Monday, October 31, 2011

Thirty-One Days to Happier Ever After

Welcome.

This is a master list of the 31 daily posts I did in October 2011 about marriage
and how to make yours better.

Feel free to peruse or read through the series in its entirety.


Day 1 :: An Introduction

Day 2 :: The Invitation


Day 4 :: A Parable


Day 6 :: The S Word



Day 9 :: Do–Overs


Day 11 :: Simple Analogies




Day 15 :: On the Way


Day 17 :: No Contest



Day 20 :: Who Goes First



Day 23 :: Never Giving Up




Day 27 :: What He Knows

Day 28 :: Forsaken

Day 29 :: Together


Day 31 :: One























One

Fingerprints, DNA, snowflakes, personalities, and life experiences: no two are alike. Thus our infinite God has created infinite possibilities despite our finite minds. For that kind of math we use exponents, and maybe a statistician or two, and a graphing calculator with built-in algorithms. And any other help we can get for that matter. But for God it's easy.

Here's the theorem we husbands and wives are to prove: One man plus one woman equals one flesh for one lifetime.

That's a lot of ones that don't lead to a higher number. Like many of God's principles, this proposal flies in the face of simplistic, earthly knowledge. Marriage won't make it past a first grade math teacher, and we've always known one plus one equals two but it doesn't stop us from gambling a lifetime on fuzzy math. We turn our backs on simple addition for the lure of chemistry and the intrigue of melding into another, even if figuring out how to do this takes a lifetime.

Two becoming one involves more chemistry than what was present on the first date. It involves pressure, fissure, fission, friction, shedding, dying, living, and tears on the front steps together holding hands. It doesn't fit neatly in a test tube over a Bunson burner. It's the open-ended science experiment of chemistry in biology class with enough calculus and theology thrown in to baffle even Isaac Newton with his telescope and its prism that breaks white light into myriad colors. It goes beyond known physics, mathematics, astronomy, natural philosophy, alchemy, and theology, all of which Newton was expert in. For us it's hard; for God it's easy.

These thousands of years later, we're yet to fully discover and understand all that God flung into existence in a mere seven days. He said it was all good, and when He created man he said that was very good. And it wasn't even over yet because He created Eve out of Adam. A grand finale of all creation?

He made two from one, then asks the two to become one again.

Marriage is two distinct entities lessening to become a mere one, except they become more — somehow — instead of less. It cannot be explained by a math equation. So we wrestle with our inability to become less than the one we were in order to become one with another. It is abject, captivating oneness, a whole that's more than oneself, yet achieved only by the decomposition of that one self. It's white light that decomposes to refract the glory of the full spectrum from the heavenly side of Newton's prism.

One plus one equals one (plus God's beautiful, infinite possibilities).

For us this takes faith; for our infinite God it does not. Find comfort in that and trust Him.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)



Sunday, October 30, 2011

She Said (Amplified Version)

I, Dawn, (the girl I was then, with my few life experiences and my naïve view of the world, together with my blood relatives somewhat in tow,  my friends, my pet peeves and my penchant for fingernail polish, with my fears and unfinished business, my short-comings and my need for ducks to line up in neat rows, and the fluidity of these issues that changed who I became over time)

Take you, Mike, (the man I was head over heels for, who also changed over time, with more education, future ventures gained and lost, with your career change, your zeal, your coffee too strong for me to drink, your daring, your love of softball and your unflinching convictions)
To be my wedded (joined forevermore on legal papers and in my heart) husband.

To have and to hold (that you are mine to share with none other, you whom I keep and treasure above all else and others, to think that you gave yourself to me — how exquisite indeed),
From this day forward (that moment that was monumental, when "I do" and "I will" changed utterly everything afterward, never to be undone),

For better (celebration hospital meals in the presence of a newborn, snow in Mississippi, promotions, honesty whispered in the dark cheek to cheek, Christmas mornings, and your earlobe),
For worse (there's been an accident, you're fired, it's cancer, you'll never understand!, burned pots, stranded and left on the shoulder of the interstate in Atlanta with a van full of youth, throwing a plate, disappointments, almost running out of gas, yelling, costly mistakes),

