and friend Paul Byerly (aka The Generous Husband  ) tweeted my last post by asking:
Is the culture hurting your marriage?
It's a great question!

His tweet prompted me to explore more deeply the ways in which a Christ-centered, biblically-oriented marriage runs against the grain of the prevailing culture. More to the point, we will be looking at ways in which the culture slips into our marriages and wreaks havoc.

As I stated in my last post,  it is clear that the cultural trend is toward devaluing and even denigrating marriage. Even if you personally place a high value on marriage, even your own marriage in specific,  there are many cultural influences that might be hurting your marriage. In many cases, we aren't even consciously aware of it!

First up:

Entitlement

If I had to pick one thing cultural influence that is hurting marriages the most, I think it would be entitlement.

If you want a clear picture of entitlement, watch this YouTube video:

YouTube direct link

If you’ve let at atmosphere of entitlement slip into your marriage, it might come out in the following ways:
  • You blame your husband or wife for your unhappiness.
  • You think your lack of fulfillment is your spouse’s fault.
  • You believe the marriage certificate means you have a right to expect that your wife or husband will meet all of your needs. You might even demand it.

What to do Instead

Maybe you wouldn’t agree with the statements above in their entirety, but it is still possible that such thoughts might creep into your heart and mind on occasion.

If you find yourself fighting with entitlement, here are some ways to combat it:
  • Thankfulness – a grateful heart is a great antidote for entitlement.
  • Generosity – when you give with the attitude of genuine service from the place of love, you are invoking the biblical paradox that “a blessing breaks a curse.”
  • Responsibility – you can only change yourself, so give up trying to change your spouse. Focus on what you can do about you.
  • Relationship – choose to focus on your relationship instead of your rights. In every situation, ask yourself, “what action or attitude would keep us closest?”

Has entitlement crept into your marriage? Can you think of other ways to fight this huge cultural influence on your marriage? Let us hear your ideas!





Friday, November 9, 2012

I have strong political opinions, but you don’t read this blog for my politics. So I’m going to try very hard to separate myself from the politics of our recent election – not an easy thing for me to do – and focus on what I see as the implications for marriage.

I had to wait a few days to write this post, otherwise my emotions might have had me saying things I would end up regretting. Today I’m a little less emotional, having had time to rationalize in my mind what just happened to our nation.

The truth, I’ve concluded, is that nothing “just happened.”

Culture vs. Politics


Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said,
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
In truth, culture and politics are not so cleanly separated ideologically. Still, I believe this year’s election made more of a cultural statement than a political one. 

Bottom line: our culture is in trouble. Those of us who watch and write about what our culture is doing to marriage don’t find that at all surprising. But things didn’t change on Nov 6th, and things would not have changed if the outcome of the election had been different.

The Marginalization of Marriage

It’s an established fact that marriage is on the decline in America. Three simple facts point to this most effectively:
  1. There are fewer married women in the US today than single women for the first time in our history, according the the US Census Bureau.
  2. 42% of all children born last year were born out of wedlock (by ethnicity: whites=29%, Hispanics= 53% and blacks=73%), according the the National Marriage Project 2011State of Our Unions report.
  3. Cohabitation in 2010 as compared to 1960 has increased by a factor of 17, and the rate is increasing. The number of cohabitating couples doubled just in that last decade.
Why is marriage in such trouble? Is it the institution that has failed? Has it just become outdated and irrelevant to today’s “modern thinker?” Is it the fault of the media and its staunchly anti-marriage messages? Is the male bashing penchant of militant feminism to blame? Is the key to singleness of women their increasing financial independence?

Marriage and the Church

No doubt all these factors play a part. The question in my mind, and the one I’ve been mulling over since my election-eve disappointment, is which are causes and which are effects.  For the most part, I have decided that they are effects rather than causes.

My belief is that marriage is failing largely because the church has failed marriages.

That’s a strong statement, I know, and perhaps slightly overstated. But we need to face this fact, and do something about it, if we ever hope to re-establish biblical marriage and families as the cultural foundation of our society. It’s time for the church to wake up and be the church and stop blaming our culture and society, and yes, even our government for the state of things.

