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Thursday, September 30, 2010
Perhaps you’ve heard the news story that’s brewing this week about a congressional race in Florida where democratic Rep. Alan Grayson fabricated a campaign ad depicting his opponent, Daniel Webster, as “Taliban Dan” for having supported a biblical view of marriage. Yikes! Is that really the way some people view those of us who support God’s design for marriage? More on that in a minute.

First to clarify the news story.

The ad clip apparently comes from a teaching Webster gave on marriage in 2009 (photo above is of him giving that teaching). He encourages husbands to journal, presumably about their marriages. Then he says, “Find a verse… Don’t pick the ones that say, ‘she should submit to me.’ It’s in the Bible, but pick the ones that you’re supposed to do. So instead, ‘love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.”  Good stuff.  I want to shout Amen!  But the ad clipped out everything but “She should submit to me. It’s in the Bible,” repeating the phrase “submit to me” over and over. It was an attempt to paint his opponent as a "fanatical fundamentalist," ultimately equating him with members of the Taliban.

Depending on your political leanings you can see a Sean Hannity clip here or an NPR story here, both of which include the political ad in question.

This is not meant to be a political post, but I just need to say I could never vote for anyone who would stoop to such deception as using part of someone’s words (the clip was cut in mid-sentence) to make it sound like they were saying the exact opposite of what they were actually saying. It is especially irking that Grayson refuses to back off the ad, despite being confronted with the truth.Oh well, that's politics.

What prompted this post, however, is not politics.  It is the grief I feel when I see biblical marriage so completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Sometimes I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, trying desperately to tell the truth in a clear manner, yet frustrated by the drumbeat of falsehood that is so prevalent. I had a similar post back here that was prompted by a Daily Mail (UK) article about a pair of Anglican Church leaders who had the audacity to preach what the Bible says about marriage. It actually spawned an entire series on “The Audacity of the Bridal Paradigm.” You can get to the whole series using the Notable Series sidebar tool.

Why is there such a pervasive misunderstanding about biblical marriage? Is it that it has been taught wrongly from the pulpits of our churches? Is it that the topic of biblical marriage has simply been neglected by pastors and church leaders? Is it the history of wrongly applied Christian marriage principles, leading to domineering and controlling husbands using biblical submission as a weapon to subjugate and oppress their wives?I don't really know.  Maybe it is all of these.

More importantly, what is the remedy for this malady? 

How do we get the truth out?

This cuts to the core of what is now my life’s mission and message and the purpose of this blog. The small group we are leading in our church with a few other couples is great starting point. There are also a dozen or so couples also participating by email in an online small group, receiving the same materials and exercises that the real-life group is getting.  Will some want to paint me as a fanatical fundamentalist?  Probably.  Especially if they don't bother to hear what I am really saying; if the ignore the heart of my message.

But I sense that this message of the bridal paradigm and of surrendered marriage needs to get out – really get out on a wide scale. It needs to get into the church, into small groups and into the pulpits. It needs especially to be promoted among the next generation, who are growing up without any frame of reference for biblical marriage. In fact they are getting the kind of stuff that Alan Grayson’s campaign put out: distortions and lies. But my heart grieves especially for them, because I think they have an opportunity to learn early the lessons it has taken me 28 years of marriage to get. If only someone will tell them.

I don’t pretend that it will be easy. But I do believe that it is essential. I also believe it will pay huge dividends in bringing about the reality that churches should be the place where marriages thrive.

If you agree with me, post at least an Amen in the comments section. I need to know I am not completely alone in this!!

Then maybe pass this blog onto a married friend who could use some help and hope in their marriage. Maybe even send it to your pastor.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Maybe it is a bit stereotypical to say that men don’t like to ask for directions. I admit it, the stereotype fits me pretty well. It’s stupid really, when I think about it, the way I’ll drive around in circles, fuming mad, when I have difficulty finding a destination. Why don’t I stop and ask for directions?

What is it that keeps men from wanting to ask for directions? Is it pride? Is it fear of looking weak and inept?

I’ve been thinking about why it is that there aren’t more men showing up in the comments of the marriage blogs I read, even though many are written by men. The same is true for this blog. I don’t get a lot of comments, but it is mostly women who post comments here. (Side note: the reader survey showed that 45% of my readers are male, however) I suppose there are statistics that show how women are more engaged in the blogosphere, something about their social nature or whatever.

But I wonder.  Is it that men are as uncomfortable asking for marital directions as they are when driving around town?

