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Friday, April 29, 2011
I had no plans to comment on today’s royal wedding. Truthfully, I had plans to avoid it altogether, even though my lovely wife is an avowed anglophile. She loves all things English. Maybe it’s because her grandfather came from Liverpool, I don’t know. She went to a high tea yesterday in honor of the royal wedding, and you can be sure she was up at the wee hours to watch the big event.

Me? Not so much. But the TV was on all morning as I got ready for work, and I must admit that the regality and pageantry were fascinating to watch, even peripherally as I did. When I heard the first few sentences of the message, delivered by the Rt. Reverend Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, I quickly strode over the TV to catch the rest.

Was I really hearing what I thought I was hearing?
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St. Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Wow, this guy really had it right, I thought. I guess I didn’t have very high expectations that anything meaningful would come out of the event, but here was a high church official who really understood about biblical marriage.

And it got better. A minute later he said this:
William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.

A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but if the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

There it was, much of my message about marriage. And by some estimates two billion (that with a B) people were hearing it. He used different words than I do, but he was telling the whole world how marriage is a reflection of Jesus and the church. And how that means we are live a life of love that reaches beyond our selves; generous, selfless, sacrificial love.

He went on to say more things I could have said, and have said here, though not quite so eloquently and certainly not with such a nice accent.
Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom.

And I probably didn’t spell harbour with the “our.” Actually I'm sure I didn’t even use the word harbour. Still, the idea that you need to work on you is huge and so against the prevailing cultural norm. This was no watered down sermon. I loved it!

And next:
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden.

I have to admit I’ve actually never really thought of this. How as we move away from God, we place demands on our spouse that they become our all in all, filling our every need, essentially becoming “our substitute savior.”

And lastly, as message of grace.
We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive; we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

I would be hard pressed to write a more poignant and concise message on marriage as God designed it. It was full of grace and truth, yet very accessible and inoffensive.

Brilliant, as some of my British friends like to say. Simply brilliant.

Do you agree? How did it the royal wedding message strike you?

Thursday, April 28, 2011
I was recently reading an article about how the “seven-year itch” has become the “three-year itch.” I am dismayed at the idea that after just three (or even seven) years most marriages dissolve to the point where marital dissatisfaction and lack of intimacy drive people to seek it from someone else.

I am convinced that one reason is because husbands and wives often stop pursuing each other. It’s easy and even natural to back off the pre-marital pursuit once we have captured our spouse in the bonds of marriage. After all, we are no longer attempting to “win” them because we’ve already “won” them. He or she is now mine “until death do us part,” right?

Pursuit = Desire

To more or less of a degree we all want to be pursued by our spouse, because pursuit is a clear sign of desire, and we want to know we are still desired by the one we have given our life to. This need to feel desired by our spouse never stops, even after years of marriage. In some ways it is needed even more after years of marriage.

Pursuit, in the form of being proactively attentive to your spouse’s emotional, spiritual and sexual needs, tells him or her that you want them and that you want to satisfy them.

Pursuit = Commitment

Pursuit says to your spouse, “I would still choose you over any other.”

Continuing to pursue your spouse after marriage will also tell him or her that your pre-marital pursuit was genuine and more than just a game you played to get them to the altar. Your relentless and continual pursuit of your spouse makes it clear that you are in this for the long haul and that you will always want them.

Pursuit = Passion

Pursuit brings excitement and keeps passion stirred up. Pursuit says, “I want you bad enough to keep coming after you until I get you.” Pursuit says that my desire is to be close to you, even closer than we’ve been before in every area of our life together (emotional, spiritual and sexual…).

Pursuit = Pleasure

How wonderfully pleasurable it is when pursuit ends in capture! Pursuit makes capture more enjoyable and rewarding both for the pursuer and the pursued. Intimacy is enjoyed at a deeper level when you know your spouse is eager for it and is willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

What Does Pursuit Look Like?

What does it mean to continually pursue your spouse? Think first of the kinds of things you did when you were pursuing him or her before you were married. Consider too what you might do today, knowing your spouse as you do now, if you had to woo them all over again.

