Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Marriage-Friendly Church?

What is the church's role in facilitating and encouraging healthy, godly, Christian marriages?

Is your church really saying what you think you're saying in regard to marriage?
Does scripture have more influence on couples in your congregation or does the culture?
Is your congregation proactive or reactive when it comes to marriage?
Is there anything fundamentally different from the world’s experience of marriage in the way your church teaches about marriage, equips couples for marriage, and provides the means for couples to have Christ-centered marriages that help grow the Kingdom of God?
Is a healthy theology and practice of marriage a part of the fabric of who you are as a congregation?

Are you sure?

My new book, The Marriage-Friendly Church, is a means for churches to honestly assess where they currently are, find a strong, biblically-based foundation from which to grow their marriage ministry, and discover relevant, proactive ways to help couples use their marriages in God's Kingdom.

It is my adamant prayer that God will use this book to help churches everywhere reclaim Christian marriage as a vibrant part of the DNA of who you are as a congregation.

 The Marriage-Friendly Church is currently available from 21st Century Christian Publishing
(There is also an accompanying workbook available, The Marriage Ministry Team Workbook;

Monday, February 18, 2013

In sickness and in health

     Today is my anniversary.  It’s not mine and Lisa’s wedding anniversary, but in so many ways it is still a very significant anniversary for us as a couple.  You see, as of today, February 18, 2013, it has been 3 years since I have smelled or tasted anything.  Three years ago, February 18, 2010 was the day I decided to go to a men’s basketball night at the gym at my church.  Before the night was over, I was in the hospital from a severe head injury. I have no memory of what exactly happened and how I came to be injured that night.  (From what others told me and the medical evidence, I forcefully slammed head-first into a bricko-block wall, and suffered a traumatic brain injury.)  As a result I was bed-ridden for eleven days. And now, three years later, I still have less than an hour of collective memory from those eleven days.
     My wife later shared some interesting accounts of what happened during that time. While I do not remember much of anything, my wife clearly remembers how my head injury completely reoriented her world. The most significant change was a fundamental shift in my personality. According to my wife, I was completely out-of-my-head crazy and I became “very, very mean.” She said I spoke harshly and critically when I spoke at all, yelling at her and snapping at our children. The reality of how different I was during those days sank in when Lisa later shared with me that she feared our oldest daughter Chloe would be the only one who would remember “how Daddy really was.”
     As the days slowly ticked by and Lisa didn't see any notable changes in my condition, she started to brace herself for the reality that she was going to have to care for an ornery, inconsiderate, bed-ridden husband for the rest of her life. For a short period, she was trapped with only memories of what life was before and evaporating dreams of what life should have been.
     Through constant prayer and by the grace of God, I've had a nearly full recovery from the injury. While I still haven’t regained any memories from the two days in the hospital and the following nine days at home, the only long term effects of my head injury is the permanent loss of my senses of smell and taste.  I don’t like it.  Not being able to smell or taste is depressing and problematic.  But, given many of the other possible outcomes, I’ll take it.  (On a side note, Lisa and I are forever grateful to so many in our spiritual family who helped us out during those days, praying for me, caring for our kids, and helping Lisa when needed.)
     So, why am I sharing this story with you?  “In sickness and in health, till death do we part” has a whole new meaning for me. Lisa was prepared to honor her vow and tend to a mentally-incapacitated husband for the rest of her life. Thankfully, she didn't have to go through a severely long drawn-out incident or have to figure out the logistics of coping with a spouse's prolonged illness.  But “in sickness and in health” can happen as quickly as a split second car crash that causes a permanent physical or mental handicap, or as slowly as a progressive disease that daily robs your mate of their mental or physical acuity, or from a unforeseen life event that indelibly scars your spouse’s body and/or psyche for life.
     “In sickness and in health, till death do we part” is one of the most difficult promises a couple makes, because on their wedding day many couples often don’t fully recognize exactly what that can encompass.  But “in sickness and in health, till death do we part” when fully lived out should give a couple the greatest sense of security in knowing that you and your mate truly are “one flesh” and you will be loved and cared for no matter what.  I know Lisa proved it to me, and for that I will forever thank God for giving her to me to be my bride.
     (And for those of you who are living in the middle of “in sickness,” please accept the help of other family members, neighbors, and especially your spiritual family.  To accept help is not to abandon or betray your mate.  It is allowing your community of faith to live out their calling in the Kingdom of God.  May God bless us all to enjoy the “in health” as long and often as possible, and give us the grace to walk with our mate through any sickness.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Valentine's Day gift that will keep on giving

