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Thursday, September 26, 2013

What is the destination of a Journey to Surrender?

I've been writing here at "Journey to Surrender" for almost three years now. Yet just this past week I had a huge "aha" discovery regarding the word surrender. I have no idea how it took me so long to see this.

When you hear the word "surrender," what do you think of? Defeat? Loss? Giving up? Being taken captive? Waving the white flag? A lost cause?

But none of these are the kind of things I refer to when I talk about a "surrendered marriage." Oh no, not at all!!!

So what does surrender have to do with marriage?

The word surrender actually comes from two Anglo-Norman French words: Sur and render. Let's break it down

    1. Sur - a prefix meaning over and above. Think surcharge or surtax.  Something you pay over and above regular charges or normal taxes.
    2. Render - to give.  To hand over. To abandon oneself entirely to.

Put these two together and what do you have? You have the very heart of marital surrender.

To go over and above in giving to your spouse, including giving your self.

And Then Some

Surrender within marriage, in essence, means the surrender of self. Self-centeredness, self-protection, self-promotion and self-reliance have no place in a surrendered marriage. It means not looking so much to your rights as to your responsibilities and to the good of your relationship. It may involve laying aside your personal preferences, sacrificing your self for the sake of your spouse and the good of your marriage.

This is not giving out of compulsion or duty, but out of love and a desire to see your wife or husband thrive.

It is also not giving in order to earn love. No, in a surrendered marriage, you already believe in the love of your spouse. You give from the place of love not to get it. You also give out of the tremendous well of grace and love that you have been given in Christ.

It is not giving to get, either. It's not a mindset of "I'll scratch your back, but you better scratch mine at least as much if not a little more." That's self-serving and manipulative. We are after unconditional love.

Surrender means giving in order to bless and giving to foster intimacy. It means learning what love looks like to your spouse, and then doing that in the little things every day.

Surrender means giving your spouse what he or she needs from you - and then some. Try to out-give, out-bless, and out-love each other. That is the only kind of competition that belongs in a surrendered marriage.

Holding Nothing Back

A surrendered marriage means giving yourself to your spouse 100%, and holding nothing back, abandoning yourself.

Today everyone is talking about 50-50 marriages, where the goal is to make everything equal and fair. I'm suggesting you subscribe to a different paradigm. I suggest a 100-100 marriage is more in keeping with the biblical model of marriage, that is Christ and the church. That is living as one flesh.

Giving yourself means being willing to be totally naked before your spouse in every sense (emotionally, physically, spiritually). Are you bold enough to be naked without shame?

Now to be clear, giving  your self is not denying who you are, but bringing the fullness of who you are into your marriage in order to serve and bless your spouse and strengthen your relationship. Just like Jesus brought the fullness of himself, fully God and fully man, to the cross for our benefit, in order to live in intimacy with us forever:
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)
Surrender is not a natural or easy thing for most of us. Something in us resists the notion. Certainly it isn't prevalent in society at large, where seemingly everything is about "me."

Yet surrender is the very thing we are called to in marriage as God designed it. I'm certain of that fact.

What do you think of my surrender surprise? Does my definition of surrender make sense to you? Where have you struggled with surrender as I have defined it? Let us know by leaving a comment.

photo credit: jajian /

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why how we pray matters.

I've had a great response to my last post, where I shared with you about how you can and should pray boldly and confidently for your marriage. (There were, of course, a few detractors who seemed to lump what I wrote into the "name-it, claim-it" or "positive confession" crowd, which is not at all what I was trying to convey.)

It's clear to me that  Bible instructs us  to pray from a place of faith and confidence in God's nature (His goodness, faithfulness and love, to name a few). Go back and read that post if you haven't yet. It's good stuff!

But that's not all! There's tons more instruction in the Word on how to approach prayer.

Pray Fearlessly

When we are really concerned about something, It's easy to pray from a place of fear and dread. "God, please don't let X happen." I've prayed plenty of those prayers.

But Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray differently.  "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God." (AMP).

Verse 7 goes on to add "Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (NLT)

Want peace? Give thanks to God. Out loud. Often. It works!

I just discovered a recording artist named Tim Timmons. I just love the heart behind his songs. And as a songwriter I marvel at the way his songs are so well crafted. His song, "Cast Your Cares" is incredible and has some very powerful lyrics that speak directly to what I'm trying to convey. So I'll shut up and let him do it. 

Cast Your Cares by Tim Timmons (partial lyrics)

In the middle of the night I'll pray with confidence
In the middle of the fight you're greater still
In the middle of the fire your love is holding me
You are, you are my song
You're my hope when hope is gone.

and the chorus:

I will cast my cares on you the Almighty
I will cast my cares on you cuz you're good
I will cast my cares on you cuz you love me, you love me
Because you love me still

Please watch the full video of this song, where Tim relays the story of his battle with incurable cancer. It gives his song tremendous validity and veracity. So powerful!