For richer (I start Monday!, Graduation Day (x2), Disney, automatic transmission and a sun roof, we got the house!, it's a boy followed by a few girls),
For poorer (dorm life, praying to find stray coins behind the back seat of the car for gas money, you're fired, Hudson's Salvage Center, U Haul, Disney),

In sickness (he's in ICU and may not make it through the night, lost in a strange city frantically seeking the hospital parking garage, all night prayer vigils that God will spare him  for the sake of a 10 month old, following an ambulance, hospital stink, both of us between the bed rails)
And in health (laps at the seminary campus, around Laurel High School track, and while the toddler watched from the storm door, P90X together in the garage — Bring it!, Jenny Craig, a kitchen cabinet full of whole food supplements),

To love and to cherish (toes that find each other in sleep, speaking volumes without a word, inside jokes like "good morning!", holding hands for no reason in the car)
Til death do us part (only one lifetime?)

And hereto I pledge (as in yes and amen) you my faithfulness (endless dirty dishes and laundry piles notwithstanding).
~ ~ ~ ~

This is what I vowed (and what I now know those vows meant, and what I would do all over again given half a chance.)


Take Home: Have you thought about what your vows really mean?


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Together

People always want to know two things:  how you met and how you got engaged. Other than the fact that they both took place, neither is all that important. It's a bone of contention with me because we don't have a good story on either count, but I do have an amazing marriage. Why don't people ever ask you how that happened?

Mike and I have conflicting stories about when we met, and that's because we met over and over again with unremarkable results, until finally on separate occasions, we made enough of an impression on one another to actually remember meeting. And Mike's first impression of me (or eighth, we'll never know for sure) wasn't even a good one.

The engagement story is even worse. We had wandered into a fight about ex-boyfriends (not that I had many, but he'd have preferred none) and while we were making up Mike blurted, "Don't you know I want to marry you? I want you to be my wife! Will you be my wife?"

More certain of this than anything I had known in my eighteen years, I said, simply, "Yes." And that was it.

There was no ring, no kneeling, no plan, only a promise neither of us quite knew we were ready to make before that moment. We were nine months into a dating relationship and young: two more factors added to our spontaneity that were all non-recommendations for marriage.



Regardless, we forged ahead. Youthful ignorance kept us oblivious to the knowledge that a lifetime together would afford us a myriad of occasions to put our vows to the test, and equal opportunities to walk by faith in love.

Together.

Choosing to do so is where good marriages begin, not at an altar dressed in white; almost everybody manages to get that part right. It's the stuff that comes after the wedding that digs dirty roots down deep and blossoms beautiful. It's not nearly as entertaining to tell as how you met and got engaged, but it is exactly where God presses two together until they are one.

Take Home:  What are you two doing now to grow together?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Forsaken

Jesus charges the church at Ephesus with having left their first love, or forsaking their first love. This is a serious charge against a member of matrimony. After all, many of us answered before God and company, "I do," when asked, “Do you, _____, take _____ to be your wedded wife/husband ... forsaking all others ... for as long as you both shall live?”
We vowed to forsake all others, and now Jesus is accusing his bride of forsaking first love instead.


The Greek word here is Aphiemi and it means to send away as in a divorce, to depart, to go to another place, to abandon.
Jesus is saying, "I see you doing all the right things on the outside, but I know your heart’s not in it. It's as if you heart has divorced me."


This sounds vaguely reminiscent of the part of the sermon on the mount when Jesus purports that merely looking at a woman with lust is committing adultery in the heart. He's redefining faithful love to include the inward motive as well as the outward action. 




The situation's bleak, and remember -- all those marriage duties are tiring without the motivation of first love, so Jesus, in his mercy, gives them the path back. It's a familiar path because it leads us back to a place we've been before.  "Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:5) 


~ Compare where you are now to where you were at the beginning. Remember the old feelings. 
~ Repent (a change of mind that causes a change in direction). This is a decisions, not a feeling.
~ Then do what you used to do. Note that Jesus doesn't say feel the things you did at first, but do them.