My experience and observation has been that most of the church’s efforts in regards to marriage have focused on distressed marriages and divorce. That’s way too late! It’s not like that in every church, but in the majority, I would venture. We need to get comfortable in the church talking about sex and intimacy and biblical marriage roles and not leave all the discussion to secular circles. We need to challenge men to man up and lead with love. We need to accurately define biblical submission.

Most of all, we need to stop looking for solutions “out there” and start taking a hard look at ourselves.

Our Messages to Young People

Exit poll data show that young people (under 30), backed Obama and his marriage-unfriendly agenda by a huge margin, 60% compared to 37% for Romney. Why so? I believe it’s because the messages young people embrace and identify most with are coming from the culture and society at large and not from the church. We are failing to reach them with the power of the Gospel of grace because we are teaching them about rules instead of about relationship.

That carries directly over into what they understand about marriage.

Rather than focusing on simply telling our teens and young singles not to have sex, we should be explaining to them about the joy, intimacy and passion that await them in God’s amazing design for marriage. Kids should be inspired by their parent’s deliriously happy marriages. For the most part, they are not. In their piece The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America,   W. Bradford Wilcox and Andrew J. Cherlin of the Brookings Institute stated that “43 percent of moderately-educated young adults aged twenty-five to forty-four report that, ‘marriage has not worked out for most people they know.’” That is sad. Very sad.

We Have the Secret

As Christians, we have the inside track on marriage!

We know the One who invented marriage, and we have a heavenly Bridegroom who has shown us an ideal example of marital bliss in His relationship with us as his bride. What more could we ask for?

The marriages in the church should be so amazing and enduring that the world should be looking to us for answers. It’s not. Despite some differences in marriage statistics between the churched and un-churched, there isn’t nearly the contrast that there should be. After all, we have the secret: Jesus.

So what is your take on the implications for this election on the state of marriage in our nation? Please leave a comment - I really want to hear your thoughts!

 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Those of you familiar with Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, will recognize the graphic shown at right (click for a full size view).

The diagram describes Covey’s seven habits and their influence in moving people from dependence to independence to interdependence. 

These three phases, or paradigms, also represent the process of becoming one-flesh in marriage.

The You Paradigm - Dependence

In my opinion, the You Paradigm represents the lowest level of marital maturity. It’s characterized by me expecting you (my spouse) to make me happy. I expect you to take care of me and meet my needs. If you don’t, I’m not going to meet yours. I give only to get.

The You Paradigm can also include me making my life all about you. Especially during dating and early marriage, it’s easy for me to fall into being completely absorbed by you, making my life totally revolve around you. This can quickly devolve into co-dependence, in which I look to you for validation and acceptance. I let you define me.

The Me Paradigm – Independence

If I spend very long in the You Paradigm, I will eventually become disillusioned with the fact that you (my spouse) aren’t meeting my needs like I think you should.  I’m giving, but I’m not getting in "fair" proportion. In frustration I move from dependence to independence.

I take responsibility upon myself for my own happiness, but without regard to yours. I become self-reliant to the point of isolation. I make my own choices and decisions for what benefit me the most. The relationship becomes irrelevant.

Independence can lead to a lonely existence.

The We Paradigm – Interdependence

What the Bible calls being one flesh is at least in part defined by interdependence.

In marriage, there is a “great mystery,” literally translated a “mega-mystery,” in which a man and wife are joined together as one in spirit, soul and body. It is indeed mysterious how two can be one yet still maintain their individuality. It is in interdependence, the highest form of marital maturity, that this gets worked out.

In the interdependent paradigm, you and I both bring ourselves fully to the relationship; no pretense, no posturing, and no power struggles. We are one in all things, yet we are free to be ourselves. Together we add strength to strength and allow strength to cover weakness. It’s beautiful.

Seeing our marriage through a one-flesh, interdependent perspective means you and I deeply value one another and place a priority on our marriage. We choose to purposefully invest in each other, not because of what we can gets from it, but because we see intimacy as the true measure of a great marriage. We regard relationship and more important than rights.

