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Thursday, March 29, 2012
For starters, as of today I am a contributing writer for the Traditional Love Channel at YourTango.com, a site dedicated to all things "love." The truth is that most of what appears on that website is completely secular in nature. Some of it is benign, some of it is helpful, and some of it I don't agree with. That's OK with me. The "Traditional Love" section of the website is where writers share from a more biblical world view.
My reason for accepting the invitation to write on a website that has content which I don't necessarily support is that I see this as a fantastic opportunity to proclaim God's truth about marriage in a venue that will reach people who aren't necessarily there looking for it.
Go check out my first article: "3 Powerful Marriage Lessons From Easter."
Totally amazing people with huge hearts for marriages.
Kate blessed us by sharing her gift of photography, taking a bunch of pictures of Jenni and I as we walked around a local park! It was a beautiful day for that. I'm sure her photos will be much better than the one here that I snapped of them on my phone.
Ironically, my guest post on Brad and Kate's One Flesh Marriage blog went up while they were staying with us. You can check out my post there, "Lady's First?" In that post I write my answer to the question, "If you could share only one thing from your marriage, what would it be?"
Finally, I'm working on the second edition of a marriage small group curriculum entitled "12 Principles of a Surrendered Marriage." This is the second time we've led a marriage group with these materials, and I'm doing some major editing as we work through it with seven couples from our church. My goal is to have a "finished" edition by this summer. Watch this space for more on that!
So it's a busy season, but I'm excited about all that God is doing. Go God!
Friday, March 23, 2012
You’ve probably heard marriage advice like this: “Be sure to put your husband on your to-do list,” or “Make sure you plan time in your schedule for your wife.” I’ve probably given that exact advice myself.
While I’m all for making your marriage and your spouse a priority, something my wife said to me convinced me that we should rethink the put-your-spouse-on-your-list thing.
Let me explain.
You see, your marriage is unlike any other relationship in your life. And it’s not just because you get to enjoy sex with your spouse and no one else. God designed the marriage relationship so that you and your spouse are one: physically, emotionally and spiritually. That is ONLY true of your marriage, and the implications are HUGE!
A New Outlook
It’s easy to treat your spouse as just another “to do” item. How many times do you see your husband or wife as one more demand on your oh-so-limited time and energy? How often do you see the things you do for your spouse in the same light as the things you do for your kids, your job, or your home? It is actually NOTHING like any of those things.
We need to renew our thinking about it. When we look at it through the lens of being “one flesh,” we can begin to see that giving our time and attention to our spouse is actually something for us not taking something from us. Yes, it’s actually upside down from how we normally look at it.
That’s how things often are in the Kingdom of God: upside down.
When you feed your marriage, you are also giving life to yourself. When you give lavishly to your spouse, you actually accrue the benefit. When you act unselfishly, you still get to receive from it.
How cool is that?
Re-Thinking the To Do List
Here are some examples of how to renew your perspective away from the “to do list” mentality.
- Say your wife asks you to pick something up at the grocery store on your way home so that she doesn’t have to go there for the fifth time in a week. Instead of being annoyed by the inconvenience at the end of your long work day, consider also buying her a little treat or some flowers when you stop, just to bless her. Do it without grumbling or complaining and let yourself really enjoy doing this small act of willing kindness.
- Say you know your husband is “in the mood” or “it’s been too long.” Rather than resisting his advances, putting him off for a future time, or complaining about how tired you are or how much the kids demanded of you all day, throw yourself into his arms willingly. Enjoy the connection and intimacy, even if you are too tired to get all worked up. Let yourself be blessed by his desire for you and by giving him pleasure. You can also get pleasure whether or not your get the “ultimate pleasure.”
- Say your wife has to run the kids to soccer practice after dinner and says on her way out the door that she’ll take care of the dishes when she gets back. Or maybe she even asks you to load the dishwasher while she is gone. Remind yourself that when you help her out, you are helping yourself out too. (Many women actually consider their husband doing dishes a form of foreplay.)
- Say your husband has to work late for the fifth night in a row. Rather than feeling neglected and annoyed and reminding him with guilt-laden overtones that he really needs to get the grass cut and the hedges trimmed, hire a local boy to do the work for him. Or go out and trim the hedged yourself. Greet him cheerily when he finally does get home and thank him for working so hard and being such a good provider. Watch what kind of welcome home kiss you’ll get for that!
Now that I’ve said all that, let me make something clear: You need to put your husband or wife on your to-do list.
OK, I’m kind of kidding around. What I actually mean is that you do need to be intentional about taking care of your spouse and your marriage, and that usually takes some planning and forethought. But when you do that, try thinking about it in a different light. When you do something deliberately to bless your spouse or to take care of your marriage, allow some of that blessing to flow back to you too - because it does!