Watch Tim Timmons  "Cast My Cares"  on Youtube

Pray Continually, Watchfully and Thankfully

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (Col 4:2 NIV) or in the Amplified, "Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving." (Col 4:2 AMP)

See the next section for more on being unwearied in prayer.

Being watchful in prayer means fixing your eyes on what the Father is doing. That's what Jesus did. He described himself as only doing what he saw the Father doing. It also means fixing your eyes on who God is, not on your circumstances.

Pray with thanksgiving, thankful in the knowledge that Jesus died to give you access to the Father and all that he has. Be thankful that God is good and gracious and faithful. Prayers of petition that are seasoned with thanksgiving are a sweet incense before the Lord. A thankful heart is a peaceful heart.

(See my other posts on being watchful and thankful in your marriage.)

Pray and Don't Give Up

In Luke 18 Jesus tell the parable of the persistent widow, who pesters the judge for justice until he finally grants it to her petition.  It's one of the few places the Bible explicitly states why Jesus told a story. It was told to the disciples "so that they would pray and not give up."

Then there is the parable of the persistent neighbor, which comes right after the Lord's prayer (Luke 11:1-13). After Jesus describes a man banging a door down to get what he wants, he says these famous words, "So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

I don't really get it totally, but persistence seems to matter to God. Don't give up if a prayer or two doesn't seem to give you the result you are after. Press in. Persist. God likes it.

Truthfully, I can't say I fully understand why how we pray matters. He knows our hearts, he knows our needs, yet the Bible is full of instruction on how we should pray. It's not that there's a magic formula or that God is trying to get us to jump through some tiny hoop before he answers.

No, I'm convinced that how we pray mostly matters for us. It for the shaping of our hearts and the molding of our faith.

What do you think? Why is the Bible so full of instruction on how we should pray? How has prayer affected your marriage? We'd all love to hear, so leave a comment.

I can't resist. Here's one more Tim Timmons song called "Christ in Me." It also goes right along with this post.

Christ in Me by Tim Timmons (partial lyrics)

The same great light that broke the dark
The same great peace that calmed the seas
The same great love that gives us breath
The same great power that conquered death
Hallelujah is flowing through me

What if I believed in your power and I really lived it?
What if I believed: Christ in me?
What if I believed it?

Watch Tim Timmons "Christ In Me" on Youtube

Need a boost in your prayer life? I highly recommend you download the sermon notes from our Pastor Gred Haswell's teaching on prayer.

photo credit: tmcphotos /

Monday, September 16, 2013

Do you have the audacity to pray for your marriage in the way the Bible tells us to?

If you are a person of faith, I'm going to assume that you pray and that you pray for your marriage. (Of course you do, don't you?)

But how do you pray? Do you pray with confidence? With boldness? With audacity?

Or do you sheepishly approach God with wishful, timid prayers, hoping he might be in a good enough mood to hear and maybe even to answer. Do you pray from a place of faith or of fear? Do you pray as a much-loved, favored child of God, or do you approach God as a sin-drenched beggar?

Our pastor, Greg Haswell, preached an inspiring and powerful sermon on prayer this week, as part of this month's focus on fundamentals of the faith (for more about his excellent series or to hear his sermon go to the Northlands Church God Essentials page).

When I heard it, I knew it would be the basis for my next post.

Pray With Authority

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he prayed the famous prayer we call "The Lord's Prayer." I learned a little Greek from our pastor concerning how Jesus prayed. Bear with the nerd in me, because it really matters!

Here's an excerpt from the sermon notes:
There are four basic moods in the Greek language – subjective, optative, indicative and imperative. The mood itself refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the verb he is using.
  •  The subjective mood basically has the speaker believing what he says (or prays) “might” happen if certain other conditions occur.
  •     The optative mood has the speaker “hope” that what he says (or prays) may happen.
  •     The indicative mood has the speaker say (or pray) what the current situation “appears” to be to him. Jesus didn’t pray in these three moods.
He didn’t pray that the kingdom of God “might” come. Nor did Jesus pray that the kingdom of God would “hopefully” come. Nor did Jesus pray based on factual appearances that the kingdom of God “needs” to come. (See John 7:24).

Here is the shock! Jesus prayed the Lord’s Prayer in the Greek imperative mood. Kingdom come! This is the mood of command and authority. Not wishing, wanting, or begging, but COMMANDING the prayer to happen!
(If you want to rev up your prayer life, I suggest you download the full sermon notes!)

I love the way Jesus teaches us to pray with power and authority!

