Middle-Aged Marriage: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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If anyone would have told me how hard this time of my life would be I don’t think I would have believed them. I was not prepared for the changes and the emotions that would encompass this time. Kids leave our homes to start their own adventures, our bodies do crazy things to us, and life is filled with doubts, regrets, and disappointment as we reflect on past choices or wonder about the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys”. Life-changing events during middle-age– college, ill or elderly parents, weddings, grandchildren, kids moving away–often come at us quickly and unrelentingly, bringing ever-constant change. All of this can be very hard on a marriage. And it can be pretty ugly.

My husband and I used to wonder how couples could stay together for 25 or 30 years and then divorce when the kids left the house. But now that we are here, it makes a lot more sense. There are a lot of emotions surrounding this time of life for both husband and wife. If you go into it without a solid base of devotion to God and friendship with each other, it will prove extra challenging and sometimes impossible. Some marriages survive it and some don’t.

Today my husband, Eric, and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we said our vows and drove off in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (anyone remember those?) but, in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. I’d like to tell you that with age, marriage has grown easy and that we are coasting in to the finish line. But that would be a lie.We both married sinners and so we continue to strive to work together. Some times are easier and some times are harder. These past couple of years would probably fit under “harder” for us.

This is why I am so thankful that I married a guy who has continued to be my best friend through all of the ups and downs. Let me assure you–our story is no fairytale. There have been serious struggles. But through it all, God has shown Himself so faithful.

Since it is our anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on why my husband and I are still such good friends even in the midst of this all. I think one of the main reasons is that he isn’t too proud to say he is sorry. I also love that he is willing to work at our marriage and will plan romantic things or read books just for me, even though his heart isn’t in them. I am glad he hates discord and won’t let more than an hour go by without talking if we are in a disagreement. And I am thankful for a husband who desires to please God with his life and who desires to obey His Word.

I am not sure why God led me to this man, but I am certainly glad He did. And I’m glad that God has walked with us every step of the way–through the dark times and through the good times.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea here. There are many times that we are so frustrated with each other we could scream. My husband isn’t even close to perfect, so don’t go comparing your husband to mine. No, instead, think right now of the good things your husband brings to your marriage. Unless you are married to a complete loser, you know there are some. The same thing goes for you men– remember the good things about your wives. Oh, how important it is at any stage of marriage to always remember why we fell in love!

And just a brief side note here: If you are a mom still in the middle of laundry and soccer games and homework and diapers, I want to encourage you to keep working at your marriage. Don’t let the kids steal your heart. Always remember that you have a man who still needs you. Because some day, all too soon, you will find yourself with only him. Make sure he is not a stranger.

Some of you have been reading this blog for a while now and you have been walking with me through this new stage of life. Many of you have been there and have offered encouragement. Or you are there and can relate to what I write. Thank you for that.

The good news is that I think I am starting to see some of the benefits to this upcoming stage of  marriage. We are able to go out for dinner without finding a babysitter. We can sit and talk uninterrupted. There is a whole lot less chaos and stress in our home. And, of course, we have a little more extra money with only one teenager in our house instead of four! And, so, I think once things settle down here, we will become used to our new normal and we will find ourselves even more deeply in love.

Until then, I would just like to say Happy 27th Anniversary to my wonderful husband. He reads this blog faithfully to support me (another thing I appreciate!) so I know he will see this. I love you, Eric, and if I could choose, I’d marry you all over again.

 

Ironing for Jesus

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The other day, as we prepared for yet another wedding, I watched my brother and sister-in-law. They efficiently and diligently did every task asked of them without complaint or attitude. I have seen them do this before. Since they never complain and no job is too small or “beneath” them, they are wonderful to have around! While we have had so many helpful relatives and friends give us a hand these past few weeks, on this particular day there were just a few of us and I watched my brother and his wife closely. As they quietly worked, much got done and there was no drama. They willingly and gladly did anything necessary to help. By the end of the day, I was convicted.

On the way home that day, I asked the Lord to help me be more like them. I told him that I wanted to stop complaining when a task is boring or hard. Or when I’d rather be doing something else.

Little did I know that God would present me with a situation that would test my earnest prayer the very next day.

We had tablecloths to iron. Lots of tablecloths to iron. Somehow I ended up at an iron (probably because no one else wanted to do it!) But these weren’t just any tablecloths. These things were so difficult to iron. There was no feeling of accomplishment even when I’d spend 15 minutes on one tablecloth. I am convinced that many of the wrinkles in these rented cloths were permanently in place.

This made for a pretty discouraging task. For a variety of reasons–

It was hot.

It was boring.

And there was no possible way to do it well.

As I watched everyone having all the fun of decorating the venue, I stood at the ironing board, dutifully doing my “mom” thing but not with a very good attitude. I was bummed and started complaining inside my head. And then the complaints started spilling out of my mouth.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit challenged me.

Did you really mean what you prayed yesterday? Because this is a test.

No, I didn’t hear the words. But I was convicted.