Monday, March 19, 2012
Yikes! I can’t believe it’s been ten days since my last post.
Today I get the privilege of combining my two passions: marriage and worship. In addition to following marriage blogs, I also follow a bunch of worship blogs.
A while back I came across this message on the Brit blog called Worship Central. In addition to its application for me as a worship leader, I also thought immediately how the truth contained in this little blurb applies directly to marriage.
Watch the clip, but when you hear the term worship leader think of your role as a spouse, and when you hear worship team, substitute your marriage, and lastly, when you hear worship, think the way you love your spouse.
Direct YouTube link:
Culture vs. Strategy
I’m a planner and strategist by nature. My job as a product manager involves a lot of planning and strategy. I’m good at it. But what Nikki says about culture being more important than strategy is SO true. And sometimes I lose track of that fact.
There’s nothing wrong with planning or having deliberate strategies in your marriage. We need to have budgets. We need to plan vacations. We need to have strategies for dealing with conflict and stress.
But the truth is that one pound of culture is worth ten pounds of strategy. When the atmosphere of your marriage is right, planning and strategy become much easier, they become less critical, and they are certainly more effective.
So let’s look at the four cultural worship team principles from the video and apply them to marriage.
Serve with Gladness
A surrendered marriage is all about serving one another. When we have a culture of gladly serving and meeting our spouse’s needs, it makes the atmosphere satisfying, safe and enjoyable. The key here is “with gladness.” No one wants to be served reluctantly. Think about the last time you had a waiter that clearly did not enjoy waiting tables. Compare that experience to the last time you had one of those waiters that obviously loves what they do. It makes for an altogether different dining experience. Mediocre food with fantastic services is better than great food and an unpleasant waiter. It’s culture over strategy.
Give generously to your spouse, even to the point of discomfort. Two things happen when you give in a way that costs you something. First, it blesses the receiver even more. And second, it blesses you to know that you put your husband or wife ahead of your self. With the right attitude, sacrificial giving feels really good. It creates a culture of generosity and blessing instead of stinginess and self-centeredness. That's an enjoyable culture.
Encourage and Esteem
How you speak to one another greatly affects the atmosphere in your home and marriage. There’s a rule of thumb I’ve heard that says seven positive statements have the same emotional impact as one negative one. Be watchful over your words, your tone, and your body language when you communicate. Make it a habit to speak into the things you want to see rather than the things you see that you don’t like. Having a culture of honor means speaking respectfully at all times, freely expressing admiration, and each valuing the other for who God sees them to be.
Seek First the Kingdom
A marriage built on the principles of the Kingdom of God has an unshakable foundation. Keep God at the center of all you do. Pray together. Talk about what God is doing in your marriage. Remind your spouse of who God says they are. Speak the truth in love. Keep in mind that often times Kingdom principles are the opposite of what the world says, so it isn’t necessarily easy or natural. Having a Kingdom culture takes a conscious effort.
Take some time this week to give some conscious attention to the culture of your marriage. Talk together about the four areas mentioned here and identify ways you would like to improve the atmosphere in your relationship. And to do that you might need to develop some strategies and make some plans.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
This past weekend I attended the LIFT worship leader conference, held here in Atlanta and sponsored by Passion City Church, which is headed by Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin of Passion fame. During the weekend I had my first chance to hear the Chris Tomlin song called “White Flag.” I immediately thought to myself, there’s definitely a post in this song!
The chorus of the song goes like this:
We raise our white flags
We surrender all to you
All for you
We raise our white flag
The war is over Love has come
Your love has won
“But I’m not at war with my wife!” you say. “My husband and I aren’t doing battle!” Well, I’m glad for that, but that’s not really the kind of battle I mean.
The battle I’m referring to is a much more subtle one. In fact, the subtlety is the biggest problem with this particular conflict. It is a war we often wage without even being aware of it.
I’m talking about the battle for your self.
In marriage, as in other areas, we all have a natural tendency to push for what we see as our rights. Without thinking about it overtly, we promote our personal agendas, question whether or not things are “fair” to us, and push to have our expectations met.
It’s as natural and easy as breathing. It happens by default.
Raise the White Flag of Surrender
When I talk about a couple to living a Surrendered Marriage, I’m mainly talking about the surrender in this battle for self.
Here’s a strange truth: if you win this battle you actually lose, but if you give up this battle you win.
Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. It sounds backwards. But the truth is that a lot of Kingdom principles work completely in reverse: the last shall be first, lose your life to find it, the greatest will be the servant of all, etc.