     We’re just a few days away from Valentine’s Day.  I want to share a suggestion for a gift for your spouse that won’t cost you much and can keep on giving for weeks, months, and even years beyond the holiday.  (This isn’t just tied to Valentine’s Day.  It can be done anytime of the year.)
     First, make a list of one hundred things you love about your spouse.  Yes, one hundred.  They can be big things, little things, daily things, special things, intimate things, ways your spouse blesses your life—whatever you can think of.  Just be specific so that there's no question about what you're referring to and why that reason makes you love your spouse more.
     Then, buy 100 blank business cards and a business card holder that can hold 100 cards.  You can get these supplies at Wal-Mart, Target, or any office supply store, and your total investment should be about $20 or less.
     Next, print the reasons you love your spouse on the cards, one reason per card, and be sure to number the cards 1 of 100, 2 of 100, etc.
     Then, hide all of the cards (except the first one) around the house in places that match the reason you’re stating for loving your spouse.  For instance, if you have a card that says, “I love you because you always fix great meals,” you could put that card in the pantry.
If you have a card that says, “I love you because you’re a great kisser,” you might place that card where she keeps her lipstick
If you have a card that says, I love you because I always have clean clothes, you could leave that one with the laundry supplies.
Or if you have a card that says, “I love you because you always pray with me,” you might tuck that card in his Bible. 
And where you hide the cards can be as creative as under the pillow, to your mate's underwear drawer, to the steering wheel of his/her car, to the bathroom mirror, to taping it to the ceiling above your spouse's spot in the bed.  You get the idea.
     Finally, give your spouse the card holder with the first card already in it.  Let your spouse know you really love him/her and that over the next several days or weeks (or however long it takes) he/she will be reminded of those reasons as new cards are discovered.  (The x of 100 numbering on the cards will let your spouse know how many total cards he/she is looking for, and help track how many cards are still out there to be discovered.)  Eventually, your mate will have a card holder full of expressions of your love for him/her.  This will be something your spouse can continually go back to, to remind him/her of your adoration and your commitment to your marriage covenant. 
     Encouragement is a powerful tool for keeping a marriage strong and keeping intimacy alive.  For just a couple of hours of time and effort, you can say something positive to your mate for years to come.

Friday, February 8, 2013

20 Easy Steps to Keeping Your Marriage Strong

Last post, I gave you 20 Easy Steps to Destroying Your Marriage, so it’s only fitting that this time I give you 20 Easy Steps to Keeping Your Marriage Strong:

  1. Find a way to serve God together.
  2. Listen attentively.
  3. Forgive freely.
  4. Talk to your spouse (even when you don’t feel like it).
  5. Encourage your mate daily.
  6. Dream together.
  7. Be honest.
  8. Laugh together often.
  9. Love your mate’s family  (even if/when they are unlovable).
  10. Compliment your mate a thousand times more than you criticize him/her.
  11. Say “I’m sorry” when you need to--and really mean it.
  12. Be humble.
  13. Pleasantly surprise each other often.
  14. Be together sexually...
  15. ...but don't forget to nurture other forms of intimacy too (emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual). 
  16. Play together.
  17. Cry together.
  18. Never, ever, ever forget that you are one flesh, not just two people who happen to be married.
  19. Give of yourself for the benefit of your mate, even when it isn’t asked or expected.
  20. Say “I love you,” then live “I love you.”

And if you’re really bound and determined to keep your marriage strong, I bet you could add a few more things to this get to it.