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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Several of my blogging friends have already posted on the things they love about being married. So I thought it was high time I jump in and give you my list too.

Note: you'll find links to other bloggers' "things I love about marriage" posts at the end of this post. Be sure to check them out.

So without further ado, here's my list.

1)  Great Sex

I suppose I'm being stereotypically male by putting this one first. But the truth is that sexual intimacy is the one physical characteristic that distinguishes my marriage from every other relationship in my life. It's more than the icing on the cake of my marriage. It's binds Jenni and I together in powerful ways, like nothing else can. Sex is like super-glue in our relationship. I'll put it right out there that I am thankful we share a passionate and exciting sex life and that Jenni and I try to make it a priority amidst all the craziness of life that tries to prevent it.  See my post "Becoming One Flesh - Literally."

2)  We Are One.

Sex distinguishes our marriage from all other relationship in the physical - it's where we are literally one flesh. It's also true that when we married, we also become one in spirit and soul. Again, this oneness is unique to my relationship with Jenni. We aren't one with our kids, our jobs, our churches, friends or family. We are only one with each other. It means we share a mysterious and supernatural connection to one another that we continue to understand more and more the longer we are married. Check my recent post "What If... You and Your Spouse Really Are One." 

3)  It's a Living Bridal Paradigm

It always amazes me how our marriage informs my understanding of my walk with Jesus.  It works the other way around too. My spiritual life often teaches me about marriage. It makes sense in light of the Bridal Paradigm, the notion that we are the bride of Christ.

4)  We Get Each Other

Jenni and I have been married for almost 32 years, and we really know each other at the deepest level. We enjoy true intimacy. which I define as being fully known and yet totally loved. Without speaking we know how each other will respond in different situations, often exchanging knowing looks. We know each other's strengths, which we rely on, and each other's weaknesses, which we try to have grace for.

4)  She is My Encouragement & Inspiration

My wife is my biggest cheer leader. She is a continual source of encouragement when I face difficulty and a great inspiration for me to live my life toward the destiny God has for me.

5)  We Fit

In many way Jenni and I are opposites. In other ways we are exactly the same. All in all, we just fit.  We counterbalance each other in important ways. Her fun-loving nature balances out my slight melancholy. My love of adventure and discovery balances out her risk aversion. Her social and people skills balance out my complete lack of such things. My practicality and logic (Meyer Briggs T) balances our her total dependence of feelings (Meyers Briggs F).  In other ways, like our spiritual outlook, we are very much in line with each other. We share a common set of core values, such as over finances and the importance of family.

6) We Grow Each Other

I almost said "We Fit Perfectly" for number 5, but I realized that such a relationship probably doesn't exist. That leads me to reason number six. Dr. David Schnarch says, "Marriage is a people growing machine." I agree. If your marriage is anything like mine, it's where the best and worst of you comes out. But in the end we help each other grow and rub the rough edges off of each other.

7) It's Fun!

The truth is I love being married to Jenni because we enjoy each other so much. We have fun together no matter where we go or what we do. We just enjoy each other's presence, even if it's simply sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean and staring quietly at beauty for hours on end (yes, we've done that).

8) Disappearing Kisses

I make no secret about the fact that I think kissing is really important, and I am fortunate that Jenni is a wonderful kisser. We have this thing we call "disappearing kisses." It's a little hard to describe, but if you've had one, you'll know exactly what I mean. It's the kind of kiss that makes everything else disappear. Every worry, every pain, every stress, and every distraction all just fade far into the background and there is just the two of us sharing a soul-stirring and intimate kiss.

What about you? What do you love about being married?  I don't just mean being married in general, but what do you love about being married to your particular spouse? Leave a comment and let the world know!

Other bloggers proclaiming their love of marriage:
  • One Flesh Marriage- Brad and Kate each share their lists
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How would you act and speak differently if you really believed what your husband says about loving your body?

It's a Wives Only Wednesday, so this "what if" post is just for the ladies.

It's not that men don't have body image issues or shame associated with their appearance, but I know that it is something much more prevalent among women.

So listen up ladies and prepare to have a paradigm shift in your thinking.

