Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gloomy or Giddy?

Outside it is currently overcast with a feeling of gloominess!

In the northeast part of the country it is not only overcast but they are buried under up to three feet of snow!! That can be gloomy but others get giddy at the sight of so much white powder.

I guess it's how you look at it? Kind of like the glass being half full or empty metaphor. (by the way, it's half full!)

How can two people look at the same thing and come away with two radically different interpretations?

My wife and I are very different when it comes to our personalities. She's the detailed planner who works very hard at whatever task or project she puts herself to. I can see her going through her mental checklist to assure that she has prepared well to produce well.

I like to "go with the flow." I want to make sure we are prepared but not over prepared.  I like to enjoy the adventure of the unknown and deal with the surprises when they come.

That can drive her crazy!

These differences have also been a rich blessing spiritually. The Lord has used our different approaches to actually complement and challenge our views and our sanctification. Bev's attention to detail and discipline have been a necessary balance to my laid back approach. I've had to learn to not presume on God or take his blessings for granted which is my tendency.

On the other hand Bev has also grown in her trust in the Lord in the unknowns of life. Planning for the future is good and godly but when the control becomes more important than the trust it can lead to nagging frustration.

Your marriage and mine should really be a mini picture of the church. It should be the place where God is growing people more and more into the image of his Son. That often comes not through people who are the same but very different. We learn from and are sharpened by brothers and sisters who are used of God to make us deal with God.

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ..." Romans 12:4,5

So today, not only should you thank God for the differences in your partner but ask him to help you embrace them for his sake.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

You Really Didn't See It!?

Whether it was the Superbowl that EVERYBODY watched or the next episode of Downton Abbey.

"You mean to tell me you didn't see it?!"

Some things are very important to us and the thought of someone not having that same conviction or experience is hard to fathom. It can feel like such a part of our DNA that we pity others who are missing out and even become inwardly critical when they act as if they could live without it.

This plays out in marriage in a similar way. Some expectation that is important to you goes unmet or worse yet, unnoticed. You can't help but take it personally when you think it is in clear view and your spouse acts oblivious or disinterested. How can we have an intimate, growing relationship when one partner doesn't value the same thing with the same passion?

It is amazing how the little things become the big things. Styles, tastes or personality differences quickly become sources of arguments rather than appreciating our differences. It's not wrong it's just different.

"If it's really important to me it has to be important to you!"

I think if we are really honest with ourselves much of our frustration occurs when our spouse does not share the same interest or intensity with things we like. We are actually more consumed with our own interests than with our mates'. It's a subtle form of selfishness that can lead to unnecessary tension.

So where does the call of Jesus fit into this quagmire? Look no further than Paul's writing in Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others." It's amazing what it will do to a relationship if someone acts like they REALLY want to know what is important to the other.

Look no further as well than to the life and example of Jesus in that same passage. He was and is more interested in us than we are in him. He continues to love us and to pursue us and to free us from ourselves.

Take a deeper interest today in Jesus and then do the same with your spouse.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Daily Routine

For many of us our daily routine is mapped out the night before. The schedule is set. Get up early, get the kids ready, get yourself ready and get out the door.

Who has time to think?!

To be a Christian is to have a thought life unlike the world. My daily routine includes the fact that the very presence of Jesus is with me all day, every day. In a real sense I always have to be thinking two things at the same time! I have to be aware of what I'm dealing with right in front of me, be it projects, people, schedules or problems. I want to act responsibly with what God has put before me. At the same time I must always be aware of "who" is with me. I need to process what I am thinking and feeling through the filter of the cross and the call of Jesus.

Who has time to think?!

Could the problem be for many of us professing Christians that we have made the Lord one of the many compartments of our daily routine? We seem to call upon him only when we need him rather than consciously assume his presence in all things. We do need those times of solitude and reflection with the Lord and his Word but we don't have to wait until things are quiet.

The Puritain Christians of the 18th century were constantly reminding each other of a daily routine that had Jesus at the center of all things throughout the day. They would say things like, "..take continual notice, that you are in the sight of God that made your heart." or "Unite yourself more and more strongly unto your head Christ Jesus, by faith and love..." or "examine yourself often."

As Christians who are married that, in a real sense, should be our daily routine. We should be more and more naturally thinking about Jesus and his honor throughout the day. In so doing I believe we will more and more reflect that love in our relationships and our homes.

It all starts with one thought that we should have as a part of our daily routine, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 2:5

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love Letters

I've been reading again many of the letters my Dad wrote to my Mom while he was in the army during WWII. That's another era of communication that has been lost to modern technology. Letters are now immediate exchanges by way of email and even face to face over the computer! What used to be a waiting period of weeks can now be instantaneous.

There are definite advantages in getting a direct answer to a question and not having to guess what the other might be thinking. Did they understand what I meant? What if they took what I said the wrong way? The waiting can be painful.

It can also be helpful.

While reading through my parents' letters I could almost feel the angst of the silence. The fear that my Dad's most recent letter could be his last. The focus was clearly on what they missed about each other and what their hopes and dreams were for the future. You could tell they were thinking a lot in between letters and though the messages were similar and even repetitious they were fresh reminders. "You mean more to me than anything else in the world darling. Life isn't worth living without you. We will have our happiness some day. It will be that much sweeter because we've had to suffer so much for it."

Dad had to wait weeks for her response. He couldn't hear her voice but only tried to remember what it would sound like. Love letters were important and so to were the thoughts that created those letters.

That which captures our hearts captures our thoughts also.