This may seem like a contradiction -- do the things you don't feel to get the old feelings to return even though Jesus recognizes that you've already been doing all the right things to the point of exhaustion. But Jesus is not calling for more doing of the flat obligation kind that was duly noted at the beginning of his letter to them. This doing is the kind you used to do, the kind that seeks to win affections. It's a pursuit of the heart. The difference is subtle, but you know the way, because you've done it before and it worked for you the first time. You know you can do it.


Take Home:  Are you forsaking all others or forsaking your first love?
Are you willing to do the things you did at first?

Photos of ruins in Antigua, Guatemala, November 2008

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What He Knows

In Revelation chapters 1and 2, Jesus has messages for seven churches, one of which was to the church at Ephesus. His message to them is found in Revelation 2:1-11. We’re going to look at it in the context of marriage, because even though it was from The Groom to The Bride (His Church), it just might apply to us in our marriages, since we represent the ultimate bride and groom. (Can you see that I want you to never forget this?)
He charges them with having left their first love. But before He does, he commends them for all they are doing, and the list is pretty long.  He knows their deeds, their toil, how they persevere, that they don’t tolerate evil by testing every leader to be sure they are not false. If they are, they are labeled as such and thus discredited.  In verse three Jesus notes their perseverance (again), their enduring and their not growing weary. 
All this sounds like a lot of tiring work, does it not? Does this describe what your marriage may have devolved into? Doing what you aught out of duty, rather than what you desire out of first love? Are you a diligent doer, dutifully holding up your end of the bargain?
Somewhere along the line, this church stopped enjoying their relationship with their Lord. This might be true of you and your mate. Time can cause a relationship to grow stale. The freshness of joy escapes, leaving behind only hard, committed obligation. And guess who doesn’t like it?
So when (or if) this happens in your marriage, don’t be too surprised that you nor your spouse will find it enjoyable. And even though you might both be continuing to go through the motions, both of you know your (and/or your spouse’s) heart is not in it. You might be able to muster up the proper actions, but you can’t fake a feeling. And mustering up actions you don’t feel requires all that endurance and perseverance Jesus was noticing in his Bride in Ephesus. When all the joy is gone, it’s noticeable.
There’s also something else Jesus knows: what to do about this malady. But first, I want to be sure we understand fully why we need a cure at all, and that is all wrapped up in the word forsaken. The ailment and the remedy to come tomorrow.
Take Home:   Do you need to "bring back that lovin' feelin'?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Difference Prayer Makes

Yesterday, I prayed for marriages, many of them. I made the offer, and people found me on Facebook: old friends, new friends, men, women, family members, and people I've never even met in real life. Some who have ministered to me in the past, others who knew me as a girl and never once saw me do anything overtly Christian. Some whose marriages I know are troubled. Some who are much further down the road of life than I. Some that I pray with regularly and still others I've never prayed for before.

I wanted to offer hope to those whose marriages might be in need. I think that happened. I hope so. I may have even prayed for a few marriages that are already strong.



But what I didn't expect was to be bowled over by the experience myself. Just that you said yes! You knew I was going to pray right there in cyber-public -- about you marriages for Pete's sake -- and you asked anyway. Some private messaged me about other issues, some offered prayers for me instead. But every response left me in awe of you. Each of you who reached out and even those who didn't but really, really wanted to.

And it was surprisingly humbling. Prayers were whispered and promises were remembered. Prayers will be heard, and life-love will be the answer. Seemingly spontaneous -- because the dark places just don't seem  so dark and lonely anymore. All of a sudden, they're aflutter with life and love on the wing of prayer.

Sarah just might have been on to something. The joy of it does kind of make you laugh happy.

Take Home:  Will you keep praying?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When It's Impossible

I’m pretty sure you’re aware of this, but I’m going to say it plainly anyway:
Prayer can change things.
Even if you don’t feel it.
Even if you’re tired and can’t imagine things ever being any different,
not even in a million years.
Even if, in your heart of hearts, you've already given up
or settled for less than the best.