I am almost certain that for all of the couples who are participating in our marriage small group at church it was the wife’s idea to join. Why is that? I mean, I admit it, if I weren’t leading the thing, I probably would not run to sign up for it myself. But why is that so?

I don’t think I should draw too many significant conclusions about the lack of a male presence in the marriage blogosphere. But I would like to use the opportunity to encourage husbands to ask themselves this question:

Are you genuinely open to receiving martial directions?

More to the point, ask yourself if maybe you are in a little denial about whether or not you could use some help, encouragement, fresh ideas or renewed focus on your wife and your marriage? With this Man-Up Monday post, I’m encouraging my male readers to challenge themselves again not to become complacent. There is always more available to you than what you are walking in right now with your wife. More passion. More intimacy. More trust. More openness and freedom. More sex (yeah, now I have your attention). Get engaged for the sake of your wife and marriage.

Let me put this in the way of a challenge:

Set it in your mind to LEARN something new about marriage every week.  Even better, set it in your mind to DO something to improve YOUR marriage every week.

As part of that I’d also ask you to also consider getting engaged and involved in the conversations here at Journey to Surrender. I think you could lend some much needed additional perspective from the trenches of real marriages.

Note:  Due to a technical glitch, this Man Up Monday post is coming out on a Wednesday.  And no, it isn't because I got lost and refused to ask for directions...

Saturday, September 25, 2010
I’ve wanted to do this post for a while now and was finally prompted to pose this question by an exercise in our marriage small group for this week. I wanted to ask for your perspectives before writing my own thoughts later this week.

The question is this:
What do you do when you and your spouse are simply unable to agree on a decision that needs to be made?
In asking this I’m assuming the normal proposed compromises, prayers and conversations have all already taken place, but there is still an impasse.

Here are some possibilities to consider of what a husband should do at that point:
  1. Wait for her to agree
  2. Wait until God changes either person’s mind in the matter.
  3. Give in for the sake of keeping the “peace”
  4. Make the decision based on his convictions
You can answer from either of two perspectives:
  • How you actually handle this in your own marriage?
  • How do you think it should be handled?
I value your thoughts and would greatly appreciate hearing from you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In a recent article for the Marriage Channel entitled “Expectation vs. Reality: Straight Talk on Marital Redemption,” author Paul David Tripp was interviewed by Shawn McEvoy about his book “What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.” It's a great article with lots of insights about how the expectations we bring into marriage crash into the realities of marriage life. Go read it, it's really good. 

But this is the part that really caught my attention:
The DNA of sin is selfishness. That means that sin in its fundamental form is antisocial because I care more about me than I do anyone else. I shrink my world down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. That means that I will reduce the people in my life to vehicles or objects. If you help me get what I want, I love you cards and flowers. If you stand in the way of what I want, I am spontaneously irritated and angry.
Then I came across this post by Corey at Simple Marriage. He asks whether things that lead to success in the business enterprise arena, such as good communication skills, leadership, passion, perseverance, focus, patience, self-confidence are enough to also lead to a happy and fulfilled marriage. Why do we see so many "successful" people's marriage fall apart?  He asserts, and I think he is absolutely spot on, that these things, while helpful, are not enough, for one very important reason.
While career success can often be achieved through a self-serving approach, a healthy marriage will only be possible when both spouses are able to serve each other. Regular self-sacrifice is a key ingredient to a thriving marriage and family life. In fact, it may be one of the most important traits of a successful spouse.
Congratulations if you are still reading. I know starting a post talking about sin and selfishness is not exactly the way to draw readers in, but the thing is, God is speaking to me so loudly about this today that I am compelled to pass the message on.

The thing is, when I try to get God’s heart over this topic, I don’t detect an angry, frustrated God shaking a finger at me. No, I hear a tender hearted Father, longing to lead me into fulfillment and joy. Here is what I hear him saying:
Dear child, my heart for you is that you would find your way to a wondrous and deeply fulfilling marriage. That's how I made it and meant it to be. The path to the deepest and most intimate relationship is the path my Son, Jesus, took. When I sent him to you as your Bridegroom, he came bearing my love. And he gave this love extravagantly and selflessly, he gave himself completely, not in order to get something from you, but simply because he wanted intimacy with you.  Forever. The way of deepest intimacy is the way of selfless and extravagant love.

Beloved, I have shown you the way. Follow my lead.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Back in my post about the importance of getting away together for time away from the kiddies, I spoke of how important it is for your kids that you invest in and protect your marriage. I was struck again this week by how important our marriages are to our kids. Sure a strong marriage creates a healthy home environment, but I also believe that the way we live out our marriages in front of our children will have generational impact that reaches far beyond the here and now.