I no longer have to write love letters to my wife because she is always around. The downside of that is that I can all too easily take her for granted. I don't think about her enough and how God has so richly blessed me through her. The conversations are too often centered around finding solutions rather than taking time to let her know, "Life isn't worth living without you."

Love letters can be oral or written but either way they are essential. The Lord has given us his "letters" through his word. They are to be daily reminders of how much he does and always will love his people. He too yearns to have us with him forever and promises that will happen. He has guaranteed it through the death and resurrection of his own son.

God has also given us our mates to love and cherish which is ultimately to be a reflection of His love for us in Christ. May the world see today how grateful you are for the love of God in Christ by how you love and desire to be with your husband or wife.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Driving = Forced Sanctification

What is it about driving that brings out the struggle of marriage more than other activities!? Is it the control issue? Perhaps it is where our differences are most quickly manifested!

It can be as simple as going to church or a road trip to visit family. "I think you are too close to that car." or "The light was definitely red when you went through that intersection." What was meant to be a gentle reminder quickly escalates into a heated debate about the rules of the road.

We take our driving VERY personally!

When you do something routine for many years you tend to think you know best when it comes to that routine. If you are like me I tend to drive more than my wife and can subtly start thinking that I am a better driver. Therefore, when a suggestion is given or even a critical observation is made about my driving the first inclination is to remind her that I'm the expert here! She drives differently than I do and that's okay - except when I'm behind the wheel!! Instead of appreciating how we can continue to learn from each other to be better drivers we get defensive and act as if there is nothing more to learn.

The life application to our marriages is pretty clear isn't it? The perpetual call of the gospel is to learn from each other and to in turn grow with each other. My spouse is given to me by God not primarily to make me feel better about myself but to make me more like Jesus. He or she is my spiritual partner in life as well as husband or wife. I need them in order to grow in the likeness of Christ and sometimes that means to be sharpened by them.

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another." Romans 12:3-5

Yes, the challenges of life can be great (especially in the front seat of the car!!) but like the car we are in this together. The destination and calling are the same. We want Jesus to be honored and seen in how we love, learn and travel together.

May God makes us couples who love to travel together.

Go take a drive!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Miss You

When dear friends move away or when we lose loved ones our minds quickly fill with things we miss about them. Whether it's conversations, trips, smiles or trials we suddenly hold more dear those memories and don't want to loose them.

I miss my mother's voice. She has been gone almost three months now and I have been frantically searching my phone for a recorded message from her. I had erased most of them and realized on this earth I will never hear her live voice again.

I miss her.

What I so often took for granted is now gone. My heart and mind are filled with memories that are all the more precious. Mom was always in my world through childhood and adult life. When I now recall those memories I find great encouragement and gratitude to God for her life and love.

The Apostle Paul loved to remember. While in jail he wrote to the Philippian church and made some emotional statements of how he missed his fellow believers. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you...God is my witness how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." He missed what he had and hungered to have more fellowship with them.

Our marriages and families should be a place where memories are made. These photos in our mind are not just for holding onto when people leave us but are also to be a daily appreciation of what we have when we are together. Ideally, a marriage should be a place where you see how God has not only sustained you through each other but how he has blessed you with each other as well. Yes, life can be hard even with memories we would like to forget but the underlying mercy and love of God proves to be the best platform for memories. In a real sense Paul was saying to these believers he was separated from, "I miss you!" He missed their faces and conversations but he also wanted to remind them of what they learned, like, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

There is great power in shared memories in our marriages and one of the fruits of that union is a growing desire to be together to create more. It's not a shallow sentimentality but an honest realization of the need to be and grow together in life and in Jesus.

Imagine what it would look and feel like to have an awareness that is expressed in some form daily that says,

"I miss you."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons of Life

Life is one big classroom.

This can be especially true when it comes to the institution of marriage. Every season seems to bring unique challenges to learn something new. For example, you discovered early on in your "marital bliss" that you are not as unselfish as you thought. Some personal habits of your mate became personal conflicts and you had to learn what it meant to compromise.

Some lessons we have to learn over and over again. Like commitment or being true to your word. As a married couple you took vows. The essence of those vows is that you commit to learning and growing together. For many husbands, an ongoing lesson is that words are not enough. We can take our wives and their needs for granted. We need to learn to love them practically and creatively. For wives it might be the ongoing challenge to respect and submit. When a wife becomes too focused on what might be lacking in her husband it can hinder her ability to see the strengths he does bring.

When do we stop learning?

I'm in a lesson learning or relearning mood lately. My mom died a few weeks ago and it is still fresh in my mind and heart. Dad preceded her by about 12 years. They are both gone. Their earthly marriage is over. At the same time there is an elderly couple in our church and the husband is perhaps in his final weeks or months of life. What lessons have they learned that will carry them through this final season. They have been married over 50 years and I have had the privilege of watching them and listening to them. The have learned some precious lessons in life.

Two of the many lessons they have been teaching me is that life is precious and brief. They are working even harder now to make the most of the moments and days the Lord has left for them. She knows she will be saying goodbye so she wants to reaffirm those vows she took many years ago. "In sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, til death do us part." They have learned and relearned those vows over the years so they can rest in that love even now.

The other lesson that comes screaming through is their quiet confidence in Jesus. He indeed has been their foundation. In life and now in death they have learned that their hope is not primarily in their marital love but in the love of Christ. There is sorrow and fear but there is also faith.

They are learning anew what they learned many years ago. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me..." Psalm 23:4 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

May we be couples who learn the gospel. Over and Over again. And may others see that our ultimate hope is in the one who never changes, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.