Here are just a few ideas that come to mind:
  • Pay extra attention to your appearance. Dress up your wardrobe and pick things you know your spouse likes. Shave your face again before bed or going out together. Fix your make-up before your husband comes home.
  • Put a little extra planning and thought into your dates (heck, have dates in the first place!).
  • Wear cologne and perfume that is your spouse’s preference whether it is yours or not. Freshen it up before you meet or before bed.
  • Write little notes, texts, or emails to let your spouse know you are thinking of them. Make it sweet or sexy as your spouse prefers.
  • Next time you are in a store for something else, pick up a little treat, snack or other surprise that you know your spouse likes. Tell them, “I saw this and thought of you.” Even better, “I was thinking of you, so when I saw this I just had to get it for you.”
  • Let your hello or goodbye kiss linger another 15 or 30 seconds longer than it would normally.
  • When your spouse is across the house or outside somewhere, when you are both in the middle of doing something else, go find him or her, give a luscious kiss, and walk away without a word. If they ask why, say, “I just needed that.”
  • Draw your spouse a bath, pour a glass of wine for them, light some candles and lead them to it. Bonus: help him or her out of their clothes.

The possibilities are endless, and as you can see from the list above, it doesn’t have to be something huge or involved. The important thing is to be consistent in showing you are still in pursuit of your husband or wife.

Pursuit will look different for every couple, but the message should be the same: “I want you!”

What do you do to let your sweetheart know that they are still your sweetheart? Can you think of some other ways in which you might pursue your spouse? 

 Write your ideas in a comment below and then go do it today!

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Recommended Related Post:

Taking your marriage off of autopilot through Watchfulness
Use a Little Love List to help you in your pursuit

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Increasingly lately I am hearing from people in troubled marriages who are looking for answers. Their words are full of frustration, fear and pain.

Some, such as a commenter on my last post about learning to see your spouse as God sees them, say they have tried what I propose as God’s design for marriage and claim it simply does not (or didn’t) work for them.

There are few pains as deep and lasting as those that come from a troubled or failed marriage. I understand that. And I know that God’s heart breaks with the broken-hearted. So what I offer here is not in any way an attempt on my part to diminish or dismiss the very real pain many feel who look to God and the Bible for answers but don’t get the results they seek.

Fact vs. Truth

The bottom line, when it comes to living a life of faith, is that we must learn to separate the facts from the truth. This is more than a matter of semantics.

The facts are what we perceive; what we see and feel. The facts are very real, yet they are transient and subject to interpretation.

The truth is what we believe, regardless of the facts. The truth is even more real than the facts, though it is often hard for us to see it that way. And the truth is unchangeable.

It’s not popular today to believe in absolutes. We are told that all truth is relative and that no-one has the right to claim they have “the” truth. Even worse, those of us who do believe in absolute truth are accused of being closed minded and judgmental. I suppose you can lump us truth-believers in with Jesus, who ended up being cruelly crucified for proclaiming absolute truth.

What Does God Say?

For me the search for truth is the search to hear what God has to say. God is a good Father, who loves to speak to his children. He speaks in all kinds of ways. Of course The Bible is our master reference for truth, but we can also hear from Him through prayer, pictures, nature, dreams, impressions, visions, and through other people. All this comes by way of the Holy Spirit, who the Bible says leads us into all truth.

Jesus is the ultimate truth bearer. From what I read in the Word about him, his understanding of truth almost never had anything to do with what he saw and felt in the natural. In fact, in most cases, the truth he proclaimed and operated under ran in direct opposition to his circumstances.
  • Jesus slept peacefully in the boat through a terrifying and fierce storm.
  • Lazarus was dead. Three days dead. That didn’t stop Jesus from raising him to life.
  • The woman with the issue of blood spent her life looking for medical answers. One touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment was all it took to be instantly healed.
  • Where there was nothing but water, Jesus saw wine.
  • To Jesus, two pennies (from a poor widow) was more than a vast treasure (given by a rich man).Yep, Kingdom math.
  • Dozens of times Jesus beat up the Pharisees for exalting facts over truth. “The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.” “They worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”

The Gospels are full of Jesus radically injecting truth into the facts.
This side of heaven we are only going to understand in part, and we’re going to get some stuff wrong. But to me that is no reason not to go hard after truth. I want to pursue with abandon the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven to the point where the facts and circumstances of my life don’t dissuade me from it. I’m not there yet, but I'm not finished yet either.

