Friday, October 31, 2014

Pope Francis' Advice to Married Couples

Hey, if the Pope who is sworn to celibacy can give expert advise on marriage, then I think I can too.

I've been training half of my life for the day I'm blessed to enter into marriage, just like I would if I desired to be an Olympian. I always knew that I wanted to be married, and I always knew through basic observation, that marriage is no easy task. If I wanted to be a champion Olympic Swimmer, I would probably look towards Michael Phelps. I'd try to find out everything that he does to be as successful as he is. I'd figure how he trains  (reports say he trains six hours per day). If I could, I'd follow his specific regiment. I'd find out what he eats to give his body the energy that it needs to sustain itself.  Phelps eats big. He claims to eat 12,000 calories per day.

The church doesn't always do a great job teaching what it means to be a Christian man and what a Biblical husband looks like, but I'll keep collecting, and eventually applying, all that I can on the subject until the day that I die, because being a man is tough, and being a husband and father is even tougher

Want A Quick Way To Destroy Your Marriage?

Want to inject some toxic poison into our relationship?  Letting the seed of lust grow in our hearts and minds is a sure way to destroy our relationships with both God and our spouses.

Dr. Smalley opens up about some taboo topics such as lust and porn and their affects on our lives and relationships and how Christ equips us to deal with them.

What is God's Dream for Marriages?

Here are some notes from the opening to one of Chip Ingram's sermon series on marriage title Experiencing God's Dream For Your Marriage. To sum it up, Chip said:

  • Most couples do not know the difference between love and infatuation
  • Most couples have baggage they don't know how to deal with from past family or other relationships and do not know how to deal with it
  • Most couples do not have good communication skills
  • Most couples have unrealistic expectations
  • Most couples entered marriage with financial problems and no clear plan on managing their finances together
  • Most couples do not have
  • Most couples come from homes where they did not see deep love and commitment modeled by their parents
  • Most couples did not have a clear picture of what a healthy relationship looks like but assumed that if they just loved each other, everything would just all work itself out

Pastor Chip makes the point that You wouldn't just start building a house without a blueprint, and neither should you start a relationship without a blueprint. God has a blueprint for marriage that draws us closer to Him and to each other. God wants to use marriage as one of the most powerful spiritual models of following Christ. Some people ho go in blindly do figure it out better  than others, but how foolish it is to go into anything unprepared, let alone a demanding and lifelong commitment  such as marriage.

Let's remove the word "may" from this sentence, because the fact is, holiness is exactly God's purpose for marriage. That was His design, and we're to live it out.

In his book Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments, Winston T. Smith reminds us that,
“'God is love' is much more than a nice thought. Your ability or willingness to love your spouse says as much about your relationship with God as about your relationship with your spouse.”   

One of my all time favorite love songs.

Marriage isn't romance

Marriage isn't about romance. Don't get me wrong, all marriages should be full of romance, but no lasting marriage can have romance as its cornerstone. Think about it - are you going to feel romantic waking up together after your first night as husband and wife and seeing your spouse's sloppy hair and smelling their stinky morning breath? If love is all about romance, your marriage pretty much ends right there.  But love is far more than just romance, because the foundations of love are commitment and devotion, even when you wake up and the person laying next to you looks more like a zombie than your spouse and a whiff of their breath makes your run for the Listerine.

Love stays

The book of Hosea sure does describe a man full of undying, devoted love. The book is meant to reflect God's unfailing love for us. Though God was loyal to the Israelites, they were continually unfaithful to Him, continually committing adultery and allowing their hearts to drift from Him.  No matter what though, the Israelites remained the object of God's affection and He refused to break His covenant with them. 

I believe that God intends to use the story of Hosea and his prostitute wife Gomer as a method to connect with our hearts. We've all strayed from our first love, and it is all too easy to be lured away into spiritual idolatry like the Israelites were. God knows our hearts, and He knows our tendencies to be lured away by earthly things.  We've all forged golden calves. For some it's an addiction, maybe to a drug, or food, or pornography. For others, maybe is  rooted in  emotions they don't easily control. Maybe it's obvious like anger, pride, or greed. Or maybe it's an issue they can hide deep beneath the surface, like lust. For some, maybe their jobs become an idol. For others, maybe they misprioritize their desires and dreams. At times, maybe  even good things sneak in and rule our hearts, like our families and even our ministries.  Either away, we've all wandered away and become spiritual harlots at some point.  And for some of us, we've returned to it over and over again.