I made a choice to stop complaining in that instant. What did it matter? Why not spare someone else from having to do this awful job and let others have the fun? The only reason I even cared was because I was thinking only of me. If this was my job, then I would do it cheerfully. I went to work and, instead of being resentful about missing out on all of the fun, I put on some uplifting music and chose to enjoy watching all of the activity.

Thankfully, God was so kind to me and provided my mom to help me with the ironing a little later on. But not before I learned a good lesson. Sometimes we don’t get to do the fun job or the job we think we should. Instead we are asked to do the job that we don’t want to do. The one that perhaps we think we are too good for. And that’s when our true character shows, isn’t it? That’s when we see who we really are inside. Because anyone can be pleasant and diligent when they are doing what they want to do.

Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t given up on me yet and so, while this could have ended up as one of my many spiritual failures, in this particular instance I made a choice, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to respond correctly and started ironing for Jesus.

One of my favorite verse came to mind while I did so–

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Are you doing your mundane or hated tasks with a joyful heart and pleasant attitude? If not, I encourage you to, this day, think through your attitude. For it is here that Satan can so easily ensnare us. We Christians don’t always view our bad attitudes as sinful, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are sinful.

Let’s improve our characters by making the conscientious choice to smile in the boring tasks. To praise God through the difficult demands. And to be humble when asked to do something we think is beneath us. For in doing so, the light of our Lord and Savior will shine ever so brightly through us!

 

The Thing Anger Never Accomplishes

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Anger is just one of those things we justify, isn’t it? We can come up with so many different reasons why we should be “allowed” to be angry. Such as–

Someone said something unkind

Our spouse didn’t meet our expectations

Someone isn’t giving us something we want

Our co-worker isn’t carrying their load

Our kids are too noisy or too defiant or too annoying

The line is soooooo long

We are cut off on the highway

Our phone quit working

We spilled coffee on our laptop

The dog chewed a hole in the carpet

There are over a million reasons that we Christians will use to rationalize our angry outbursts or our seething, simmering, cold silences.

As in —pretend they aren’t sinful. Pretend they aren’t our fault. Pretend that we aren’t to blame for our anger. We convince ourselves that it is someone else’s fault. It is certainly not ours.

When we do this, we do feel better, don’t we? At least on the surface. This requires no repentance. No work on our part to change. No guilt.

The past few weeks we have been reading in Proverbs in our Bible Challenge. There is so much wisdom in this book of the Bible that I have found myself liberally highlighting many of the verses there. But the verses on anger may have been especially appropriate for me with this read-through. Let me tell you why–

Recently, I have fallen prey to this dangerous anger game. I would be irritated or frustrated and instead of taking responsibility, found it easier just to blame it on someone else. Even as I write, I find myself a little reluctant to take full responsibility for my anger. After all, she did this…or he said that

And then my Sunday School teacher said something the other week that stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Morris!)–

Your anger will never accomplish anything for God’s righteous purposes.

I felt like he was speaking directly to me (and–if I’m honest– maybe to my husband, too!) We have had an interesting last few months. Interesting seems a good word, since I don’t want to complain. Most of what is happening is really good–some of what is happening is not so good, but, through it all, we are very aware that we are so blessed. But what all of these changes have led to is a whole lot of stress and intensity of feelings that is a bit outside our norm as a family.

My teacher’s words struck a chord deep within as I realized that I had been trying to use anger (it’s cold, punishing silence and the occasional unkind outbursts) to try to make things the way I want them to be. Or to fix something. Or to make someone feel guilty. Or to change someone’s mind.

There are many reasons to be angry and to act on that anger– but none of them are for God’s glory.

Anger can be a very effective tool. But there is always a way that we could do it better and more effectively. Anger is never the best way. Sure, we may be able to make our kids obey us by screaming at them, but if we train them to only respond when our voice reaches a certain pitch, then they will continue in that same pattern with their own kids. How much wiser to keep our voices low and demand obedience immediately, with consistent consequences to follow.

And let me make something very clear– I am not saying that we did this right. I am here saying we didn’t do this right. Anger has always been a struggle for us in our family. We can see the fruits of it in our kids’ lives and we are sending them off into the world to fight their own battles with this sin. We could have done such a better job in this area. Oh, we never threw plates or shouted obscenities, but we did let many angry words fly over the years and for that I have great regret.

Especially when I think of it in light of the words of my teacher.

I remember someone talking about angry words years ago and comparing them to toothpaste– once they are squeezed out of the tube, you cannot put them back in. Our kids don’t forget the mean, hateful things we say in the heat of an argument or temper tantrum. Neither do our spouses and other family members. Self-control–that fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23–is very much in need when it comes to this sin of anger. For even if we are angry, we need to think first and confess before we act on it.

If we are human, we will have to admit that anger is as natural a feeling as being happy or sad. We humans, without exception, hate our plans being thwarted. Sure, some of us get worked up much more easily than others, but we all have our limit. We all have our threshold of when enough is enough. How that looks is different for all of us. Some of us are screamers. Some of us grow icy cold and quiet. Anger is a sin in both cases, although screamers tend to have more pieces to pick up after it’s all over. Some withhold conversation or physical touch in order to punish, others may yell and curse– or even occasionally throw something –but both reactions are sinful reactions.