When you pray for your marriage, because you know God is FOR the passion, intimacy and endurance of your marriage, you too can pray imperatively. 
  • "God, I release intimacy into my marriage!" 
  • "Father, I call forth passion and a fantastic sex life, because that is how You made it to be!" 
  • "Lord, You are a restorer and redeemer by nature, and I know You have the power to restore all things. I call on Your nature and Your power to do this in my  marriage, starting right now!"
Pray Boldly and Confidently

Do you approach God with the boldness with which we are entitled?
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

Because Jesus our High Priest has gone before us (that's what the therefore is there for), we have the right to barge right into the throne room of heaven and approach our Daddy God (our Abba Father) with our requests.

We can do this because we know His love is unchanging, unmovable, everlasting and unconditional.  

You are God's favorite! Nothing you can do will make Him love you more or make Him love you less. Nothing. It doesn't depend on you having a long enough quiet time (thought that might help you hear from God).  It doesn't depend on you reading your Bible enough (though that might help you understand God's nature and how to pray in agreement with it). None of that matters to how much he loves you and wants to bless you.

You can be confident in prayer when you are confident in love.

So pray boldly from a position of favor. Ask knowing that it is God's good pleasure to give you abundantly above all you could ask or seek

Do these ideas change the way you've approached prayer in the past? I know they are pretty radical. But then, we serve a pretty radical God!

photo credit: andrekr /

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

You can't meet all your spouse's needs. And you shouldn't try.

I've been doing a poll for a few weeks on the primary needs of husbands and wives. (Wives can still take this poll and husbands can still take this one for a few more days.) Reviewing the answers to the poll got me thinking about the many kinds of needs we humans have.

I write a lot about the importance of meeting each other's needs in marriage. Yes indeed, husbands and wives should be attentive to each other's needs in order for a relationship to be healthy and enduring.

But there is a big difference between seeing to it that all their needs are being met and personally trying to be the one to meet them all!

Trying to meet all your spouse's needs yourself is a formula for guaranteed failure. Don't set yourself up to fail! Not only is it not healthy for you to try to do it all, it's not healthy for your spouse either. An emotionally healthy person has needs that will be met from a number of difference sources.

Needs Met By You

There are a set of needs that can and should only come from you. Sex is a primary one. In fact it's one of the only needs your spouse has where it would be a outright sin for that need to be met by anyone else but you. Hopefully that gives you a clue as to its importance.

There are also needs where you should be the principle need-meeter. For example, being a partner in parenting. They are your kids too, and even if your spouse takes the lead in this area, I believe both of you should be highly involved in your kids' lives. Each of you brings something to the parenting equation.

Then there are those needs like the ones being expressed in my poll. Try to figure out what it is your husband or wife most needs to get from you, and do your best to provide it on a consistent basis. Tops on the list are things like intimacy, respect, trust, sex, feeling cared for and security/safety. Find out what it is and do it.

Needs Met by Friends

Everyone needs relationships outside of the one they enjoy with their spouse. Depending on their personality, it may be just a few acquaintances, or it may be many close friends.

Friends help broaden your perspectives, provide companionship, fun and advice, and they can be a source of accountability. Church friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, long distance past friends all help meet the relational needs of your spouse.

Being attentive to your spouse's friendship needs means encouraging healthy relationships and discouraging damaging ones. Again, there is no "right" number of friendship, but be watchful. Don't allow friends suck the life from your spouse, and see to it that, on balance, they are getting as much as they are giving in their relationships.

Needs Met by Outside Interests

Everyone needs something to pour themselves into. Something, that is, besides their marriage and family, as important as those are.

Does your spouse make time for their favorite hobbies? Can you help them make time? Is there a cause that he or she feels strongly about that would be rewarding to be involved in? Are they called to a particular kind of ministry in the church? Do they have particular career goals? Are there sports activities they love?

While you can't and shouldn't try to control these outside interests, you can be encouraging and supportive to your spouse's involvement in these things. Maybe you can be their cheerleader or coach. As it is with friends, maybe you can help them make time for the things that feed their soul.

Needs Met by God

I strongly believe your spouse should be your highest priority earthly relationship (including above your children), but there is one other relationship that should come even before you: God.

Again, you cannot dictate your spouse's relationship with God nor should you try. But you can be a source of encouragement and spiritual support to your spouse. A healthy spiritual walk includes things like worship, prayer, Bible reading, etc., but truthfully, the most important thing, and the thing that God wants most, is intimacy with us - a close, daily, personal relationship. The best spiritual encouragement you can give to your spouse is simply to live your life in God. Let him be a natural, integrated part of everything you do.

Side note: when you try to be the one to meet all your spouse's needs, you are essentially trying to be their god, their all-in-all, their everything.

It is certainly important for you to work at meeting the needs of your spouse for which you have primary responsibility. But that doesn't include every need they have?