If you are mostly fighting for your “self” (your rights, agenda, fair share and expectations), then you are hurting your marriage and doing damage to your spouse. And because you are one flesh, even if you win, you really lose. You lose intimacy in your relationship. You lose the joy of giving freely to another. You lose the delight found in delighting your spouse. You lose the atmosphere of respect and honor in your marriage.
So maybe it’s time to raise the white flag on this battle for self. I’m not saying you should lose the battle; I’m saying you should give it up. I'm asking you to surrender. Chose instead to wage an altogether different battle; one for your spouse and your marriage. That means laying aside your rights and expectations and choosing instead to focus on what you might give to your spouse in order to bless him or her.
Surrender your self, and let your marriage win!
Let Love Win
As the chorus above concludes, choose to let love win.
Love wins when you surrender into one another. Love wins when you let go of expectations and rights. Love wins when you give love to one another unconditionally and abundantly. Love wins when grace and mercy abound.
Love can really only win when you raise the white flag on the battle for self.
Monday, March 5, 2012
This is a follow up to last week’s Man-up Monday post to husbands about what I sense is the perhaps the most pressing problem for marriages in the church today: husbands afraid to stand up and lead. Today’s post is intended to help you avoid a few disasters as you step forward to lead your wife.
This post was inspired by something Sheila Gregiore wrote as part of her 29 Days to Great Sex series. (Concluding post of this great series is here, and has a complete list of all the posts). In the post in question, she describes how withholding sex from your partner or demanding certain things does great damage to a couple’s sex life.
I want to extrapolate that idea and apply it more generally to a husband’s leadership role. From my observations, withholding and demanding are two of the biggest leadership mistakes a husband can make.
Intentionally or not, we’ve all done it. We’ve all held back something we know our wife needs or wants in retribution for not getting what we want or feel we deserve.
Have you ever withheld affection when she’s refused or rebuffed your sexual advances? Have you ever backed off on communication with her when you feel she has acted disrespectfully toward you? Have you ever intentionally broadly withheld your input or guidance in response to feeling challenged about a decision you made? Have you ever backed off leading because you don’t like how she pushes you to lead more?
Here’s the deal when it comes to withholding: it doesn’t work. In fact it actually works against you. Sure it’s natural and easy to respond against our wives when we feel neglected, offended or challenged, but holding back from meeting her needs is only going to make the “problem” worse.
This may sound harsh, but withholding is basically an act of selfishness. It is, in effect, saying to your wife, “You aren’t giving me what I want, so I’m not going to give you what you want either.” What that does is perpetuate a cycle of selfishness in both of you. As each of you become reactive to not getting your needs met, you withdraw and withhold from each other further. It's a death spiral. When you refuse to love her, cherish her, connect with her, or lead her, she will tend to respond by becoming less interested in sex, less respectful, more confrontational and pushy.
You end up getting more of what you don’t want.
The other common leadership error husbands make in response to not getting what they want is to demand it. You probably already know what I’m going to say. Demanding doesn’t work any better than withholding.
Now it may be possible for you to initially get more of what you want by demanding it. Your wife may bow to your anger and frustration for a season, especially if she is afraid of you or fearful that your marriage is threatened. But it’s NEVER sustainable. It will damage your relationship and eventually things will crash and burn around you.
If you think to yourself, “I’m in charge, and I have a right to demand things from my wife,” you are not leading her; you are attempting to enslave her. Sorry if that seems harsh, but I’m just calling it like I see it.
Whether you are demanding her submission, her silent acquiescence to your decisions, her sexual availability, or her obedience, you are doing significant damage to your relationship. Eventually, she will flee your domination. She will eventually refuse your demands (typically in an emotional explosion), seek someone else who will treat her better, or worse yet, decide to abandon your marriage altogether.
Leading with Love
I want to remind you that you can be both strong and good in your leadership. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Jesus is your role model for leadership, and he was definitely very strong and bold, yet totally good and loving.
Don’t think I’m asking you to lead weakly by never asking for what you want. I am however, asking you to put your wife first, to be willing to lay down selfish demands and to stop withholding as way of manipulating her into giving to you. I am asking you to love her selflessly, regardless of how she responds. I am asking you to make your needs and wants know in a loving and non-demanding way. I am asking you to delight your wife with your love and to lead her in a way that adds joy to her life.
I’m asking you to love her like Jesus loves you.
You’ll be surprised that when you start loving your wife lavishly, giving to her according to her needs, without pre-condition or expectations, you will find that she will respond in kind. It may not be immediate or in the exact way you expect it, but when you pursue her unrelentingly with love, she cannot help but respond.
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