You Are His

The Bible says quite plainly in 1 Corinthians 7 that your body belongs to your husband (and his to you, by the way). If you really believed how attracted your husband is to you, you would know that he sees you as his prize possession. Not in some creepy controlling sense, but in the way that he's proud to have you for his very own, in ways that no other man can know and/or see you.

Fellow marriage blogger, J, from Hot Holy and Humorous, recently posted Tips for Confidently Baring It All for Your Hubby. . She says,
I hear from hubbies all the time who essentially say about their wives, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7). Are their wives objectively perfect? I doubt it. But they [their husbands] believe it.
You can believe it too.

It's Important to Him

Paul Byerly, over at the XY Code, wrote a post on this topic entitled Really, You Look Great to Him. In it he sums up his recent "What Your Husband Wants You to Know" survey he did in this way:
When we say we like you, what you do, and how you look, please believe us!
It is important to your husband that you believe in the sincerity of his love for you, and that includes how you look. Most husbands I know want their wives to feel loved. In fact many, including me, count it among their highest priorities in life. When you rebuff his compliments on your appearance or reply with a list of the flaws, you do not honor him. In fact, you make him feel like he has failed at something that matters a lot to him.

It is your husband's opinion that matters most when it come to your appearance. If he thinks you are beautiful, hot, sexy, pretty, striking or however else he may describe you, then you are. Period.

I understand that you get a very different message from TV and magazine advertisements. Remember, those folks are in the flaw-peddling business in order to sell you something to "fix" yourself. Forget them and their airbrushed definition of beauty. Take what your husband says and run with it.

Confidence is Sexy

Do you want to know a secret that I think few wives have a handle on? Sex appeal (or whatever word you want to use for a woman's allure to her husband) is 80% attitude and 20% physical appearance. It may even be 90/10.

Whether you buy my numbers or not, how you present yourself to your husband probably has a bigger influence on how he perceives your appearance than you know. If you really believed what your husband says about your body and his desire for you, it will give you more confidence, more boldness, and more of an "I am hot and I know it" kind of attitude. And that alone will make you even more appealing to him.

A woman in one of our marriage small groups once confided to us that she sometimes imagines herself as a sensuous movie star in order to take on a more confident and daring persona. Imagining herself as Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie (or whoever) allowed her to drop her inhibitions and really let go, much to her husband's pleasure - and hers as well.  Imagine whatever you like that helps you in the confidence department, but try imagining that your husband is actually crazy in love with your body. After all, you are his movie star!

Here's a correlating truth. True confidence feels good. If you believe in your own beauty and in your husband's desire for you and then confidently act on it, it will make you feel really good about yourself.

Two Caveats

First, I have heard horror stories of husband who deride their wives over every extra ounce and constantly put them down over their appearance. That's a sad and difficult situation, and I am sorry if that is the way your husband treats you. Dealing with that situation is a whole separate post. But I honestly believe the vast majority of husbands do not fall into that category.

Second, I am not saying that appearances don't matter. Pay attention to your man's preferences in clothing, hair styles, make up, etc. Pay particular attention to sleeping attire, if that is something that matters to him. I know men have a broad spectrum of opinions on these kinds of appearance-related things, so if you don't know, ask your husband. And then act accordingly. You have no idea how much it will bless him when you do.

Time for Action

So ask yourself this "what if" question and ponder it seriously: how would you act and speak differently if you really believed, deep down, that your husband loves your body? You might want to read and consider the two posts linked above by Paul and J as a starting point.

I challenge you to spend the next week behaving differently as a result of your "what if" contemplation.  Act with boldness and confidence, as if your husband adores your body, because chances are, he does.

The other posts in my "What If..." series.
  1. A Lesson in How to "What If..."
  2. What If... You and Your Spouse Really Are One?
  3. What If...Intimacy Matters Most?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

This Easter, let's be determined to fully possess all that Jesus paid for!

I love the Easter season and all that comes with it. Flowers, celebration, family, new outfits and a sense of starting fresh.

There is so much power in what Jesus did for us on the cross, sealed by the victory of Easter morning! Jesus' selfless sacrifice has taken away all our sin and shame. Everything we've done or ever will do that could grieve God has been dealt with once and for all! Hallelujah!!

