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Friday, December 23, 2011

As husbands, I think one reason we have some trouble with Paul’s command to love our wives “as Christ loved the church,” is that we don’t really fully know how Christ loves the church.

In the Christmas story we have a wonderful portrait of this love right before our eyes.  Consider for a moment a hypothetical conversation in heaven between Jesus and the Father.

A Heavenly Conversation

“Father, I think it’s time,” Jesus said.

“I know, yes, it is. My children are lost in darkness.”

“They need the light. My light. Your light.”

“It’s so hard for me to ask you to leave all this. The beauty. The perfection. The nonstop worship. I’ll miss having you here at my right hand.” The Father’s eyes looked down as the immensity of what was about to happen weighed on his heart.

“Yes, I’ll miss this very much. I’ll miss being here with you. But as painful as it is to leave, it’s more painful to stay when I know I can do something of such eternal value.”

The Father looked at Jesus with compassion. “Do you know what this means for you, my Son?”

“Yes. It means I will have an eternal, beautiful radiant bride. It means your people will have a way to you, free and clear. It means the law of love will replace the law of man, freedom will replace bondage, healing for diseases, it means our Spirit will be able reside right inside of those who look to me.”

“That’s not the part I’m talking about. I’m talking about you having to lay aside your heavenly form and take the form of a human. It means experiencing all the realities of the human condition. There will be those who hate you. They will reject you. They will beat you to the very limits of what your human frame can endure.”

The Father put his hand on the Son’s shoulder as a tear formed in his eye. “They will kill you. Brutally.”

“I know Father. I know,” Jesus said, still half smiling up at his Father. “But how else will they know the extent of my love for them. How else will it be possible to blot away all their misdeeds and wandering? You know there is only one way.”

“Of course you are right, Jesus, but that doesn’t make this easy for me.“

The Father turned to the angel standing nearby. “Gabriel, it’s time to prepare the way for my Son to come to earth. Go now and see to it.”

In an instant the angel Gabriel was gone. Everything was set in motion.

The time for Jesus’ own departure was now upon them. “I know I won’t be here,” Jesus said, “but I’ll talk to you every day. I know you’ll be with me wherever I go.”

“I will do what I can to lead you and to strengthen you for what you must do while you are there. Ultimately, this burden is yours to carry, though.”

The Father and Son embraced one last time.

“It will be worth it, Daddy. No matter what it costs me, I know it will be worth it.”

Love Like That

Of course we have no way of knowing whether such a conversation actually took place, but I’m quite sure the heart of it was something like that.

Jesus willingly set aside his authority and chose to clothe himself in humility. He gave his all for our sake. He valued intimacy with us more that his position.  At the beginning of chapter 5 in the book of Ephesians, as a preface to famous instructions on marriage, Paul explained it this way:
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)
So husbands, as you enjoy extra time with your wife and family this Christmas season, I encourage you to consider the way the One Who is Love came to earth in the form of a baby all those years ago. Consider ways you might show this same kind of love to your wife. It's the best gift you can possibly give.

Be extravagant. Be humble and generous. Be selfless.

It will be worth it.

- - - - - - Check This Out - - - - - -

J at “Hot, Holy and Humorous” did a beautiful video Christmas card to her readers on her blog. It links scriptures from the Song of Solomon with Christmas. It’s perfectly fitting, because after all, Christmas is really part of the ultimate love story. Click on the picture below to see the video.  Very cool!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I’m a big believer in liberty. I believe that liberty is one of our country’s founding principles. The historical degree of liberty we’ve enjoyed is one of the things that makes our country unique and that has led to our economic livelihood and success. I also see our liberties being slowly (some would say quickly) eroded away by undue government intrusions into way too many areas of our lives.

Now, don’t worry, I’m not turning my blog into a political platform. The reason I bring this topic up is that, as with my last post, liberty and license relate directly to a marriage principle I also believe in strongly.

The “Problem” with Liberty

There is a downside to liberty, which is that some confuse liberty with license. Those who do so will tend to abuse their liberty by acting without appropriate restraint, self-control or consideration of others.