There are a few sins that have become extremely accepted by the church — to the point that we rarely even discuss them anymore. I believe anger is one of them.

I have no idea today if you have fought this battle, are fighting this battle, or aren’t even convicted about this. You know where I’m at. I need prayer. These next few months promise to be so happy and exciting, but also stressful and demanding and, yes, even a little sad. I want to rise to the occasion and be a good testimony– I don’t want to flounder in my own wants and desires, demanding my own way. I want to remember that anger never accomplishes God’s righteous purposes!

I hope that you feel the same way. Here are some verses to get us started on our way to battling this sin.

Proverbs 16:32
Ephesians 4:26
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 6:4
Colossians 3:8
I Timothy 2:8
James 1:19
Galatians 5:16-26
Matthew 5:22

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Weekend Reflections

Weddings

Today’s post is not typical and there really isn’t going to be any spiritual lesson. Instead, I am going to try to encapsulate my emotions from this past weekend just a bit. We had my son’s wedding on Saturday (which you already know) and then we had my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party on Sunday. S0, before we go any further, I will answer the question I know you are thinking– yes, I am a bit crazy to do that. That has already been established.

However, just so you know, my brother is from out-of-town and this just made the most sense. Plus we were able to use the wedding venue and the wedding centerpieces, so it came together pretty easily–especially when you have a sister-in-law and a daughter who should really go into party-planning as a business…

Now that we have my sanity (or lack thereof) established, we can move on to some of my impressions from the weekend.  As mentioned above already, this is certainly not my normal kind of post but I thought I would share this here because so many of us share the same emotions when it comes to our children and our parents. I’ll get back to my normal style on Thursday.

So, first, my impressions of Saturday–

I guess if you read my blog, you are already familiar with the fact that I have been on an emotional roller coaster regarding this wedding. Let me say first and very clearly, this roller coaster had nothing to do with my son’s choice of a bride. She is the perfect choice for him and we couldn’t be more thankful. The fact that her parents are some of our closest friends is a very special bonus. It’s the stuff in life you could never plan! I think, rather, that it was partly because it was my only son’s wedding and I knew he now would officially have another woman as his priority in life. Some of you will get what I’m saying and some of  you won’t. I also think it was because the reality of the empty nest is starting to set in now.

But, last Monday, I started to feel so much better. Over the course of the next few days, I had three or four dear, dear friends text or tell me in person that they were praying for me. I could feel their prayers holding me up and I had a great week last week. Prayer is an amazing thing.

And, this morning, I am okay. I am really exhausted but I’m okay. Although, I cannot lie–there is a big empty sadness that fills me when I think about my son’s room never being occupied by him again. It’s just so…strange.  No one ever tells you when your babies are little what it feels like to watch your birdies try their wings and fly off away into their own lives. I find myself wishing I didn’t feel so deeply. It makes it so much harder.

But we are so excited for our son–and for our two daughters– and their future lives. They have all grown up to be responsible adults who want to follow Jesus and have found spouses who want to do the same. What more could you ask as parents? While there may be some mourning over what was, I stand amazed (and also filled with a bit of relief if I think back to the question marks of the teen years!) when I look at my adult kids. They are not perfect kids and we are far-from-perfect parents. We take no credit. God is so good. And He is so faithful.

Which leads me to my impressions of Sunday–

As people started to file in to my parents’ party I saw many dear friends that I hadn’t seen for so many years. Memories of yesteryear filled my mind. And I had to think of how God uses certain people in our lives at certain times and then they leave the stage of our lives and we move on. It’s the nature of life. We move, we change jobs, we change churches, and we become disconnected. And it makes me thankful for two things–first, that we are graced with the presence of so many dear friends throughout our lives. People who have supported us and encouraged us just when we needed it. What an incredible blessing from God! And, second, for the really special friends that God gives us that hang around our entire lives. At the party were a few friends that my parents have remained close to through all of the changes in their lives. They have a special connection (I call it a “kindred spirit”) with my parents and have been with them through thick and thin. If we are fortunate enough to have just a few “kindred spirit” friends, we are beyond blessed. True friends are hard to come by. They are a treasure and should never be taken for granted.

And as we celebrated, the absence of several relatives was felt. But, for me it was the absence of my mother’s brother, Larry, that was felt most deeply. He has gone on to be with the Lord and life on earth–at least for this family–will never be the same. He is still so sorely missed. I know that all people are missed, but Larry was special. He was one of those uncles that you knew cared about you. That you could go to if you ever needed anything. And he made us laugh–oh, how he made us laugh. I know that life will never be the same without him.

I was also filled with such thankfulness as I thought about God’s sovereignty in putting me in this particular family as a tiny baby. Why me? Why was I so blessed to be put there? I have no answer for that. But I do have a very grateful heart.

And so this weekend was filled with emotion for me– the hope of the future and looking back to the past. It was a lot to take in. To say the least.