 The two times He said that in scripture?
 When there was no possible way for a baby to be conceived.
And then life happened anyway.
Seemingly spontaneous.
Except that a big huge God was behind that little miraculous flutter
in the darkest of dark places.
Yeah, that kind of impossible. The kind of too difficult.
Laugh like Sarah, if you must.
Or ponder it in your heart like Mary did.
I don’t care, as long as you pray.
Because our possible God takes virgin territory as well as what’s been left for dead
and creates whole, newborn life.
He can do that in your marriage, too.
Will you let me pray for you and your mate and your household of love?
Be brave to slip your name in the comments.
 I’ll join you and pray for the possible in your impossible right there in the next comment box.
 I’m right behind you.
Take Home: Do you pray for and with your spouse?

Monday, October 24, 2011

This Funny Thing About Truth

There’s this funny thing about Truth — it doesn’t bend to fit our circumstances. This can be a real bummer, because it means that we are the ones that have to conform. And that, my friend, might not be so fun.
And sometimes we don’t bend.  We rail and rage against the Truth and against our most unfortunate circumstances. We feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t get our way and can’t have what we want, when we want it, the way we want to get it. But Truth doesn’t step aside and let us pass when we shove ourselves in its way, look incredulous and say, "Excuse me?!" 
The Truth stands firm against your anger, your self-pity, your procrastination, and your excuses.  You can roar, and cry and explain until your heart breaks, but Truth won’t compromise. It is unshakable, a firm foundation. It doesn’t crack under the pressure you place upon it. Truth is a way in the wilderness and a light unto your path. It will guide you safely home. Truth will set you free. Free indeed.
And because it stands firm, it will still be there to embrace you when you come to the end of you.
It’s just this funny thing about Truth.

Take Home:   Selah



Linking with Michelle today at Graceful. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Never Giving Up

I read a book once by Lori Wick about a fictitious modern-day land where the prince and his princess-to-be came together in a wedding arranged by their parents for political reasons. There was no way out, and the young strangers had to make the best of things. If they had to be married, they both wanted it to be happily at least, so each endeavored from their own perspective to make that happen. And guess what happened?
 It was complicated.
Each was misunderstood on occasion as they got to know one another. Although each learned that the other had some endearing qualities, they also learned things that ultimately needed to be unlearned because they had perceived things wrongly about the other in the first place. They also accepted the imperfections in the other that were inevitably discovered.
In the end, they achieved their goal of wedded bliss because they never gave up the quest for that bliss. They kept trying.

It turns out that motivation is a good motivator.  So is  a vow of  “until death do us part.”
Take Home:  What is your motivation to keep pressing on toward marital contentment?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Much Needed Comic Relief

We lost Mike's dad to a massive heart attach almost fourteen years ago. He was a large man, but he was also larger than life in the figurative sense, too. We miss him on so many occasions for so many reasons.

Mike's parents fled Cuba for the U.S. with young children, and Spanish was their first language. Mike's dad used to insist that it was the heavenly language and warned me that I'd better learn it. He was kidding. I think.  But they both spoke some English as well.

One time long before Youtube, they came for a visit when Mike was going through his second country music phase. He had come across a song by Alabama called It Works. He couldn't help but think of his parents and he played the song for them on the cassette player in the car dashboard. This is what they heard.


{If you are reading in a reader, this post contains a video.}

When the song ended, Mike's dad, with tears in his sentimental eyes, said reflectively, "That song is right — it's work."

We laughed until we cried, after, that is, Mike explained in Spanish what his father had actually said in English.

Take Home: A cheerful heart is good medicine ... . (Proverbs 17:22, NLT)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Non-Negotiables

When I was a little girl, my mom and dad sat the three of us down at the kitchen table one Saturday afternoon and told us they were getting a divorce.  The meeting was short. The few necessary details were given to support the fact that this decision was based on solid data, then reassurance that they both still loved us commenced, followed by a short Q and A. The board meeting was thus adjourned.
They nailed it if they were going for low-key. We ended with some awkward hugs and pats on the back that were delivered with hollow enthusiasm.