The Facts and Truth of Your Marriage

Have you prayed for years for an unsaved spouse? Keep praying, because the truth is that prayer changes things, even if not in our time-frame or in the manner we deem best.

Have you been bitterly disappointed when the love you give your spouse doesn’t seem to be returned in kind? Keep giving love, because God calls us to love like Jesus loves: unconditionally.

Have you chosen the path of surrender, only to see your spouse frequently take advantage of your selflessness? Keep surrendering for the sake of your marriage, because the way of surrender is God’s way for marriage.

Does your marriage seem hopeless? Don’t give up, because the God of hope dwells inside you.

I want to encourage you to relentlessly seek God’s truth about marriage in general and about your marriage in particular. Never stop asking how God sees your spouse and gaining his perspective on the facts and circumstances that you face.

Do you have some truth to share that shed light on the facts of your own experiences? Leave a comment below.

Here are a few  helpful links for those in painful
and difficult marriage circumstances:
What if My Spouse Doesn't Respond (Part 1) by Emmerson Eggerichs
What if My Spouse Doesn't Respond (Part 2) by Emmerson Eggerichs
My Response is My Responsibility by Emmerson Eggerichs

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Got your attention with that headline, didn’t I? But what you are thinking is not what I mean…

If you are looking from some frank talk about sex, go check out the series going on now at One Flesh Marriage entitled, “The Sexual Intimacy You Always Wanted.” You’ll find new posts on this important topic all week long this week from five different Christian Marriage Bloggers, including yours truly. You’ll find my entry here.

What I actually mean by the title above relates to a post I did last week entitled “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.” If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I encourage you to go back and check it out. In that post I explained why it is so important to invest your time and attention in getting to really know your spouse. Mostly what I referred to had to do with what you could learn through interaction, observation and conversation – by what you can discern in the natural.

As important as it is to know your spouse intimately in the natural, it is even more important, I believe, to gain a genuine understanding of your spouse’s spirit. What I mean by that is to discern who they really are in the deepest part of their being, what the Bible calls the innermost being. Who were they were created to be? Find out the answer to the question, “What does God see when He looks at him/her?” because God sees their destiny.

Why is this “knowing” so important?

The first reason it’s important for you to understand how God sees your spouse is that in marriage the two of you really are one, which includes one in spirit, soul and body. If you are to have intimacy in the realm of the spirit, you have to see, believe in and celebrate the spirit of your spouse. You are called into your individual destiny but as a couple you each play a big part in the other’s walking out the call of God on their lives.

Jenni and I share very different callings, her in working with children and in being a spiritual mother to some in the next generation. My calling is in worship, songwriting and marriage. But we partner together in everything we do. We take every opportunity to minister together. For example, she might attend a worship conference with me, and I might support her teaching at a children’s ministry conference by leading worship there.

But even if we are ministering separately, I am part of what she does and she is part of what I do. We are one, and we celebrate, encourage and share all that we are and do.

Loving “As If”

The second reason for understanding the spirit (true nature and destiny) of your spouse is that it helps you to have the grace you need to look past some of the stuff you see in the natural that doesn’t necessarily agree with who they really are. This is a key component to loving your husband or wife “as if” they have already come into the full maturity of who they are destined to become.

Seeing your spouse as God does is a critical part of loving your spouse with the love of God. And it is a key component of marital intimacy.

An Eternal Lens

The third reason for knowing your spouse’s spirit is that it can give you an eternal lens through which to interpret some of their actions and behaviors.

For example, I know that my wife is called to be a spiritual mother to others, particularly those in the next generation. One of the ways she walks that out is that for years she has faithfully brought food every week to the young prayer warriors of night watch at the Atlanta International House of Prayer. If I didn’t understand and agree with her calling, I might deem that to be a waste of our money or a waste of her time, perhaps preferring her to stay home on Thursday nights instead of trudging over to the IHOP. Instead, I think it’s awesome that they call her the “mom” of the night watch.