But I guess if there is any lesson to be had here, I would leave you with something my dad said when he shared a few words yesterday.  He said that before any children joined the family, he and mom had talked about the fact that nothing would ever be more important to them than that their children would come to know the Lord. That would always be the priority. My parents were not perfect, but that was always the priority. They held to their word.

They now have a son who is a preacher (and an amazing one at that!) and a daughter who writes about biblical principles. But their decision has also affected the lives of their grandchildren. For we, their children, have also made that the priority with our own children. And it is our prayer that our children will do the same.

If you have young children– or even if your kids are older– I encourage you to make the same priority in raising your kids. Nothing is more important. No sports trophies or academic accolades compare. No stage or glory or awards matter more than this one thing–that our kids love and serve Jesus.

Weaknesses and unkind words and unloving actions have abounded in my families. They were part of my life growing up and they are part of my life now. But if we keep the Lord our priority, he is so faithful. He is so faithful. He fills in the gaps of our weaknesses and honors our commitment to Him. It is truly hard to explain the joy and peace that fills a heart that lives for Him. Life isn’t perfect and there are hard times. But, through it all, it is well with my soul.

I know so many of you have experienced the same faithfulness. You have experienced God’s great love and grace for you. We don’t base our Christian walk on that experience (as is so common today) but, the experiences confirm what we know to be true from scripture. They confirm the promises we read in God’s Word. I leave you with just one of those promises–

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

 

Sex is Not a Four-Letter Word

Song of Solomon

Disclaimer: This post is really for my fellow Christian women. Men will probably not get this post, although it may help them to understand their wives a bit if they take the time to read it.

Sex Trafficking/Slavery.

Transgender/Trans-sexual.

Sexual Abuse and Molestation.

Pornography.

Affairs.

Prostitution.

The Gay Agenda.

If we have been saved by the blood of Christ, we view the above words as sinful or evil. Some of the words are viewed as evil even by the world. This is because God’s Word (and our consciences) inform us that all of the above are sexual behaviors that lie outside of God’s perfect will for sexuality. All are warped and broken ways that man has tainted sexuality. It would appear that Satan has given some of his greatest effort to destroying sex as God designed it.

So it’s Thursday, the day that I generally write about what we are currently reading in our Bible Challenge. I almost chickened out and was seriously considering ignoring the Song of Solomon completely. It was very tempting. I don’t even really “get” that book (comparing love to  clusters of henna blossoms and teeth to recently shorn sheep isn’t my style!) But there it was–this book that talks about verdant beds and breasts like towers. In the Bible. Our guide book for life has a whole book about the pure and holy beauty of physical intimacy between a husband and a wife.

Many of us are very uncomfortable even mentioning the word “sex”.  Satan has corrupted and perverted it almost beyond recognition. Because of this, it has destroyed countless lives and families. If we grew up in a Christian home, this word may have been ignored completely. Many families just pretend that it doesn’t exist at all. And, even worse yet, I have heard of some women who were told by their mothers or other older women that sex is just a duty and nothing more, something to be endured.

Sex is a little tricky for Christians, isn’t it? It’s one of the only things I know of that is a sin in one set of circumstances (sex between two unmarried people ) and beautiful and glorious in a different set of circumstances (sex between two married people).

While I don’t really understand every verse of Song of Solomon, I do take away from reading this book that God considers sex between two married people to be something pure and holy and wonderful.

As women, in particular, I think we have to be careful not to mix the feelings we have about our pasts (sexual sin or abuse) with our married sex life now. This can be difficult and there is no easy way to heal from something like this. But women can heal from this. I have heard the testimonies of several women who have struggled through the guilt of their pasts. There is hope!

I also believe that we have to be so careful not to let the debauchery of prime-time TV or the perverted remarks and jokes we hear in a steady stream all around us to taint our view of sex the way God created it to be. We have become a weirdly over-sexed nation– as if that is the only thing that matters in a relationship. And most of us are either laughing and going along with the world’s perversions of sex or we are putting our heads into the sand and pretending it’s not happening.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking: What is she talking about? My view of sex is perfectly healthy.

If that’s the case, I am so happy for you.

But I believe that it’s very likely that there are many, many Christian women who have been broken or taught lies about this word and they view sex as something to be endured or even avoided.

I am certainly no sex therapist but I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: We will never be able to fully enjoy sex with our spouse until our view of sex is a biblical one.

Sex is not a dirty word. Instead, it is something that has been destroyed and broken almost irreparably by Satan and the world. It’s time for Christians to declare the truth about sex. We need to stop being so embarrassed about something that God created as a special gift for husbands and wives. The shame only comes when we step outside God’s design. There is no shame to be found in sex between a man and his wife. Yes, it should be a private thing, but it’s not shameful.

So that’s what I learned this week! I have a feeling next week’s post may seem a little boring compared to this one– if there even is a Thursday post next week since our son’s wedding is next Saturday! Wow, that came fast!