The skills we learn in the microcosm of marriage are really life skills that we have the opportunity to demonstrate for our kids. For example, learning gracious submission to authority is something that will come in handy for our children as an employee, as a student, and as a future spouse. Learning to deny one’s self for the sake of another will not only help them in their future marriages, but also in other relationships. Learning to disagree but maintain honor, to serve and respect other people, to give generously and to live genuinely all are skills for a fruitful and meaningful life.

Most important of all, because marriage is designed to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus (our bridegroom) and us (his bride), what we most demonstrate in a healthy marriage is a vibrant, thriving love relationship with the Lord.

Please hear my heart on this. I’m not writing this to heap guilt upon you or to make you feel even worse when your marriage is struggling. I know I have given my kids plenty of examples of what marriage should NOT be like in the many years they’ve been watching me and Jenni.

My purpose for this post is really two fold. First, I want to just remind you that your children are learning from you whether you intend for them to be or not. Just be aware of that fact, and let it serve as an additional inspiration to make your marriage great. Second, I want to encourage you to parent into situations where you’ve acted toward your spouse in front of your children in a way that runs counter to how you know you should act.

Let them see the apology as well as the ill temper. Let them see the make-up affection as well as the disagreement and subsequent withdrawal. Talk with them plainly about what you did and how you wish you’d have done it differently (in a way that is age-appropriate, of course). Let them learn along with you.

Ask yourself what your marriage is teaching your children, not only about marriage, but other important life skills. Are there some I have missed that you’d like to add to my list?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

While preparing for our marriage small group this week I came across this passage of scripture from The Message paraphrase version.
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.  Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
Yeah.  Love like that. Love extravagantly. Give yourself completely.

Brilliant. Hard, but brilliant.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
A guest-post on Marriage Gems by Dr. Scott Haltzman, which stated that “we all married the wrong person,” must have struck quite a nerve. She got over 400 comments and 40,000 hits in just a few days. Coincidentally, I also received an email newsletter from Family Life along the same theme, with a challenge to couples in the form of a quote from Zig Ziglar:
I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. But I do know that if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. It is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person.

All this got me thinking about the theological question of whether the plan of God for our lives includes a specific spouse, i.e. “the one.”

I have no formal theological training upon which to draw. It seems to me that this is a rather complex question that brings in all kinds of issues like the transcendence and omniscience of God as well as predestination and other questions. Heady stuff, indeed!

No Easy Answers

For me, I could argue it either way or more accurately, neither way. If you decide that there is a single “the one” mate, hand-picked for you by God, then it kind of turns marriage into a pass/fail test of sorts. If you pick “the one” God intended, you live life happily ever after. But if not, well, then not so much - too bad for you. That doesn’t seem to be the kind of God I know.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, you have to decide that marriage is just a crap shoot, and maybe God doesn’t really care. That doesn’t sit right with me either. I mean, he knows the numbers of hairs on my head, after all.

All I know is that I feel blessed by God to have Jenni as my wife. It certainly feels to me as if our match was a hand-picked gift of God, even though I can’t make a theological argument for it. From our first magical kiss I knew there was something about Jenni that made her “right” for me. I just knew. I can’t explain it, but here we are almost 33 years later and I still feel the same way. No, it hasn’t always been easy – we’ve had ups and downs as any married couple does. But for me, I have no doubt that she is “The One.”

So, I’m not really satisfied with either a yes or no answer to the title question. What about you? Do you believe that there is such a thing as “The One?”

P.S.  You may have noticed I missed yesterday’s “Man Up Monday” post. Due to a heavy writing investment for our small group and an otherwise busy season of life right now, I will likely be posting a little less often. So, for the time being “Man Up Monday” will become an occasional series rather than a weekly feature.

Saturday, September 11, 2010
I believe God wired us for fascination. We all have an inner longing to be fascinated by something. His primary purpose for creating us in this way is to draw him to himself, the one who is endlessly fascinating. But I also think that the innate part of us that longs to be fascinated impacts us in our marriage relationship as well (of course, to me there are many parallels between the spiritual and marital).

The Science of Fascination

I am reading a book by Tara Parker-Pope called “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.” Although she does not write from Christian world view, some of the science of marriage is very interesting and gives us insight into just how God created us. She recently wrote an article in the New York Times that was quoted by Corey of Simple Marriage in his email newsletter. I’ll excerpt it here:
Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain- scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic love that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.

Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy, says Arthur Aron, a professor of social psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The goal is to find ways to keep injecting novelty into the relationship. The activity can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or something a little more unusual or thrilling -- like taking an art class or going to an amusement park.