What’s Your Paradigm?

Set it in your heart and mind to live in the We Paradigm; to live interdependently as one flesh. That’s what the Bible says we have a right to as husband and wife. We just need to grab hold of it and live it.

Of course we may tend to occasionally move back to Me-land or You-land, but We-land is what God intends for you and me and for our marriages. Live there.

Where are you on the You-Me-We continuum?

 
Friday, October 26, 2012

In my last post, Do You Assume Love, I challenged you to have full confidence in your wife’s or husband’s love for you. When faced with your spouse’s disappointing or hurtful behavior, rather than responding with insecurity or offense, simply assume love.

I received some thoughtful comments on the post that prompted me to write this follow-up.

An Important Distinction

When your husband or wife does something that to you that feels “unloving,” it does not necessarily mean that you are “unloved” by him or her. That’s a critical distinction.

In fact, in any marriage that has at least a nominal amount of good will between spouses, the chances are that they do in fact love each other. Love is a reasonable assumption.

But assuming love does not mean that you assume everything your spouse does is motivated by love. Some of the things they do will be motivated by selfishness, pride, ignorance, anger, jealousy or a whole host of other negative things. However, there is a difference between being subjected to unloving behavior and being unloved. Unfortunately it is easy, even tempting, to confuse the two.

Don’t Fake It

At the end of my last post I meant to point you to the Assume Love blog, written by Patty Newbold. There is lots of great stuff there about this topic, obviously, given the name of her blog. One post in particular, Don’t Pretend Love, points out another important distinction. She explains that assuming love is not the same as simply pretending love. The difference, she explains, lies in what you really believe.

Assuming love means believing that your spouse’s heart is good; flawed, weak and immature maybe, but ultimately good. Pretending love means faking it, even though you don’t really believe it.

Pretending love doesn’t really help. The fruit of it isn’t going to be much better than just being offended or insecure.

Believe Love

Assuming love, even when your spouse does something that hurts you, does not mean you don’t have valid feeling in response. Hurtful behavior hurts. The question is, then, what you choose to do with those feelings.

Assuming love means acknowledging but not yielding to your emotions. That’s not easy, especially if the hurt is deep. Still, if can truly believe that your husband or wife loves you, if you can really know it in the depths of your soul, it can help you not let emotions get the better of you. These emotions often will feed us lies. “If he can do ___, then he doesn’t love me.” “She must not love me or she would have ___ “If he loved me he would never ___”  “If she loved me she would ___” 

Don’t buy the lies. Don’t give them voice. Don’t give over your thought life to them. Instead feed yourself on truth. Realize that unloving behavior does not equate to him or her not loving you. Assume love. Believe love.

If you can get a hold of your emotions and choose to believe love, then you can proceed with fruitful conversation from a very different place.  “I know you love me, so you would want to know that what you did really caused me pain.”  “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but when you do _____, it’s really hard for me.” Don’t accuse. Don’t blame.Calmly beckon forth the love you know is inside your spouse.

Your goal is not to be right, but to preserve (and restore if necessary) the relationship - to have intimacy. Ask yourself this question, “What can I do to help keep us close through this?”

Assuming love is not living in some phony fantasy land or stuffing down very real pain. No, assuming love is about believing in and calling forth the love you know that lies inside your husband or wife. 

Photo Credit: Julie Raven

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I say it here a lot, because I believe it is really important: how you think about your marriage is almost more important than what you do about it.

Now don’t misconstrue that statement as an excuse for neglecting your marriage. Of course I believe you should invest in your marriage and that you should put effort into making your marriage great.

But if you can learn to picture your marriage through the right lens, with the proper perspective, it can’t help but show up in your actions. I sum it up this way: right thinking leads to right doing.

One of the most important marriage lenses is the lens of love.

The Lens of Love

In my walk with God I continually find that I have a limited understanding of the depth, intensity, and constancy of His love for me. This limitation in my thinking causes me to constantly slip back into trying to earn God’s love and to win his approval. I’m working hard to get something I already have! At other times my limited knowledge of the love of God causes me to be offended in the face of difficulty. When things don’t go how I want them to, I begin to doubt His goodness and doubt His good intentions toward me.