Historian and philosopher Will Durant put it this way, “When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.”

What happens when liberty becomes license is that we over-react by introducing often severe restrictions on liberty in the name of fairness. We try to control everyone because of the stupidity of a few. (You can read my last post if you want to see what I think about the appropriateness of fairness as a yardstick for marriage.)

Liberty and License in Marriage

Marriage is to be a place of tremendous liberty but not a place of license.

By liberty I mean that we should not try to force our spouses to conform to our notion of what a husband or wife should be, even if it is biblically based. Don’t approach your marriage with the notion that you can control or change him or her to be what you want. It doesn’t work and will lead to disappointment and frustration all around.

At the same time, neither of you should view the liberty your spouse grants you to “be who you are” as license to behave in any manner you wish, to do whatever you want, or to act without regard to your spouse’s interests or desires.

If you are the husband who sees himself as having the authority to lead his wife and family, taking that kind of license is when liberty edges toward dictatorship, as Durant said. Instead, use the liberty of your authority to love and serve your wife, to ensure that she feels cared for and protected.

A wife who takes license with her liberty, who acts without regard to her husband’s needs and desires, will be seen by her husband as disrespectful, untrusting and ungrateful, and ultimately it will leave him feeling unloved. Instead, use your liberty to act with generosity toward your husband, showing him the respect he desires, the sexual attention he craves and the trust and admiration that makes him feel loved.

When you use the liberty in your marriage to love and serve one another it creates an atmosphere where freedom thrives, where trust grows and where the desire to control and constrain each other dies away.

- - - - Further Reading - - - -

Over at The Generous Husband, Paul Byerly recently wrote about a  national marriage study that showed how important generosity is to sustaining a marriage for the long term.  I strongly recommend you check it out here

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

As I've been listening to the raging debate here in the U.S. over what to do about our soaring national debt, out-of-control government spending, and tax policy, I can't help thinking about marriage.  No, Really. More on that in a minute.

This debt/spending crisis is a train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone knows it, but few are in agreement about what should be done to avoid it. Meanwhile, the train just keeps barreling down the track, picking up speed.But I digress.

This contentious discussion is infused with words like “fairness,” “equity,” and “entitlement.” I’ll be honest and tell you that these are words that tend to grate on my nerves. Typically when these words are invoked, what they really mean is that someone, somewhere, “owes” something to someone else. Implicit in these statements is the notion that an elite set of individuals gets to decide on what fair and equitable means, who owes what to whom, ultimately determining which things certain groups are entitled to take from other groups.

The problem I have with most of the debate is that so many assume a poverty mentality. What I mean by that is that they assume going in that things like wealth, success and resources are in limited supply and capped by the present reality. To those who think this way it’s a zero sum game. So, rather than looking at how to get another pie, or maybe a whole pie factory, the only way to be fair is to say that everyone is entitled to the exactly the same size piece out of the pie that exists today.

Zero-Sum Marriage Mentality

The reason I’ve wandered into this controversial social, political and economic territory today is that there are strong parallels to the way many see their marriages.

Those who look at their marriage as a zero sum game tend not to concern themselves with how to grow themselves or grow their marriage. Instead, they look at what is and try to figure out how to divide it up fairly. Equality and fairness have too often become the criteria by which marriage success is measured. As I’ve said before (see my post The Myth of Equality) that’s just the wrong yardstick for marriage.

The zero sum mentality is what lands so many at the 50/50 marriage paradigm, which says that everything should be divided right down the middle. Husband and wife are to work, cook, clean, manage finances and raise children exactly by halves, as if running parallel lives that minimally intersect, if at all. To them, fairness can only mean sameness. They would have you measure your spouse’s 50 percent carefully and often, fight for your rights and for what you are owed, and make sure that you get back in a measure equal to whatever you give, (and if you can get a little more than that, so much the better).

But is this the way of a biblical marriage?

