Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm Tired

Fatigue can take a toll on a lot of things but especially marriage.

How many times have you said to your husband or wife, "I'm tired" and really meant it! Whether it's the job or the kids, life can be exhausting. The honeymoon ends, the responsibilities increase and before you know it you feel like you are on a treadmill trying not to fall off!

We shouldn't be taken back by this but rather be sure we have realistic expectations. The increasing demands of life and marriage are not symptoms of problems but God-ordained opportunities for growth. Being tired is not nonspiritual but it can and often does make you vulnerable.

I had a friend tell me early on in my christian life when I really wanted to "grow in Jesus" that the best thing for my spiritual life was eight hours of sleep! I laughed but soon found out there was some real wisdom in what he said. Rest is an important part of life and that means physically as well as spiritually.

But who has time to rest!! That can be one of the best gifts you give to your husband or wife - or each other. It might take some creative planning but the results can be refreshing.

It also means we have to be realistic in our expectations of each other. When you ask, "How was your day?" you have to really mean it and be ready for the answer. It's not a time to determine who has the harder life but the need to empathize with each other and then determine how to mutually bear the burdens. "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

There is something very spiritual and refreshing when you know your partner is carrying your burdens as well. There is often a unique work of God's Spirit that brings strength to the weary soul and even renewed strength to the body.

Christ came to bring rest to the weary and heavy laden. A rest in the midst of fatigue that comes not from us but from Christ in us.

Go rest in him and give rest as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chain Reaction

I love to watch the domino formations happen. It all starts with one domino. Someone tilts the first one and the rest unfolds right before your eyes! You see pictures and words come alive all because of one domino - a chain reaction.

That happens in other places as well and not always with dominoes. Sometimes it can be pretty destructive like when a spark ignites a small twig which then lights another and before you know it there is a blazing trail of fire that not only knocks things down but destroys them as well.

Chain reactions are not limited to nature but we see them in the lives of people all around us. Almost everyday someone is setting off a reaction with someone else and that in turn effects others.

That's not always bad.

It's part of the dynamic of relationships that make us effected by one another. Some more than others but no on is neutral. Everyday you are effected by someone and are having an effect. We can not avoid it because we were made in the image of our Creator which is to relate with others.

You know where I'm going with this don't you?!

Your marriage is a daily context for actions and reactions. Yes they can be negative but they can also be incredibly positive and encouraging. That affirming word in the morning can make all the difference in the day. In many ways it all starts with our internal chain reaction. To think about my spouse with the mind and heart of Christ will have an effect on how I initiate love and not just react. What I think and believe determines the kind of "dominoes" I set up and the kind of reaction as well.

"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Philippians 4:8

Go start a chain reaction!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Ended Marriage

"Til death do us part."

I recently returned from the funeral service of a dear friend, Allan Tibbels. His wife Susan said goodbye to her partner in life who spent the last 20years of married life in a wheelchair.

A wheelchair.

How can you have a happy marriage in that condition? Statistically you can't. The overwhelming majority of marriages in that condition end in divorce. Not in this case. It would only end when the Lord would call one of them home through death.

Their commitment wasn't to some shallow sentimentality of love but to the God of love. They had to learn even more deeply what it meant to be committed to Christ for Christ's sake.

And they did.

They had the common call of giving their lives to those most broken by life. In body and in spirit. They lived and loved in Jesus' name in the poorest section of Baltimore city. You can't rise above your circumstances until you lay down your life for Jesus. You have to give up your pursuit of happiness and sacrifice it at the altar of service for Christ. Both Allan and Susan would tell you it didn't come from them but from God. Their collective eyes were focused on others who needed Jesus and they wanted their marriage to reflect that commitment.

And it did.

Countless lives have been affected by a marriage that was broken in body but oh so powerful in spirit. Homes and hopes were restored and marriages as well all in the name of Jesus.

This is an extreme example but the principle is the same. If we say we love Jesus it MUST be seen in our marriages and lives. Personally and collectively we all have the same call. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1,2

I want my life to be like Allan's. I want my marriage to be like Allan's. I want to be like Jesus - how about you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Picture This

Bev and I celebrate our 37th anniversary this week.

I'm looking at a picture of our wedding day - who are those people!? We also attended a wedding this past weekend of a young couple who were just staring their pilgrimage. What will they look like in 10,20 or 30 years? Not just physically but in their maturity.

We all want to look good but we also want to grow good.

Picture this. A couple who endure together and grow together for decades and "look" better than when they first started out. One author says it this way,

"Merely making our relationships last is just not good enough. Our relationships can change us. Our relationships should change us. Our relationships will change us for the better - if we are willing to take the risk."

As we commit to the long haul we actually become more mature individually and as a couple. We sharpen each other and grow even more in our love for each other. We have to daily commit to our vows which really is a commitment to self-denial and love. Like a song in my younger days says, "Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind. It's not often easy and not often kind. Did you ever have to make up your mind?"

But picture this. What if your marriage actually started looking more and more like Jesus? What if your commitment to Christ was not merely a compartment of your life but the very essence. What difference should we as Christians have as compared to the rest of the world? Should it not be that there is an ever increasing picture of an image of Jesus that others are drawn to?

One of the greatest prayers found in scripture is in Ephesians 3 and one of the greatest requests is in Paul's phrase, "...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith..."if that was the heart cry of every Christian couple there would be some beautiful pictures out there.

Picture this. A newly married couple coming up to you and asking to take your picture because they see something in you they want in their own marriage. The camera doesn't capture it but there is something in your lives that shows it.

May the picture of Jesus be seen in your marriage today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Next Generation

Bev and I recently had the privilege of spending time with a young couple married less than five years. They have a young daughter and are struggling to keep on top of things circumstantially and financially. It was one of the most refreshing times not only to see how they were dealing with life and the gospel but to feel the impact on our own marriage.

There is something powerful about Christians working through life together and especially with different generations. We really do need each other spiritually more than we realize.

This is a plea to the next generation.

The way you deal with life in the presence of Jesus is having an impact. Marriages continue to fall apart and believe the lie that there is no hope even with the gospel.

The young father and husband I visited spent time alone with me and we talked about the call of Christ in our lives and homes. He shared first hand how his marriage and parenthood has been used of God to REALLY sanctify him! I could see how he was wrestling not just with "good works" but with the honor of Jesus in his life. It was a joy to watch him care for his little girl and pour out on her a new father's affection. At the same time he manifested a precious love for his wife as he served her that was both convicting and encouraging to me.

This is a plea to the next generation.

Your influence can be eternal. Encourage others in their own pilgrimage as you walk through yours. Others are watching you whether you know it or not. They need to see the joyful struggle of the gospel. I beg you, in Jesus' name, don't take lightly the call of the gospel in your marriage. There is a generation right behind you watching you. (Maybe some of us older ones could be watching and learning too!)

What I saw in this young marriage and family is what I long for in my own. It looks a lot like what the Apostle Paul calls us to as believers, "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 5:1,2