What has been your experience at trying to meet your spouse's needs? How are you doing at finding the balance? Are you trying to play God? Are you being appropriately attentive? Are you encouraging and supportive about them getting some of their needs met outside of your marriage?

Related Posts: 

image credit: novelo

Monday, September 9, 2013

Believe it or not, it's really not that hard to change the weather.

No, of course I'm not talking about the actual weather conditions outside. I'm talking about changing the climate in your marriage.

Few of us realize how the things we say and do (or don't say and don't do) affect the atmosphere of our marriages and homes. Too frequently we settle for whatever happens to just blow in.

It's time to get unstuck from the current weather patterns!

Check out my guest post on the Hope at Home blog for simple suggestions on how you can:
  • Clear away the fog
  • Rain down a little kindness
  • Create your own heat wave
  • Lower the atmospheric pressure

    Attention all adoptive or fostering parents. The Hope at Home 2013 Conference is only a few weeks away .  Check out what former attendees have to say about their experience during H@H, and make plans to attend now! Click on the banner below for a video introduction and for more event details.

    image credit: rodjulian /
    Monday, September 2, 2013

    Understanding is a powerful force for deep and abiding intimacy.

    As I was writing my last post, Changing Seasons, I was reminded of the important distinction between knowledge and understanding.

    Knowledge is information. It can be cold and unemotional. You can have knowledge and remain detached from the subject.

    Understanding takes knowledge to another level of engagement. It means empathy. It means putting your heart into the matter in order to get to the heart of the matter.

    It's easy to settle for knowledge when understanding is called for. I think men are especially prone to this, though by no means are they exclusively guilty of it. We want facts and data. We want to asses the information in order to find a solution. To us, understanding is an unnecessary distraction from the "real" issue.

    Don't Settle for Information

    Marriage isn't supposed to work that way. In marriage, the "real" issue is connection - always. And connection requires understanding.

    Marriage is about engagement and intimacy. It's about two being one in all dimensions of life. That means not settling for information, but digging deeper into something until you gain understanding.

    For example, in my last post, I suggested you ask the question, "What do you need from me in this season?" In response you are likely to get something like a bullet list of needs: closeness, extra time, more sexual intimacy, etc. That's information, and it's helpful, but it leaves a lot of things unanswered.

    If you follow up with, "And what would that look like to you?" then you have a better chance of actually understanding what your spouse needs.

    Closeness might look like  exchanging texts during the day or  praying together each night or regularly spending twenty minutes together after dinner. Extra time might mean some alone time to decompress after work, having a day to pursue a neglected hobby or a night out with the guys or with girlfriends. If more sexual intimacy is important, figure out if that means twice a week or twice a day. Is it really about quality or quantity? Where is the need, exactly?

    Gaining Understanding Through Awareness

    My wife and I recently went through a class called Couple Communication that some friends of ours led. It was outstanding, and I strongly recommend the program (see info below), regardless of how well you think you already communicate as a couple. We learned a lot.

    There was a lot to this course and I can't begin to convey all of it here, but one aspect I particularly liked was something they call the "Awareness Wheel." I love how it gets us to consider all sides of an issue in order to truly gain understanding:
    • Sensory Data - verbal and non-verbal information such as actions, gestures, sights, sounds, smells, gestures, posture, silence. Sensor data gives context and details that might otherwise be overlooked.
    • Thoughts - What are you thinking? It includes ideas, assumptions, objections, biases, consequences, opinions, values and impressions.
    • Emotions - Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise, with many subtle variations of these. One very interesting thing we learned is how often we mistakenly construe thoughts as emotions. When we say, "That makes me feel... rejected, respected, pressured, important, threatened or unappreciated..." these are actually thoughts not emotions.
    • Wants - desires and intentions for you or for others. These include hopes, longings, objectives, goals or aspirations. Wants is one area where it often requires a bit of digging to get sufficient detail to be actionable. A good chance to ask "what would that look like."
    • Actions - past (what you did - accomplishments, activities, failures), present (what you are doing - recommendations and requests) and future (what you will do - declarations, plans, promises).

    This kind of complete communication takes time and attention, but it is well worth it, especially when you are discussing emotionally intense or important topics or where there has been a history of mis-communication.

    The Heart of the Matter is the Heart

    The difference between knowledge and understanding comes down engaging your hearts. It's requires you to desire the best for your spouse and to get to the bottom of what you need to know in order to do that.

    The motivation for understanding is love. If you love your spouse, do all in your power to understand him or her.

    Do you have some tips for our readers on how you go about gaining understanding or being understood in your own marriage? Are there questions you ask or techniques you use that have proven helpful? Let us know with a comment.

    I would encourage you to find a Couple Communication program near you by clicking on the link.

    image credits: Awareness:  tango90246 /
    understanding: alexmillos /

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