50-50 and the Bridal Paradigm

If our model for marriage is Jesus and the church, then the 50-50 marriage model really doesn’t apply.

Jesus gave 100 percent. He gave his own life in order to have us 100 percent. He gave all to us and wants us to give all to him. He showed us the way of perfect love: all in, one hundred percent, nothing held back.

What would your marriage be like if both of you threw out the scorecards? What if you were both one hundred percent in, putting everything you have and everything you are into your marriage? What if instead of equity and fairness as the measure of the quality of your marriage, you used the love of Jesus?

What if you used your degree of surrender as the yardstick? I’ll quote here from an earlier post where I described what a surrendered marriage looks like:
A surrendered marriage calls us to surrender self. It means living selflessly and self-sacrificing instead of living self-centered and self-satisfying. It means living against our human nature, because our natural path is the path of self. Rather than focusing on the question of “what are my rights?” and “what do I get out of this marriage?” we are instead to focus on “what can I give to benefit and bless my spouse?” and “What can I do to strengthen our marriage?”
Being One Changes the Whole Game

There is one other important biblical concept that greatly influences the mathematics of marriage: being one flesh.

When a man and woman are joined together before God and man in holy matrimony, the Bible says they become “one flesh.” They are to see themselves as one in every dimension: sexual, spiritual, emotional, financial – every dimension.

Now let me remind you that being one does NOT mean being the same! That's 50-50 thinking. Being one actually means adding strength to strength and allowing strength to cover for weakness. It means coming together in a way that makes your marriage more than either of you as individuals. You don’t lose your individuality. Rather, you bring your full, genuine self to your relationship for the benefit of your spouse and your marriage.

Here’s the deal with taking a one-flesh view of your marriage: whatever accrues to your spouse also accrues to you. If my spouse wins, then I win too. If I grow, our marriage grows. When he or she is blessed, then so am I, even if I am the one doing the blessing.

Marriage is not a zero sum game. Don’t settle for a 50-50 marriage – go for 100-100!

- - - - - - - - - -

Since writing the draft of this post, I came across Sheila Gregoire’s terrific article on her To Love Honor and Vacuum blog  , entitled “The 99% and the 1% With Marriage.”  The article runs in a similar vein, comparing current socio-political events to marriage. Great reading!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are you still stuck for an idea of what to give your spouse for Christmas? Or maybe you’ve already bought a gift (or gifts) but you are looking for an extra special way to bless him or her this year.

The great response to my wife’s post from last week has prompted me to periodically post some more “Romantic Ideas.” For the most part these will be ideas that we’ve actually done. Maybe I’ll even get my wife to post a few of these as well.

The Christmas Countdown

Today’s romantic idea is something I did for her last year. It’s a “Romantic Countdown to Christmas.” Of course as with any romantic idea, you need to adapt it to your spouse’s particular favorite things. Times like this are why I say it is important to be a lifelong student of your spouse and what delights him or her most.

The idea the Christmas countdown is simple. Pick a number of days until Christmas. If you are a traditionalist, you might do the twelve days of Christmas. I did ten. Seven would work too. [edit: to be technically correct, the 12 days of Christmas actually follow after Christmas, which would work just as well.]

Then for each day give him or her a gift representing the number of days remaining until the “big day.” Here’s my list from last year:
  • 10 – ten pretty fingers (gift card for a manicure)
  • 9 – nine tasty treats (Cella chocolate covered cherries-her favorite)
  • 8 – four pairs of Christmas-themed earrings (she loves these things)
  • 7 – Christmas-themed arrangement of seven red roses
  • 6 – Six string serenade (she picked songs I sang for her)
  • 5 – five minute kiss
  • 4 – four pairs of pretty panties
  • 3 – a set of three Woodwick candles
  • 2 – a side-by-side framed picture (us on one side and our daughters on the other)
  • 1 – Christmas lingerie (OK this gift was more for me)
The gifts don’t have to be large or expensive. It really is the thought that counts in this particular romantic endeavor!