Even More Than Forgiveness

It's beautiful and marvelous to know that our every sin and disobedience has been forgiven - completely eliminated from the record, but there is even more! Even more wonderful than what Jesus brought us out of (sin, shame and death) is with is what He brought us into!

As you celebrate Easter, remember what you now have that you could not have had if not for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

First among these, I believe, is intimacy with God. I am convinced that this, above all else, is the real purpose of Easter: an unrestrained, unashamed, unrestricted close and intimate relationship with the Father. Yes, our sin needed to be dealt with, but sin was not the real end goal of the cross. The sin needed to go so that we could have in intimacy with God. The story of the cross is a love story.

So this Easter, let's take full advantage of what Jesus did for us. Let's approach the Father with the boldness and joy of much loved sons and daughters.
In him and through faith in him (Jesus) we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Ephesians 3:12
I believe God is much more interested in your relationship with him than all the rules and requirements we tend to focus on instead. Yes, obedience matters.  But obedience born out of a love relationship has real staying power for the long run. Not so obedience born of religious duty.

What About Marriage and Easter?

You and I are the eternal bride of Christ, purchased at the price of his very life. We will live in intimate relationship with Him forever. Not only that, but we are one with Him right now. The Bible makes it clear that we are joined to Christ as one from the moment we choose to believe in Him. The living God dwells inside us! Nothing we do or fail to do can change that fact. His grace is that good, that amazing, that unrelenting.

Because we are permanently and eternally one with Christ, His goodness (righteousness), His power, His love, His peace, His wisdom and His knowledge of the Father all accrue to us. These are ours to have in this life. Wow!

This Easter, let's be determined to possess all that Jesus paid for! Let's take these for our own. Let's use them for His glory and for His Kingdom. These are the spoils of Easter. Let's live them.

Let's take them and live them every day in our marriages and homes.

image credit: runnerphil711 /

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When was that last time obedience really cost you something?

During a time of prayer a few months back the Lord brought a question to my mind. It's usually easy to spot the God questions. They aren't the kind of questions I would typically think to ask myself. They often can't be answered offhand, requiring me to wrestle with them before the answer emerges.

And they usually end up rocking my world in a significant way.

The question this time was: "What would radical obedience look like?"

For the purposes of this post I'll spare you the soul searching part and skip to the answer. Jenni and I talked it over and agreed that it was time for me to do whatever it takes for me to finish the book I've been writing in fits and starts but hadn't touched in almost two years.

God of the Ridiculous

I have felt impressed by the Lord on more than one occasion to finish the book, but I would always eventually pass it off as impossible. At this stage of my life I can barely get a weekly post and a monthly newsletter in. A book? Ridiculous to even consider.

But I've found that God is often a God of the ridiculous. By that I mean upside down, out of reach, way out there ridiculous. Maybe more accurate would be to say He is a God of ridiculously radical ideas.

So despite being under more work pressure than ever before. Despite the 102 items backlogged in my to do list (that's a real number, by the way - the photo above is a screenshot from my to do list manager) I am sequestered away at a friend's lake house for a week of concentrated work on my book.

No Guarantees

I would love to promise you that when you step out in radical obedience that the clouds will suddenly part and everything will suddenly turn easy.

Maybe it actually does work that way sometimes, but more often than not, at least for me, it doesn't. This week is no exception.

God did show me ridiculous favor by providing a comfortable secluded place for a week for free, without me even having to ask for it. It was a fantastic confirmation that we had heard God correctly concerning the book.

But the actual writing part is being much harder and more laborious that I had ever imagined. Progress has been so much less than I had hoped for going in.

It's funny (strange funny, not ha ha funny) how after the first steps of obedience God often calls us to a place of deeper trust. You see it everywhere in The Bible. David spent 14 years running for his life before his anointing as king finally came to pass. I'm convinced that during those years of running God was preparing David to bear the blessing he had in store.

Radical Surrender

Radical obedience usually calls for radical surrender.

I'm not talking about the "giving up" kind of surrender but the "giving over" kind. It usually calls for some kind of sacrifice, generosity, submission or serving.

I think God calls us all to radical surrender in our marriages.