Above all, marriage is a covenant made between two people and God. It's meant to be everlasting, irrevocable, and unbreakable. It is a spiritual union and God intends for it to be used to mold each person more and more into His image. Hopefully we don't have to go through what Hosea did, but the truth is, we all have ugly sides to us, and nobody will get to see the ugliness showcased more than our spouses. If we go into marriage with unrealistic expectations, it won't be long before we become disillusioned. But if we go into it realistically, we'll confront the ugly parts and stand strong before our commitment to our spouse.  God doesn't intend for us to run when things get difficult, rather, He for us to stand firm and prove our affection. It's easy to love somebody when they are at their best, but love is proved when we see people at their worst and our devotion still doesn't waiver.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

So true

"[Culture] assumes that passionate love is what we want to keep alive, but the nature of love is that kind of love is temporary...there are stages of love, and once you come down from that, you have to make love intentional."

Pretty sure that I took that quote from a speech I heard the author if The Five Love Languages,Gary Chapman, give. I didn't write down the source. It's obvious that I was in a rush to write down that sentence because the note is jostled and barely legible. I'm not trying to rip the author off and strip them of credit. Whoever said it, made a wise analysis, and if I ever discover who precisely said it, I will make sure to give them credit.

I've come across a lot of people who thought that they had a so called trophy spouse. They were quick to brag about how charming, good looking, or successful their husband/wife was. Even as a youngster, I knew those folks were headed for some rough times. I liken the mentality of people who describe their love for their spouses based upon fleeting characteristics to  a situation I encountered in elementary school. In fifth grade, I took a trip to Sam's Club (well, to be accurate, it was Pace back then) with my grandparents. I found a huge can of the gum called Tongue Splashers. It was all the rage at Cambridge Springs Elementary. I was able to negotiate my grandparents into buying me a can. Okay, it wasn't negotiating, it was begging, but the point is, I walked out of the store with the  paint can full of  gum and a giant smile on my face.

To make a long story short, I found out quickly that I made some new "friends"  by providing them with this whimsical bubble gum. Every day these new friends of mine would fight each other off to sit next to me in lunch, to be on my kickball team at recess, and  basically to be around me any opportunity that they could. They'd argue amongst themselves for the title of being best friend. They'd pass me notes in class. They'd win me over  by bringing me in a Ken Griffey For a few weeks, I felt like I was king. For a few weeks, this process worked well and seemed rather symbiotic. Soon, however, my stash of gum ran out, and my pockets no longer overflowed with fruity wonder. And just like that, all of the attention and affection ran dry. No more rushing to sit next to me, no more Griffey cards, no more note passing, no more being picked first for kickball.

That was a hard lesson to learn, but it did stick with me. Though I often find myself giving my time,  energies, and resources to gain approval, I've matured in my understanding, and realize that will always be temporary. Same goes with love. When we build our affections upon things other than Biblical love and devotion, once those things disappear, our love begins to vanish. It's  not really even accurate to call a love like that love. You see, love is selfless, so when we place expectations and parameters upon it, it no longer meets the definitions of love. I have witnessed many relationships spoiled and completely destroyed by unmet expectations.

Buy me some Splashers, please!
One of the most important things that couples can do together is to pray. Prayer keeps the focus on what God intended relationships for in the first place, which is to use two people's strengths and weaknesses to draw them closer to Him. Relationships functioning within God's will are amazing, fulfilling, and beautiful. That isn't to say that they aren't full of troubles, but  when God is the focus, even troubles work to our gain.

Monday, October 20, 2014

We fall in love, and then we fall out. We hear phrases like that all of the time, but does love really work that way? I've seen it in my own life, and over and over in the lives of others - the things that we used to find cute, the little idiosyncrasies in our lover that used to endear us now drive us nuts.  We fell in love with this person, we were convinced that we loved every little thing about them, but now,  that uniquely designed person and their uniquely designed traits often leave us annoyed and irritated.

We are each designed differently, and never is it more apparent than in the intrinsic contrasts between men and women. Let's be real, men and women just think completely different. In a relationships, the effects of these difference can become painfully obvious, and yet often, we have obsoletely no idea  which differences are causing the strife, let alone how to  appropriately deal with them.  Love is hard work. It takes patience and understanding. It takes respect and a willingness to own up to mistakes. It takes a desire to adjust and an even deeper desire to sacrifice for the betterment of the one that we love.

We don't fall in and out of love, we just  loose focus on the reasons that we chose to love in the first place. The concept of falling out of love is 100 percent rooted in selfishness, but saying " I fell out of love" rolls of the tongue much easier than saying "I was selfish and decided that because I was no longer having my own needs met in exactly the ways that I wanted, I chose to give up and walk away."