An Added Twist

Part of the fun is deciding a fun way to surprise them with the gift each day. I had a small wooden box with a lock on it. Each day the key would appear in an unexpected way. Jenni would unlock the box to find a note that gave a clue as to where to find the day’s present. I wrote a little poem for each.  For example day eight, the four pairs of earrings, which were placed in some teacups she had on display:

What numbers eight, yet comes in twos?
Perhaps I’ll give a few more clues

It is something festive for the season
Given for the best of reasons

‘Tis love that causes me to give
Four gifts that hide where teacups live

If you have no gift for rhyme, do something else that works better for you: Send a text message or email with the clue for the day. Maybe get other family members involved. Leave a note taped to their bathroom mirror. Get creative! Have fun with it!

If you decide to try the Countdown to Christmas, stop back by and let us know how it worked out!

 Don't miss my other Romantic Ideas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
You may have noticed that the title of today’s post is also the tag line of my blog. I’m excited to share with you today a guest post by Lori Lowe, a fellow marriage blogger at Marriage Gems and author of the book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, which comes out tomorrow.

In what follows, Lori shares about a real-life couple from her new book who wholeheartedly embraced a counter-cultural approach to their lives, and consequently to their marriage.

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Guest post by Lori D. Lowe

One of the couples I interviewed for my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, are people I have known for ten years. In fact, they helped inspire me to write the book, because they are such a strong role model for a loving, sacrificial marriage. While the other couples featured in the book live all across the country, the Johnstons happen to live next door to me and have been married more than 30 years.

I didn’t know some of the deeper aspects of their marriage until I sat down to interview both of them. In my book I share many of the secrets to their marital success. First, they chose a counter-cultural lifestyle, which is to say they don’t let the dominant culture define their values. Their Christian faith is primary in their lives. And their values include not allowing materialism to define or control their lives.

Many of us will say we aren’t materialistic, but we love to shop every weekend. We would love to get new furniture, a nicer car, or a bigger house. Maybe we even save up so we can spend on these big-ticket items as often as we can. When we earn more, we are excited to spend more. The Johnstons, on the other hand, committed early in their marriage to be satisfied with what they had and to earmark extra earnings for charity rather than for increasing their lifestyle level.

One of the reasons they did this is they were involved in mission work in other countries. They met people who were exceedingly happy despite their extreme levels of poverty, and they understood that joy does not come from things. Instead, they find joy from being generous and sacrificial to others.

Over time, they also learned how to take this sacrificial mindset that is modeled by Jesus and be more giving and sacrificial to one another. They learned to give in more, instead of insisting on being right. They make daily efforts to please one another, and work to ensure the other is fulfilled. For example, Phil is a physician but makes time to be in a symphonic choir, and Margaret is a retired teacher who receives fulfillment in the garden and in volunteer work. They encourage others in their faith lives and marriages. They work to improve their communication.

And they have found the more they give of themselves, the more their cups are filled back up. They call this the paradox of giving, the fact that we get more by giving more. Happiness research has shown that volunteering and generosity add to our happiness, so they aren’t the only ones to discover this concept.

The lesson they teach through their personal story is that love is sacrificial, and that we need to create a cycle of giving (inside and outside of our families). Christians understand the ultimate example of sacrifice, but it can be difficult to live counter to our culture, which tells us we should give in order to get. Our culture, particularly in America, tells us that freedom and the pursuit of happiness are the highest ideals. Love is often presented in our culture as a romantic notion where we are expected to be constantly happy. How do you define your own values? How do you choose to live them out?

The good news is that living a life of sacrifice and love is not demeaning or sad. It’s ultimately the most joyful and rewarding of choices. Deep down we all want to love and to be loved. Placing your spouse’s needs above yours can be difficult sometimes, but often that act of love pays you tremendous dividends in your marital happiness.

Of course this blog, Journey to Surrender, is all about this mission, as you know if you are a regular reader. I’m sure Scott’s continued insights will help us learn more about how to keep moving in the right direction.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lori Lowe is a journalist, GenXer, and child of divorce. Her book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be released Dec. 8th on and in various e-book formats at Couples featured in the book experienced many challenges, including infertility, stranger rape, child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, unsupportive families, faith differences, military separation, life-threatening illness, raising a special-needs child, financial crises and much more. You can also connect with Lori at or on Twitter @LoriLowe.