Consider another example. Suppose your husband seems overly talkative and you are constantly waiting on him when you are trying to leave church or a gathering of friends. Instead of being annoyed and impatient, if you saw that God made him a “people-connector” for the purpose of extending the love of Christ to others, you might be a little more willing to wait patiently or even join him as he engages with others.

Maturing Toward Their Destiny

Having this kind of eternal perspective can also allow you to identify immature expressions of characteristics God has placed inside your spouse. If your wife seems overly compassionate and wants to help out every needy person who comes across her path, rather than quashing her compassion or deriding her for it, help her to channel it positively and perhaps balance it with some of your own discernment. Rather than fighting against her nature, help her mature in it.

Learn to use your spiritual understanding to nurture and encourage your spouse toward their destiny. Both of you will be able to better interpret what God is doing as you encounter various life circumstances that otherwise might not make sense without a deeper understanding of who you are individually and who you are as a couple according to the Kingdom of God.

How can I know?

Maybe this “knowing your spouse’s spirit” seems a little mystical and hyper-spiritual. Maybe you are interest in the idea but are wondering how you can gain this kind of insight into your spouse’s true nature?

It is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), including the truth of how God sees your spouse. As believers, we have access to that information through prayer, as we seek to discern who they really are. Consider the apostolic prayer I shared last week from Ephesians 1, and ask for “wisdom and revelation.” It is a perfect and biblical prayer for you to pray concerning your spouse.

Pray and seek and be open to new revelation. Talk together about what you hear from the Lord. It is true that we only see in part, so counsel with each other and with trusted church leaders and friends as you go after a deeper understanding of who your spouse really is in their innermost being.

When you look beneath the “covers” of the natural and into the eternal, what you see just might surprise you!

Monday, April 11, 2011
I am super excited to have been selected by my blogger friends Kate and Brad Aldrich of One Flesh take part in their series on sexual intimacy.

They chose five of their favorite marriage bloggers and asked us each the same five questions on marital intimacy.  They are featuring each blogger's answers on a different day as part of a series "The Sexual Intimacy You Have Always Wanted."

I am running behind getting the notice out.  The first post, from Julie Sibert of "Intimacy in Marriage" actually was posted yesterday.  My post went up today.

Be sure to go check it out and leave a comment.  And don't forget to check back for the answers from the rest of the bloggers.  I'm sure there will be great insights from all.

Also help Brad and Kate spread the word about this important series.  Post it on your Facebook wall or Tweet it to you friends.

Saturday, April 9, 2011
You’ve heard the idiom, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” or similarly, “Ignorance is bliss.”

When it comes to your spouse, these little pearls of wisdom are completely wrong!

I’ve alluded in my last few posts, “Living Deeper” and “Choose the Good Stuff,” to how important it is to really KNOW your husband or wife. As Kate at One Flesh Marriage recently posted, and as I’ve said here frequently intimacy is really about being known completely (and I add being loved and accepted unconditionally). If you want intimacy in your marriage, you have to really know your spouse.

How much do you invest in truly knowing your spouse?

I would venture to say that no other endeavor is as critical to marital bliss as knowing your spouse at the deepest level possible.

The limits of that word “know” is a little like our paltry English translation of the word “love.” In biblical Greek there are actually several different words for love, which paint a vastly deeper and more colorful picture of love than our common and deflated English definition, which is mostly akin to a kind of fleeting infatuation. But I digress - that’s another post for another day.

How do you know?

There are probably a dozen different Greek words I could apply to this topic of knowing your spouse (and apply equally, incidentally, to our knowing God), but I’m going to just pick one for today’s post.

Ginosko is one of the more common Greek terms we translate to mean know. It means more than mere head knowledge, but implies a kind of experiential understanding. The Jews even used this word as an idiom for sex (now that is real knowing!).