We can tend to do the exact same thing in our marriages. Because of our doubts and insecurities about the love of our husband or wife, we either struggle to earn their love or we get offended by their perceived lack of love. Both of these cause tremendous negative fruit your marriage.

How different would your marriage be if you were totally assured of your spouse’s love? What if you could assume that love was at the center of everything he or she did, despite how it appeared? How would that kind of security change the way you interact with your husband or wife?

When Love Disappoints

Of course neither you nor your spouse will come close to matching the matchless and perfect love that Christ lavishes on us. Sure that is our goal, but we are human after all. What do you do when love falls short, when your spouse’s love isn’t as unconditional or selfless as you wish it were?

At the point where love disappoints, you have three choices:
  1. Become insecure, and work ever harder to earn their love, hoping that it will also earn their better behavior.
  2. Become offended, which typically causes you to pull away or get angry.
  3. Assume love. When you chose to believe that your husband or wife loves you, despite how it appears on the outside, you can move past the offense more easily and maintain your intimate connection.

Assuming love isn’t easy in the face of disappointment, but it is by far the best alternative.

Do you have an example from your marriage where assuming love made a difference?


See my follow-up post: Unloving or Unloved

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


For the first 13 days of October I participated in the CMBA ½ blogging marathon. I spent those 13 days challenging couples to reach for new levels of intimacy in their marriages.

If you missed the 13-Day Intimacy Challenge, I have created a convenient Summary Page with links to all the posts in the series. Be sure to check it out.

Today I shift my focus to an altogether different intimate connection. I’m talking about intimacy with Jesus.

I’m unapologetic about my emphasis on Christian marriage. It’s not that I think non-Christians can’t have good marriages. Of course they can. It's just that most of what I believe about marriage comes from my belief that God is the designer of marriage, that he set it up to operate a certain way, and that he sent Jesus as the Bridegroom to the church, His bride, in order to show us a living example of God’s design.

I call this the bridal paradigm, and for me it holds amazing revelation for marriage the way God intends it to be.

Jesus, Our Bridegroom, Our Example

The Apostle Paul paints a clear picture of this in Ephesians 5:31-32
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Verse 31 quotes from Exodus at the advent of the first marriage between Adam and Eve. Then Paul ties marriage directly our relationship with Jesus. It couldn't be any clearer.

Much of what I believe and understand about marriage is formed from my relationship with Jesus. The closer I get to Him, the better I understand the “great mystery” Paul describes. Love, trust, faithfulness, freedom, passion, desire, and pleasure are all components of both of the two most important relationships in my life.

Intimacy: Naked and Unashamed

Intimacy is about being fully known and completely loved. It’s the same with my wife as it is with God. Let’s look back to the first marriage and see what intimacy looks like.
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

Naked and unashamed – that defines intimacy with God. That is also intimacy with my wife. I bare my soul before the Lord and receive his complete love and acceptance through Jesus. I feel his delight in me and know his unconditional love intimately. It works the same with my wife and I (OK we aren’t quite as good at the unconditional part just yet, but we are working toward it!).

Jesus, Our Source

Not only is Jesus the example of love and intimacy, He is also the source of the love that we need to make our marriages more intimate. God is Love. If we want more love, we need more of Him. It’s really that simple.

What's also amazing to me is the way the reverse is true as well: I gain insight into my walk with God through my marriage.

Awesome mystery, aye?!

Some days I feel like I’ve only gone an inch toward the miles of understanding that is available to us. It’s kind of like seeking to “know the unknowable love of Christ.” There is always more.

What about you? How does your relationship with Jesus impact your marriage and vice-versa? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Keep Thinking, Doing, and Asking

We’ve reached the end of our 13-Day Intimacy Challenge. Congratulations, you made it!

Thank you for participating and for spending the past two weeks working on the intimacy in your marriage!

Whether or not you’ve been able to do the challenges every day or only a few days, it is my sincere hope that the time and effort you invested was beneficial to the intimacy level in your marriage. I want to thank those of you who commented here, on Facebook, via Twitter or by email. (Click these links to "like" or "follow" me.)