Thursday, December 1, 2011
At last I am delighted to present to you my wife’s very first post here at Journey to Surrender. I am hopeful it won't be her last!

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For years my female friends and family have said that my husband Scott should write a book of ideas on how to romance your wife. Humble man that he is, Scott feels hesitant to announce the wonderful gestures of love he has showered on me over the almost 30 years of our marriage (not to mention our dating years!) Since beginning his blog, those same friends and now some fellow bloggers have encouraged me to write about some of his special surprises and romantic ideas.

Before I share more details, I want to express my own motivation for writing this post. I have wanted for some time to respond to the many women who fear that a submissive wife is somewhat of a slave to her husband, that she loses her “rights,” and that there will be no one to put her needs first. Not everyone is married to a man who loves her unconditionally, lays down his wishes and desires for hers and makes it his goal to cherish her, but I want to share what it looks like in my marriage as I live in submission to my husband, whose love is as Christ like as I have ever seen.

The story of his latest romantic surprise.

To give some background, I had just finished a pretty intense season in ministry, speaking at a conference in August, another in September, traveling to Thailand in October for five days of ministry, ten days later leading another conference plus two weeks of wonderful company. During this time, Scott was also doing more travelling than he’s ever done before.

We put our three girls on a plane to Paris (another great story) late on the Friday night before Thanksgiving. I went to bed exhausted but ready to sleep in and take the next week to get my life (and home) back in order.

Instead, this is what happened:
  • Scott woke me up with a cup of tea in bed and handed me a packing list, but with no hints of where we were going.
  • While I showered and packed Scott made us a yummy eggs and bacon breakfast.
  • At one point in the morning he told me that Westly, our mutt, needed a biscuit. When I opened the cupboard I found some wonderful perfume with a card that announced that we were about to have a sensual, spoiling, refreshing weekend. He said that we had been pouring into many other things for months, and now it was time for us to pour into each other.
  • We hopped in the car with me still unsure of our destination, and Scott announced that we would be answering some questions together periodically throughout our day. He had compiled a list from various books, blogs, and articles. (e.g. “Describe the perfect kiss”)
  • We arrived at a beautiful walking park and even saw some deer! Lots of hand holding and kisses and more questions.
  • Next Scott dropped me off at a nail salon, handed me another card with a gift certificate for a deluxe mani/pedi – a real treat for me!
  • Scott picked me up after my relaxing nail spa experience and we arrived at an Embassy Suites. He asked me to wait in the lobby, handed me a card and told me he would text when I could open it.
  • The card was an invitation to come to our room for an afternoon tea (my favorite pastime and drink of choice) Scott had gone all out with sandwiches, scones, and treats! Delicious!
  • Oh, unusual dress for the tea but very romantic, new black silk robe and lingerie!
  • After relaxing a bit and taking care of a few “have to’s” for our church duties on Sunday morning, Scott announced that it was time to get ready for our dinner reservation. Then he showed me the pretty new dress he had purchased for me!
  • After a happy hour glass of wine and a delicious dinner I was handed a key to unlock a special box filled with little cards with gradually increasing passion ideas, the first of which was, “Kiss like you did when kissing was all you could do - five minutes minimum.”
  • I’m not giving any further details on the cards but the Jacuzzi and champagne were definitely a hit!

And that was just the first day of our three day weekend together. Get the picture? Does this submission-hearted wife feel like a slave?? Only to his love!!!


Not only is this an example of Scott’s selfless love for me, planning all my favorites and spoiling me, but this post is also an example of what my submission looks like. I really balked badly at writing a post. Just did not want to! Scott didn’t demand it, but just hinted would I ever want to, on any subject. I did it because I hoped it would please him, not because I had to, because I want to make him as happy as he makes me.

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