Have a great day. Hope I didn’t make you blush. :)

The Many Faces of Pride

PRIDE

I’ve had a really rough week. You don’t need details, but suffice it to say that I came face to face with my loathsome, prideful self yet once again.

Does that ever happen to you? Or am I the only one? You think you are doing pretty well in this Christianity thing and then something happens that you didn’t see coming or someone doesn’t meet your expectations and you react. And that’s when you realize that you still have so far to go. While it can be really painful, I am so thankful for these times, for they remind me of why I need a Savior so incredibly much and they help me to grow more like Christ.

Pride is an insidious, deadly sin. It gobbles up our peace and joy so quickly. It destroys most everything in its wake. Or, at the very least, keeps any relationship from being the best it could be.

Humility is the opposite of pride. Christ was humble, even to death on a cross, and humility is what He requires of us. First and foremost, humility is necessary for us to understand our need for a Savior. But, after our initial conversion, it is also so key in staying in a right relationship with God. It is absolutely critical for healthy family relationships. Humility helps us to be a better co-worker, a better child, a better spouse, a better parent. We are happier when we are humble. We bless others when we are humble. We experience much greater peace when we are humble.

When we think of pride, we often think of the kind that David exhibited in I Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). David took a census. This was apparently an act of pride that cost him (and the whole nation of Israel) dearly. We can’t know for sure, but according to my Bible study notes, David’s act of taking this census could have angered God for a number of reasons. Perhaps because David was trying to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and military power. Or he was putting more trust in his forces than in his God. Maybe this was showing that he was taking credit for the many victories of Israel. Whatever his reason, we know that God was angry, as we read in the passage.

And our pride often looks like David’s in our own day-to-day living. We take credit for something; we want the glory; we draw attention to our accomplishments and awards and accolades.

But let’s just say that we don’t really struggle with this type of thing. Maybe we hate attention and would never boast about ourselves. We would never count our successes and victories and put them out there for all the world to see. Is there still the possibility that pride could still be an issue for us, if boasting and taking censuses isn’t our style?

Of course, the answer to this is a resounding YES.

So what are some ways that pride hides out in the dark corners of our minds and hearts? I have been really thinking about this topic of humility this week. Knowing that in order for my relationships to work right, I need to be humble. In searching some of my favorite authors on this topic, I came across a $2.99 Kindle book called Sermons on Humility by Charles Spurgeon. I have not finished it, but in the first few pages he shares several different ways pride exhibits itself in even the most “humble” of us. I will follow each one with a few practical, modern-day examples —

There is the pride of the heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the word of God, never content to sit like a child to believe what he is told, he is a disputant but not a disciple. He will insist upon it that his own reason is to be the well-spring of his own beliefs, and he will receive nothing beyond his own reach.

This is immediately what I think of when I think of the Christians who claim that homosexuality isn’t a sin, that unity is more important than truth, or that the world evolved. They have the pride of the heretic–relying on their own intellect or on the intellect of other men instead of on the Word of God. The other person that comes to mind is the one who says there are many ways to heaven or that there is no hell. They, too, are holding their own thinking in higher merit than the Word of God.

There is next the pride of the Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to will heaven as the reward of his own doings.

While they may not brag or boast about this, many think they are good people, quietly assuming that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones and this will be what gets them into heaven. Even many, many Christians (or shall I say people who identify with the religion of Christianity) believe they are going to heaven based on their own merit. This is pride. This is the kind that keeps our eyes blinded to our need for a Savior.

Next there is the pride of the curious. The man who is not content with simplicities, but must pry into mysteries. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and read between those folded leaves and break the seven seals of the mysterious book of destiny. You know well our apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood, yet he uttered them because of the Spirit, and you never meet with any attempt in the apostle’s writing as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent, quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and do of his good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met, he was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master’s spirit, and leave the old wives fables and endless genealogies and disputings, and questionings, to those who had no better guests to entertain.

I included this whole section here because it goes so very well with my post from Monday. I agree with Spurgeon whole-heartedly– it is prideful to think we have to understand the things we can’t understand. Yes, the ungodly will call you stupid and unintellectual when you take this approach (mostly because of their own personal pride). They don’t know God the way we do if we are saved. They don’t understand that submitting to His sovereignty is an incredible blessing. That some questions can go unanswered because the ones that really matter have already been answered. They can’t get it. Their eyes can’t see.

Again, there is the pride of the persecutor; the man who is not content with his own notions, but would hunt to death another, the pride which suggests that I am infallible, and that if any man should differ from me, the stake and the rack would be the due deserts of so great a sin, against so great a person as myself.

We may not want to see someone physically harmed when they don’t agree with us, but how many broken families and split churches fall under this type of pride? Millions? Trillions? This is perhaps the most tempting one for “godly Christians”. We think we are right. We believe that our opinion is best. We believe we are infallible. But if it’s not within the pages of scripture, is it actually something worth a broken relationship?

Is any special piece of furniture or bank account worth the fracturing of a family upon a parents’ death?

Is any decision of our adult children worth the tense and strained relationship that comes when we keep insisting they are doing wrong thing or making the wrong choice?