Important! Regardless of whether you have found this series helpful to your marriage or not, I’m asking you to do me a huge favor. Please spend one minute to take my quick feedback survey by clicking on the survey link below. It’s just seven quick multiple choice questions.

Journey To Surrender Intimacy Challenge Survey

As a thank you for taking the survey, if you so choose, I’ll gladly send you a nicely condensed pdf version of all 13 Intimacy Challenges plus the Intimacy Inventory from Day 1. Simply provide your email address in the space at the end of the survey and select either the wife’s and/or husband’s version. You’ll also have the option to subscribe to my Intimacy Challenge Monthly email newsletter or to receive a Super-Bonus Day 14 Challenge, available only to those who take the survey.



Day 13 for Wives
Keep on Thinking, Doing and Asking




Keep Thinking

Growing intimacy starts in your head. Thinking about your marriage and husband in the right way matters more than whether or not you did all the challenges exactly as I prescribed. When you get your thoughts straight, the doing part happens more naturally and consistently. If you have the right mindset, you will be able to continue to grow closer to your husband with intimacy actions and ideas of your own.

As you reflect on the series today, see if you can find one or a few areas where you identified wrong thinking through the challenge. I encourage you to write down the simple ideas that most spoke to your heart and remind yourself of them periodically.

Changing your mindset doesn’t happen overnight or by a single exposure to a new idea. You have to practice right thinking by frequently reminding yourself what your really believe.

Right thinking leads to right doing. 


Keep Doing 

The daily challenges, whether you were able to do all of them or just a few, were intended to give you specific steps you could take to grow intimacy.

As you can imagine, it’s really difficult to give specific ideas that will work for every marriage situation. The best intimacy ideas will come from you, so they will be tailored specifically for your marriage and your husband.

Your challenge today is for you to come up with one specific action you can take in the next 24 hours to grow the intimacy between you and your husband. It could even be something that goes along with the “thinking” part of today’s challenge. Or maybe go back and do a challenge that you weren’t able to do at the time. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Simple things, done consistently, will make a huge difference in your marriage.



Keep Asking

Communication is key to maintaining intimacy in marriage. Never forget that intimacy is all about being fully known and yet fully loved. You can't have intimacy without conversation.

Want to know how this challenge has affected your husband? Ask him,
 
"How has the intimacy level in our marriage changed in the last two weeks?"



Day 13 for Husbands
Keep on Thinking, Doing and Asking




Keep Thinking

Growing intimacy starts in your head. Thinking about your marriage and wife in the right way matters more than whether or not you did all the challenges exactly as I prescribed. When you get your thoughts straight, the doing part happens more naturally and consistently. If you have the right mindset, you will be able to continue to grow closer to your wife with intimacy actions and ideas of your own.

As you reflect on the series today, see if you can find one or a few areas where you identified wrong thinking through the challenge. I encourage you to write down the simple ideas that most spoke to your heart and remind yourself of them periodically.

Changing your mindset doesn’t happen overnight or by a single exposure to a new idea. You have to practice right thinking by frequently reminding yourself what your really believe.

Right thinking leads to right doing. 


Keep Doing 

The daily challenges, whether you were able to do all of them or just a few, were intended to give you specific steps you could take to grow intimacy.

As you can imagine, it’s really difficult to give specific ideas that will work for every marriage situation. The best intimacy ideas will come from you, so they will be tailored specifically for your marriage and your wife.

Your challenge today is for you to come up with one specific action you can take in the next 24 hours to grow the intimacy between you and your wife. It could even be something that goes along with the “thinking” part of today’s challenge. Or maybe go back and do a challenge that you weren’t able to do at the time. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Simple things, done consistently, will make a huge difference in your marriage.



Keep Asking

Communication is key to maintaining intimacy in marriage.Never forget that intimacy is all about being fully known and yet fully loved. You can't have intimacy without conversation.

Want to know how this challenge has affected your wife? Ask her,
 
"How has the intimacy level in our marriage changed in the last two weeks?"



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