How do you come to Ginosko your wife or husband? It comes mostly through the continual investment of time and attention; by making a daily conscious choice to put your spouse first in your consideration. I’ll point you to another Greek word, Epistamai, means “to put one's attention on, fix one's thoughts on, to turn one's self or one's mind to, put one's thought upon a thing.”

Here are a few questions to jog your thinking:
  • How often do you consider your spouse’s feelings or preferences in the hundreds of little daily decisions you make?
  • How often do you ask questions to get at the “why” behind something your spouse thinks or feels?
  • How often do you and your spouse dream out loud together about your future?
  • How much of your conversations are consumed with your schedules, plans and to-do lists?
  • How often do you discuss your spiritual life and examine together what God is doing in your lives, your home, your kids, or your marriage?
  • Do you find yourselves mostly talking about problems or do you spend equal time talking about the good things that are happening and being thankful for your marriage and spouse?
  • Do you allow your spouse to change and grow and does your knowledge of them change and grow along with them, or do you have the “in a box” and assume you already know them as well as you can?
Truthfully, we don’t want to settle just for Ginosko. Instead let’s go for Epiginosko – “to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, know well.” This is the word Paul used in his Ephesians 1 apostolic prayer:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Eph 1:17 (NIV)

Wisdom and Revelation!  What an outstanding way to pray for your marriage!

And this leads me to my next post, in which I’ll examine the role of the Holy Spirit in helping you know your spouse beyond what you see and experience in the natural.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
My how time flies when life gets crazy! I have only been home five days in the last three weeks and it has put me way behind on posting. I am determined to do better, because I have quite a backlog of topics to cover. So let’s get to it!

You’ve probably heard the expression “an inch deep and a mile wide.” It refers to our human propensity to skim the surface of things, of many different things, rather than exploring a few things in greater depth. As the pace of life get’s faster, the temptation (and perhaps even the necessity) to only touch things lightly and move on increases. As our attentions become more divided, our desire for instant and effortless gratification pushes us toward an evermore hectic existence. Life begins to feel like a ride on Disney World’s Space Mountain, as we careen through the darkness, each endeavor popping into view for only a brief instant before the next things steals our attention.

This pretty much describes my life as of late. The same crazy travel schedule that has precluded me from posting has also caused my to-do list to pile up immeasurably, and the pressure to get things accomplished and back under control has, quite frankly, sucked much of the enjoyment out of things that otherwise should be enjoyable. There is a continual undercurrent of thought that causes me question whether I should be focusing on something else instead of whatever I am currently doing.

Last night I was catching up on my vast Google Reader backlog as I was enjoying (not!) being repeatedly put on hold while trying to resolve an internet problem with my service provider with a helpful (not!) woman in India. I came across this quote from a post at the CoupleThings blog.

“A great marriage isn’t about living faster, it’s about living deeper.”

I was reminded by these words how important it is not to let my task-oriented scramble for accomplishment keep me from the deeper things that provide the anchor to my existence: my marriage and my God.

I have to remember not to simply give surface level treatment to these two key areas of my life; to not merely touch them and move on; to not simply add them to my to-do list.

When I fail to be attentive to a deep, intimate connection to both my bride and my Savior, then I become un-tethered from the very things that feed my heart and soul the most.

Living deeper with my wife means giving our relationship the time and especially the attention that is needed for us to stay connected. It means talking about more than just our busy daily schedules and plans, but talking about stuff that really matters. It also means taking time just to be together, to touch, to be quiet, to just exist in the same space.  It means taking time for sexual intimacy, even when we are tired and distracted. It means being willing to let a few things go in order to take care of our relationship.

Living deeper with Jesus means more than throwing up an occasional quickie prayer on the run. It means taking time to soak in His presence, to worship and seek Him. It means taking time to ask for His perspective on the craziness I find myself in the middle of. It’s astounding how gaining a Kingdom perspective can set my soul at peace in the middle of the swirling storm of my daily life.

These things are more than the stuff of obligation or duty. These are the very things of life!

So let this be an encouragement to you, crazy-busy though you may be, to not skip over the two most important relationships in your life.  Instead, go deeper!

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