Is any opinion of mine worth holding on to if it’s causing stress and constant argument in my marriage?

Is my hurt pride over what I heard that someone said about me worth a broken friendship?

NO, a thousand times NO. The answer to all of these questions is NO.

And so, so many of us fall prey to this deadly sin, leaving a trail of broken hearts and strained relationships. I don’t want to do this. I want my marriage more than I want to be right. I want a right relationship with my kids more than I want to be right. I want to be a good testimony more than I want to be right.

Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical truth here. Of course, we have to stand strong and fight for the truth held within the pages of scripture. I might add here that even these biblical debates can and should only be done with great gentleness and kindness. But most of us are not arguing over biblical doctrine (a few more of us should be! We seem to not find that important, while inane, silly things get us so riled up!), instead, we are debating and arguing over issues which have no biblical mandate. No right or wrong. I am talking about the silly, stupid stuff we won’t bend on. The stuff that isn’t worth it.

Life is hard. Relationships take work. And no relationship works well without at least one party practicing humility. Joy and peace elude us without humility. Unanswerable questions haunt us without it.

And so we start with us. Today. The only place we can start. And we take our desire to be right, our yearning for glory, and our prideful thoughts about how good we are and hand them all to the Lord, asking Him to humble us and to become more like Him.

Often crying and screaming inside our heads as we endure the emotional pain of the process.

 

 

Spurgeon, Charles (2014-09-28). Twelve Sermons on Humility; Titus Books. Kindle Edition.

 

The Win (and what to do until then)

the win

Isn’t it interesting how schools cycle through their glory years? One year the guys’ basketball team or girls’ soccer team is undefeated and there is enthusiastic school spirit supporting them. And then a season or two later all the glory has ended. Key players or a coach moves on and the dynamics change and suddenly they aren’t the team on top anymore.

The same dynamic plagues most professional sports teams, as well. I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan–no matter if they win or lose. But right now it is bad. Let’s just say that we aren’t watching a lot of baseball this year. It’s just not near as much fun as when they were really doing well and headed to the World Series.

And we are left with one conclusion–

Winning is glorious and losing is not.

A lot of the stories of King David are tales of victory over enemies. Just yesterday, we read of how the Ammonites asked the Syrians to fight with them and after being soundly defeated, we read that the Syrians were afraid “to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Samuel 10:19). I guess I would have been, too. David had a reputation of being victorious. But King David doesn’t win every battle. We will soon read of his battle with lust that he loses in a big way (2 Samuel 11).  And let’s not forget that just a few years earlier he was fighting for his life as he was chased down by Saul. He eventually became King, but it certainly wasn’t without grief and struggle.

This is what makes life so hard. We win some and we lose some. But some battles are so much more important than others. And what are we to do when we feel like we are losing such critical battles? The battles for–

Our country

Our churches

Our freedom

The hearts of our kids

Our marriages

 

We are losing some of these battles pretty soundly right now. Have you read the news lately?

But we know that we win the war. That is worth repeating: We are going to win this war between good and evil.

We can’t lose sight of this. No, God does not promise us that our kids will be saved or that our spouse will stick around. He doesn’t promise that our churches will preach sound doctrine or that our country will return to its Christian roots. But what we do know– without a shadow of a doubt– is that God will reign victorious in the end. Every knee will bow to the King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).

When we consider this very important truth, we naturally come to the conclusion that the only thing that really matters is whether or not those around us are going to confess Jesus Christ as Lord before it’s too late.

So often, we worry so much about the outward stuff that indicates serious problems– the bad grades, the drug and alcohol abuse, the debt and materialism, the false doctrines, the laws, the liberalism. And we try to fix things. We try to fix our kids and spouses. We try to fix our churches and our government.

But is anything truly fixed without a changed heart? A child can change behavior without ever changing his heart. A government can make laws that are more compatible with our beliefs, but will that really solve our country’s problem?

I don’t think so. Because the reason we are having such deep, heart-breaking issues– both in our families and beyond– is that people believe in a lie. They have chosen to reject the Word of God and they believe the lies of the world. They believe these lies of the devil–

–That their purpose and fulfillment is what matters (which leads to self-centered, self-absorbed individuals only out for themselves)

–That their kids’ happiness reigns supreme (which leads to spoiled brats who think the world revolves around them and want the world but are not willing to work for it)

–They believe unity is more important than biblical integrity and that loves trumps holiness (which leads to a shallow, fake religion pretending to be Christianity)

–They believe that the Bible is just partly true. That it has errors. They believe that God just got the ball rolling and then put the creation of the world into the hands of some kind of evolutionary process (placing doubt on The Bible removes the foundation for true Christianity)

–They believe that you get to heaven for doing good things. That they simply need the good to outweigh the bad (this is a insidious and very old lie — that your righteous works will win your salvation)

–They believe that God would never want them to be unhappy (this leads our faith to become me-centered rather than centered on the almighty God of the universe)

–They believe that man is basically good and that sins are simply diseases and disorders (the sinfulness of man is a key component of true Christianity and cannot be overlooked without forfeiting biblical salvation completely)

–They believe that their happiness will be found here on this earth (but Jesus said “blessed are you when you are persecuted, for your reward will be in heaven”. See Matthew 5:11-12)

 

I challenge you to talk to someone that calls him or herself a “Christian” but doesn’t live like it. Somewhere in their thinking is a lie (or two or three) that they are believing.