As if it’s possible to give this kind of meeting a positive spin.
I left the house and wandered the neighborhood alone, the hollow news echoing in my brain for most of the afternoon.  The news sank into the earth of my young life only after what had previously been a firm foundation was softened by an afternoon of tears.
So years later when I said yes to Mike, I was saying yes unto death.
Statistics tell us that kids from broken homes have a higher risk of divorce themselves. I didn’t know about that statistic back then, but I did know I never wanted to do this to my children, even the ones I didn’t yet have. Staying married has always been my only option. I knew this at seven, and I knew it still at nineteen when I became engaged to be married. A year later the man of my dreams became the man of my reality.
Apparently deep convictions grow tall when seeded in tragedy-tilled soil.
Take Home: Are your non-negotiables God’s?
Have you gotten beyond past mistakes, yours and others’?


Linking today for five minutes on Friday with Lisa Jo. Today's topic is Beyond.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who Goes First

I’m sure by now it’s crossed your mind that someone has to make the first move. That someone in your marriage who goes first might be taking a huge risk because that someone could be tired of getting hurt or disappointed. But let me tell you what we both know.
If you don’t go first, you are not assured that your spouse will.

Because, although I’ve been driving home the point that these marriage roles are supposed to represent our relationship to Christ, no man is Christ. And although we can count on Jesus to always do the right thing and be the One to go first, we can’t always expect the people in our lives to. Nor will we be perfect in this toward our loved ones.
But somebody has to go first. And Jesus did that for us.
He took the risk, and went to the cross before anyone in real time or space could look to his sacrifice there, see salvation, then bend the knee and repent in response.
Jesus took the risk. He did whatever it took to be obedient. He had to go first to restore us to the Father.

Take Home: Are you willing to be the first to make changes in the way you treat your spouse in order to restore your marriage?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Than a Feeling

If you are striving toward happiness, you may not get there. But if your goal is to make your mate happy, you might be well on your way. God can use that kind of selfless stuff to make you holy, which will feel very satisfying to your soul. Happiness (or joy) is a by-product of seeking holiness. Remember when we talked about abiding and how that would cause us to bear fruit? Well, I guess you know what the fruit is, right? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
Those fruit sound appetizing to me, but they come only from making deliberate choices to serve another and not self.  I’m going to assume they sound pretty appetizing to you, too, but I can promise you won’t achieve them by merely wanting them.
I’d like to lose ten pounds. Reading the diet book and understanding the exercise program is the easy part. I can do that with a bag of chips in my hand. I can even agree that those two things would be beneficial to enact in working toward my weight loss goal.  I can even want it intensely. But all of these, even when added together, are not enough to get me to my goal.
I have to employ them. I have to actually do it. I’m not suggesting you muster up the strength to do all the things you know to do in your marriage from somewhere deep within.  I’m asking you to abide in Christ, cling to Him, trust Him with your marriage, your attitudes, your behavior, your past habits that need a shift, and your mate.
Forget the feeling. You have to make a commitment. One to press in to Jesus like never before in this area of your life with the expectation that God will change you (not your spouse). Then bear the fruit that will inevitably be produced by the Holy Spirit within. It’s gonna make you feel great.

Take Home: Do you need a new strategy? Can you press in to Jesus and rest? Do you trust the results to Him?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No Such Thing As a Fair Fight

You know why we fight? Because we have an agenda and that agenda is threatened. We fight because it appears likely that we might not get our way.
That’s it. The only reason we fight is to get our way.  (Aren’t you glad you’re not paying for this?)
I can’t remember the last time Mike and I had a fight. I’m not bragging. Really. I’m just as amazed as you are. We used to be good fighter and get lots of practice. We even did it in front of others.
But somewhere along the line, we outgrew it. Pretty simple, huh? We just outgrew it.
That’s what happens when you both are growing in Christ, getting better at and stronger in living the crucified life.  It begins to show up in your life in very practical ways.
Dead people can’t fight.
I don’t really know how or when it happened for us because it wasn’t a huge milestone. It just happened slowly over time. Like I said, it was just a by-product of daily growth in Christ.
And now, since it’s been so long, when the opportunity presents itself, one of us takes a pass. You know how you do that? You back down. You step away from the cliff. You just stop going there because you’ve been at peace for long enough to realize it’s a much better place and you just don’t want to go there anymore.
I think it’s a little bit like heaven in that once you’ve been there, you won’t really want to go back.