Think about your relationship with your spouse. When was the last time God called you to radical obedience in your marriage? I'm not talking about obedience to your spouse but obedience to what you know God has called you to be or to do for him or her.

When is the last time your obedience, your surrender of self, really cost you something? When was the last time putting your spouse first in something was really hard? When is the last time you purposefully chose grace over offense, sexual intimacy over exhaustion, reaching out in kindness in the face of emotional distance?

If you can't think of any recent examples, I encourage you to pray and ask, "God, what would radical obedience look like in my marriage?" Then do whatever he shows you.

PS While you are praying, I'd appreciate your prayers on behalf of this little book writing venture I'm in the middle of.  Thanks. Now back to the book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What is the most important thing in marriage?

Let me ask that question a slightly different, less generic way. What is it that is most important to you in your own marriage?

Did you answer those two questions differently? I find that I can tend to. Because, you see, the thing that I know ought to be most important often is not the thing I go after the most in my own marriage.

What I Know

I know in my head that intimacy is the most important thing in marriage. And when I say that I'm not using the word intimacy as a euphemism for sex. Sex is but one (albeit very important) component of intimacy, but in this case I'm talking about intimacy in every dimension of marriage: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, intellectual, etc.

Intimacy reaches its pinnacle when we are fully known, nakedly transparent, yet fully loved for who we really are. I like to call it being naked without shame. Actually the Bible calls it that too, so it didn't originate with me (See Genesis 2 for this pre-fall definition of marital intimacy). That's how marriage is supposed to be.

How do I know that intimacy is what matters most in marriage?

It's because of the Bridal Paradigm, which is my understanding of myself as the bride of Christ. It is through that lens that God portrays the perfect picture of marriage. It is through that lens that I see Christ as my Bridegroom, looking for an eternal bride. Christ's pursuit of me, a pursuit that cost him his very life, was not so that I would follow all the religious rules. No, Jesus' pursuit of me was so that I could live in intimacy with him forever as his bride, starting right here and now. (Sorry guys, if you want to be a great husband you will just have to get over yourself and get a clear picture of what it means to be a bride.)

Intimacy is the most important thing in marriage because intimacy is what matters most to God. It's that simple.

What I Do

But it isn't quite that simple. I mean, if I really, truly grasped the importance of intimacy in my marriage I would probably do a lot of things differently. You probably would too.

Genuine intimacy in marriage doesn't happen on its own. The natural state of a relationship is not intimacy but coexistence. Left untended, a marriage can easily devolve over time into little more than being excellent roommates.

The funny thing is, though, that we are hardwired with a desire for intimacy. In my New Reader Poll, intimacy is the topic everyone wants to hear more about. Men and women. Newly married couples and couples married 30 years. Couples with kids and without. The topics of sexual and emotional intimacy top the list every way you slice it.  (By the way, please take my New Reader Survey if you haven't yet.)

We all desire more intimacy in our marriage, but we don't always do the things that best build and maintain intimacy. I know I don't.

If Intimacy Really Mattered Most...

If I really put the goal of intimacy with my wife ahead of everything else in our relationship, a lot of things would have to change.
  • I would no longer see having my personal needs met as the most important thing in our relationship. Instead of asking "What can I get from her?" I would ask, "What can I do to keep us close?"
  • I would not depend on my wife to make me happy and to keep me that way. Instead, I would find the greatest happiness when our intimacy is deepest. I would gladly take the lead in our pursuit of every form of intimacy.
  • Demanding my rights and insisting on my "fair share" would be replaced by looking out for what is best for our marriage and our relationship.
  • When I feel offended or disappointed, instead of reacting by keeping emotional distance, I would press closer to her, seek to understand what is really going on, and do my best to eliminate whatever is standing between us.
  • Instead of giving my wife only my leftovers, after my job and ministry and chores have taken everything out of me, I would make sure I have sufficient physical, emotional, sexual, and mental energy to give the best part of me to her.
There are many other things that I would probably do differently if I really lived and loved as if intimacy was the main goal of my marriage. What might you do differently with that understanding?  I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment.

image credit: inspirestock /

More in this "What If..." series:
  1. A Lesson in How to "What If..."
  2. What If... You and Your Spouse Really Are One?

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