It is impossible to fight the battle for someone’s soul if they are believing lies. We have to start at the beginning. And that beginning is the Word of God. For that is where we find the truth. This means that we need to know it and study it and understand it ourselves.

And so while we wait for The Win, let’s fight the battle for the truth–God’s Truth. Let’s fight for the hearts of our kids, for our marriages and families. Let’s fight for it in our churches and in our country. Do it sweetly and kindly and gently. But let’s never, ever forget that we are in a war.

And never forget– we win!

 

About Love

I Corinthians 1313

When I was a kid, life was a lot different. I can remember when Dad brought home our first microwave, our first VCR, and our first Video Game Console. I remember the Christmas as a young married woman when I received my first CD player. I was so excited! I didn’t know it at the time, but just like life had changed so drastically with the development of machines in the late 1800s, so would life change again in the late 1900s with the development of the computer.

One of those changes — a seemingly very minor one — is that instead of buying the whole album of our favorite artist to get the song we love, we can now just buy that one song. This option means we don’t have to buy the songs we don’t like. But I wonder if it doesn’t also mean that we miss a few we would really like?

Sometimes I think we approach love a little like that. We want to just experience the easy, good parts of love. Let me explain–

If we are a parent, the easy, fun parts are the hugs & kisses, the snuggling up at night and the “I love yous” and the proud moments when you get to say “I’m that kid’s parent!”

If we are a spouse, some of the good parts are when we are in complete harmony in purpose, holding hands and talking, looking across a room and knowing exactly what the other person is thinking.

If we are a son or a daughter, the good parts are the cool ways your parents take care of you even as an adult, or the friendship that has grown deeper with your older parents.

If we are a friend, the easy part is the connection we feel, the support we know we have, no matter what befalls us.

These are some of the best things about love. The joy that comes from interpersonal relationships.

But I wonder if, with the advent of all of this technology, we have become a little unrealistic in our expectations of love, thinking we can just pick the good times. Trying to hang on to “perfect”– just getting the pleasant experiences and bypassing the unpleasant ones.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that sometimes there are far more unpleasant ones than pleasant ones. We are all sinful human beings and life is hard–

As parents, we need to discipline and provide consequences for sinful behavior. We need to have hard conversations. We need to endure a few “I hate you!”s and quite a few seemingly hopeless moments that just aren’t any fun at all and certainly not easy. But that is love.

As spouses, we don’t always jive, we disagree, and we have periods of crazy, busy times where we hardly see each other. We argue, we fight, we lay in bed not talking. But this is just the hard part of love.

As adult children, we see our parents growing weaker, they need us to do things for them that they used to be able to do for themselves, we take them to dr appts, or do their finances, or change their diaper. But we remember how hard it must have been to raise us, and we do it because we genuinely love them with all our heart.

As friends, we disagree– sometimes on major things, our kids may fight or not get along, or we may move far away from each other, but if true love abounds, the friendship remains, because that is what true love does.

I just wonder if we have become so used to pulling only the good things and avoiding the bad things, that we have not experienced love in its fullest, most satisfying way. For when we walk away (physically or emotionally) from a tough situation, we are in essence saying that we don’t want the hard stuff.

Now, please don’t take this to the extreme. There are a few very legitimate reasons to walk away from certain relationships, at least for a time. But this is not the norm. Most relationships are broken because they just weren’t easy or fun anymore.

Many of those who walk away go on to start a new relationship that sours faster than the first one.

But true love accepts the bad stuff along with the good stuff. Rejection isn’t even an option. Divorce or abandonment aren’t even a passing thought in our brain. True love means commitment and work but, oh, the rewards are tremendous.

I have no idea if you are struggling in a relationship today. Many of us are. Don’t give in to the thoughts that tell you to quit and move on. Keep loving. Keep doing what’s right. Do what you can do and then pray. Hard. We can’t change the other person, but we can surely do all that we possibly can to salvage the troubling relationships in our lives.

 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

 

Why Waiting Is Sometimes the Best Option

swiffer

I think I may have done the same thing. It’s hard to know, isn’t it? But if my husband would have been promised heirs as numerous as the dust and I very obviously couldn’t have children, I may have tried to fix it, too. Because that’s what we humans do. We try to fix uncomfortable, inconvenient, unpleasant situations.

Only sometimes –many times– it backfires.