The theory is based on brain science. New experiences activate the brain's reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner. (They are also the brain chemicals involved in drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment.

But several experiments show that novelty -- simply doing new things together as a couple -- may help bring the butterflies back, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship.
Although she is focusing in her article on infusing your date-night with a little variety, the science clearly has broader applicability to the marriage relationship in general.

Finding Fascination

In short, if you are feeling like you need to rejuvenate your marriage, try mixing things up a little by adding a bit of variety and adventure.

Do something together that will fascinate you, stretch you, introduce you to a new experience or challenge you intellectually. If your date night has become too routine, try some of the suggestions above. Bedroom boredom? Do something new in bed (or better, NOT in bed) that you both agree upon – be willing to step outside the box a little. The possibilities for fascination are endless: find a new musical artist you both enjoy and go to a concert, go to a new park or hike a new trail, or take up a new hobby together.

If you are feeling the doldrums setting in, get your imaginative and creative juices flowing and then be determined to act on it!!  Don't stop until you feel that sense of fascination again. Don't settle for living bored.

What have you done lately to breathe some fresh air of fascination into your marriage? Let our readers learn from your experience!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I don’t focus much on children in my blog, but truthfully, for couples with children, it’s impossible to ignore the significant impact that your children have on your marriage (and vice-versa). Last week I posted about the importance of getting away from your kids for some serious alone time. This week, as part of my Man Up Monday series, I want to talk specifically about the critical role of fathers.

From my observations I would say there are two primary areas where men tend to disengage and turn the reigns of leadership and responsibility over to their wives. One is in spiritual matters (I did a Man-up Monday post on that back here). The other is in child rearing, my subject for today.

Shifting Societal Attitudes

Though I think the attitude that “child-rearing is women’s work” is less prevalent today than it has been in the past, men who refuse to take a significant and appropriate role in their children’s lives do so to the peril of their family. I believe that fatherlessness is epidemic in our society and contributes significantly to many of the social and economic ills we face today. I quoted a while back that research indicates that 40%of children born in the US in 2008 were born out of wedlock. That number is stunning, and it is creating an entire generation with an orphan spirit.

There are many fatherhood issues I could choose to focus on, but I’ll narrow it to three for today.

The Father Heart of God

I focus rather heavily here on the bridegroom aspect of God’s nature found in Jesus as it relates to marriage. But the father-heart of God is an equally important dimension of God’s nature. I believe that when we begin to get a personal revelation of this fabulous dimension of God it can really propel our earthly fatherhood role to new heights. It is also true that relating rightly to your children, as a reflection of our heavenly father, can greatly increase their understanding of who God is and how he feels about them. (That is not to say that kids cannot overcome negative father images by divine revelation.)

A Different Perspective

I believe fathers and mothers bring something different to the parenting partnership and that it is important to have both. Jennifer Anniston’s recent pronouncement that “women don’t need a man to have children” notwithstanding, the truth is that fathers play a critical role in the healthy development of children, a fact which I believe is born out by much research. The difference in contributions to parenting became evident this past weekend when my wife and I flew together across the country to drop our middle daughter off at school. Jenni (my wife) was focused on nurturing my daughter, her safety, and her emotional well-being, while I was focused more on practical and logistical matters. My daughter needed both.

Your Involvement Speaks Volumes

Lastly, your involvement in your children’s lives speaks volumes to your wife about your love for her. It tells your wife that you place a priority on this critically important aspect of her life. Your gift of time with your kids not only gives your wife a much-needed break from the stress of child-rearing, but tells her that you share in her burden to see that your children are well cared for.

So let me encourage you to go a step further than you‘ve gone before in fathering your kids. Love them, discipline them, spend time with them, instruct them, and encourage them. Father them.

Be an active partner with your wife in the raising of your children and help her launch them into their destiny.

Thursday, September 2, 2010
I’ve taken the plunge. My wife and I have signed up to lead a marriage small group at our church this fall. It’s a leap of faith in a way, but it also feels like a logical next step in my desire to help empower and equip couples to pursue great biblical marriages.

Why am I posting about it here? Two reason, actually. The first is to ask if any of you have experience either in leading or participating in such a marriage group. If you do, I would deeply appreciate hearing about your experiences, the good and the bad. I’ve led lots of small groups, so I’m fine with the general leadership issues, but I am interested if you have any suggestions for a marriage group in particular that would help me steer clear of the ditches! Please either email me or leave a comment with your suggestions and tips.

Second, I am inviting you to become a virtual member of our small group. I’ll explain what that means and how to sign up in a bit, but first let me explain why I’m doing this.