I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Genesis 16. If you are doing the Bible Challenge this year, you will have recently read (or will soon read) about Sarai giving her maid, Hagar, to Abram to bear children for her.  In a culture like theirs we can’t conceive of giving our husband another woman, but that was a different time and place and Sarai was obviously desperate for a baby. So instead of waiting, she took matters into her own hands. As we read on, we see that her decision to do that not only caused heartache for her and her family, but caused strife and anguish for generations to come. She took matters into her own hands and many, many people suffered –and continue to suffer–because of it. For Ishmael is considered to be the ancestor of the Arab nation and this seems to be the birthplace of the historical strife between them and the Jews.

It is easy for me to sit back and point a finger at Sarai. How could she be so hasty and foolish to think she could fix a problem that only God could fix? And, yet, how often I am guilty of the same thing.

I have been known to rush in and try to “fix” my husband and my kids on many occasions. I have tried to fix situations at church and in my extended family. These efforts are usually not helpful and I have been slowly learning to back away and pray instead.

Of course, sometimes, God would lead us to confront someone (Matthew 1815-17) or to pull them from the fire (Jude 1:22-23) but this should only be done with much humility and after much prayer. There is a place for thinking outside of the box to solve problems and giving our energy to changing our own bad habits but human efforts should never be done impulsively or out of desperation. They should never take precedence over God’s will. And we should never, ever try to change someone else’s bad habits unless they ask for our help. Because I have learned that this is a completely fruitless and utterly hopeless task.

Of course, this is so easy to write about but much harder to put in place. For example–

The other day, I found myself growing extremely frustrated that once again my floor was filled with muddy footprints. I found myself in a bit of a panic, as Bible Study was going to be taking place in my home shortly and my family seemed to have no care about this, but continued to walk across my clean floor with their wet boots on. And so I took matters into my own hands and started yelling. Yeah, like that’s going to fix it. In my experience, yelling has never fixed anything. So why do I keep doing it?

Thankfully, this pathetic effort at trying to fix something in my life in the wrong way only humbled me and reminded me of my great sinfulness. I was absolutely mortified to be yelling at my family just before my friends walked in my house. And instead of fixing the situation, I had just made it worse.

Which is what usually happens when I try to fix something without praying and considering the ramifications beforehand.

And this was just a wrong response to a muddy floor– a tiny blip in the timeline of my life with no long-lasting consequences. I can’t imagine how Sarai must have felt after she tried to take matters in her own hands. A lifetime of strife would follow and she was to blame. Taking matters into our own hands can have minor consequences or they can have major ones, but there are always consequences.

And so perhaps we would be better off if we would wait quietly, taking time to consider and pray, bringing our baffling problems and unsolvable puzzles to the Lord instead of trying to impulsively fix them ourselves.

And the wonderful thing about doing this is that so many times, the Lord proves Himself so faithful in these situations! Even just recently, a friend shared how God worked in an absolutely astounding and surprising way to solve an impossible situation. For it’s only when we can’t solve it ourselves that we really see God work, just as He did in Sarai’s life by giving her baby Isaac. For, with God, nothing is impossible.

 

A Call to Prayer for Our Men

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{my apologies that my subscribers are receiving this post twice. I actually had to restore my site and re-post this.}

My daughter and I met some friends for lunch on Friday. The hour and a half drive there took us through a section of road that has adult stores dotting the roadside for several miles. Usually these stores have cars in front of them that are very obviously parked so that no one can see their license plates. A sure sign of embarrassment and shame.

As we drove back home on Friday, I happened to see a man get out of his work truck in front of one of these stores. He went around the side of his truck to fix or rearrange something. I stared at him as we went by. I wanted to see just what kind of men frequent such places.

And guess what? He looked like an ordinary guy that we’d hire to fix our car or stand and talk to at a sports game. He certainly didn’t look like an evil monster.

Now, truthfully, I didn’t expect him to look like a monster. So what’s my point? I believe that we women have done a great disservice to our men if we are not praying for their sexual purity.

It makes us so uncomfortable to even talk about this. Even now, some of you will be appalled that I would be writing about such a thing. But, honestly– unless you are living in blind ignorance–you must realize that pornography has become a problem of epidemic proportions in the American family. Even in Christian families. So many face the consequences of this deadly, secret sin in one way or another.

I’m not going to speak to the men since I obviously can’t understand how that temptation works for them. However, I am going to challenge the women reading this– wives, mothers, aunts, grandmothers– to pray for the men in their lives regarding sexual purity. Pray for your husbands, sons, nephews, grandsons. Ask the Lord to protect them from this particular temptation.

We can’t just turn our heads and pretend this problem doesn’t exist. Because that doesn’t keep it from existing.

Will you join me in praying for the sexual purity of our husbands and sons? Our nephews and grandsons? Our brothers and brothers-in-law? And even our pastors and spiritual leaders? God will use our prayers to help them to resist the temptation of this secret sin that destroys so many marriages and families. We must never underestimate the power of prayer!

Obviously, this is not my typical kind of post. But when I saw that normal-looking man walk into that store, my heart broke for him and his family because I know that they have a serious problem that will only grow worse unless he seeks help. And it reminded me to pray hard for the men in my life in this particular area. I thought I would share this with you, in case you, too, would like to ask God to strengthen and protect the men in your life.