Seeking Practical Advice?

Next to the topic of intimacy, the survey showed the highest level of interest by readers was for more practical marriage suggestions. My sense is that it isn’t clear what exactly you should DO to pursue the kind of surrendered marriage described here in my blog. I spend a lot of time laying the scriptural foundations of the bridal paradigm, and my focus here is mostly oriented toward changing your marriage mindset. But I think many of you are asking, “But how do I actually start on this Journey to Surrender?”

My intention for the small group is to balance the teaching dimension with real-life practical exercises and honest dialogue about applying the principles on a daily basis. It is my first chance to test drive the stuff I’ve been writing, and I’m inviting you to come along for the ride. The small group is centered on 12 biblical principles that I’ve identified as the keys to a surrendered marriage. Each week will focus on a different principle and will include specific insights and exercises for husbands and wives separately as well as together as a couple.

Join With Us!
Please consider joining the FREE 13 week online version of this small group to receive the weekly insights and exercises via email.  To join just click on the survey button below and join as a Recipient.  I am considering putting up a private discussion blog for the group. If that is something you are also interested in, please join as a Participant (this forum is open to small group participants only).

Sign up today, because the group starts next week!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I was listening recently to the Dennis Prager talk radio show. He spent a thirty minute segment exploring the question of whether kids should always be included in vacations or if it is sometimes appropriate for parents to get away without the kids.

I listened with some interest as several women callers lamented the fact that they rarely, if ever, got time alone with just their husbands. One woman, married for 20 years, had never been away from home with just her husband. Truthfully, I find that astounding and dismaying.

This is a topic I believe in very strongly. The discussion struck such a chord with me that I decided I needed to post about it immediately, even though I have other posts lined up and ready.

It is critically important that every husband and wife get away alone together every year, even if it is just for a weekend or a night at a local hotel. Do it more if time, finances and logistics will permit. While regular date nights are also important, there is just something different about leaving home together overnight. It allows you to get completely out of your domestic element, allows you to focus exclusively on each other for an extended period of time and allows you to regain or reconnect with your identity as a couple.

Do It For Your Kids

Although on the surface you may think this is a selfish and neglectful thing to do to your children, in fact quite the opposite is true. The best thing you can do for your kids is to assure the strength and longevity of your marriage. Sometimes that will require an investment of time that purposefully excludes them.

Do It While They Are Young

And don’t make an excuse that the kids are too young or procrastinate by saying you will wait until they are older. Make it a habit early in your marriage. Because of the demands of younger children on your time and energy, it may be even more important in the early years than later. My wife and I took a weekend getaway when our first daughter was only four months old and also took a trip to Germany when our second daughter was ten months old. Bot h of these were a huge emotional challenge for my wife on many levels, but we are so thankful that we did these anyway. It is always hard to go, but we have never regretted a single getaway. And we’ve had many in our 28+ years of marriage.

Do It Even Before Kids

A word to couples who don’t yet have children: overnight getaways are just as important for you now as they will be when the kids begin to arrive. Going away has the same benefits for your relationship now as it will during your child-rearing years. And establishing the habit of time away as a priority now makes it that much easier to keep it going then. Seriously, even if it feels a little silly to leave an empty house at home, just going away to a local hotel for dinner and an overnight stay can have a rejuvenating effect on your relationship. It’s true. Trust me.

Do It With the Right Mindset

One of the callers of the radio show mentioned that when they go away together they always just end up talking about the kids anyway. Big mistake! This is your chance to extract yourself from your parental responsibilities and sow into your marriage. Sure, your children are a big and important part of your life, but when you get away together you should be intentional about your focus on each other and your relationship. Enjoy each other’s company, remember who you are as a couple, dream together, talk about and celebrate your marriage, and pour affection all over each other. Have some great, uninhibited sex.

Do It For Someone Else

My wife and I so appreciate the fact that we have often had family members and friends who have kept our kids so we could get away that we now are mindful to take the opportunity to return the favor to other couples, especially young couples with kids. In fact, swapping kid-watching with friends is a great way to manage a getaway when you don’t have grandparents or other family members nearby to help out.

If you’ve had the benefit of friends or family watching your kids for you, pay it forward. According to the reader survey, many of my readers are in the latter stages of marriage and perhaps in a better place to help out younger couples by keeping their kids. If you make this kind of investment in other marriages, it will not return void. I promise.

What is your experience with husband-wife getaways sans kiddos? Do you do it? Has it been as good for your marriage as it has been for ours? Have you paid it forward?

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