So go ahead. Kiss fighting goodbye. Even making up is over-rated. Why not try the no-fighting life. I imagine it will work if you both decide to go for it. You’ll be glad you did.
Take Home: Do you think not fighting is possible in your marriage?
What will it take for you two to get there? Are you willing to take those steps?

Monday, October 17, 2011

No Contest

Our family is reading Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman together at dinnertime. We rarely get through a chapter without feeling conviction, seeing some aspect of scripture in a brand new light, or making it through the personal testimonies attached to each chapter without a shed tear or two. Chapter 4 explores the time Jesus turned to a crowd and asked, (v 26) “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
Clearly Jesus isn’t asking anyone to hate. That would obviously contradict his other teachings. We’re even called to love our enemies, let alone those we hold dearest. So what was this all about?
Let me paraphrase how Idleman explains it in the book.  
Pretend there is a race for your affections. At the starting block are Jesus, your mom, your brother, your wife, and your baby chick that you protect with every fiber of your being. You might think you are in good standing with Jesus as long as He wins the race. He is clearly your top priority over all the other lesser (but still priority) relationships you have.
But Jesus is telling the crowd that if there is a race for your affections (and there is), He wants to be the only contender. In other words, every other very important relationship for you is like a hate relationship when compared to your exceeding love for Him.
Jesus should be so esteemed that when Jesus enters the race, every other competitor immediately becomes a spectator.
That’s how Jesus defines his relationship with you. It’s also happens to be what He expects from you. This is the definition of abiding in John 15 we looked at yesterday.




 Take Home: Is your mate competing with others for your affections?

Are you beginning to understand what cleave means? (Hint: It’s a bit more radical than you might have thought at the altar. After all, the altar is a place of sacrifice.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to Win a Fight

It’s an age old question: fight or flight. When you’re feeling threatened, do you stand your ground and fight or do you retreat? Might I suggest that neither is the best answer?
We’ve already established that our marriages are a picture of Christ and the church, so let’s look at what Jesus says about our relationship to Him and then see what light it can shed on our marriages.
In John 15, Jesus uses metaphor to define our relationship to Him and how we are to interact with him. He says He is the vine and we are the branches.  Our job is to abide in him. It means to remain, to tarry, to stay present.  Verse five tells us that if we abide, we will bear fruit.  To bear means to carry a burden, to uphold, to bring forth. We do not produce the fruit, Christ does.  We are just allowed to be the vehicle through which God delivers his bountiful fruit to the world.
He tells us these things so that we can have joy (verse 11).  All this happens in order that the Father be glorified (verse 8).  If we abide, we will bear fruit. It will bring us joy and God glory.  And it’s all couched in love. The word abide is used 10 times in this passage, bear, 7 times, and love 9.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”  ~John 15:16-17.


So what does this mean to a godly marriage? It means when the going gets tough, the tough abides. It will bring joy to us and glory to God. When it’s tough and you feel threatened, there’s no need to fight for your way or run away. The answer is in clinging to our source, abiding and bearing in the midst of our love for one another.
Take Home: When things get tough, what do you do? Flee? Fight? Abide?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the Way

We had been in the car for nine hours already and the sun was setting on the day Mike’s dad had a massive heart attack and dropped dead before he knew what hit him.  Noelle was four months old and tired of being strapped in her car seat. I would not let her out, and she would not stop screaming. The last hour in the van towards clinging together in order to let go was an agonizing standoff. We were tired, we were grief-stricken, and we just wanted to be there already. We couldn't bring ourselves to pull over when we were so close to our destination.
Ever felt like that when it comes to the return of Jesus? Are you tired of making marital mistakes and striving toward the ever-elusive perfect? Do you ever just want Him to hurry up and get here already?  It will be the final act in the Divine Romance.


This earthly marriage sometimes feels like intermission, but it’s not. Instead it’s a mission, and every moment counts because we don’t know when that final act will begin. We can't pull over and stop now that we're so close to our destination.


Jesus knew the feeling, and that his disciples would feel it too.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fahter’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, and where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way…”    ~John 14
Take Home: When you are weary, do you look for the way in Jesus?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Til Death Do Us Part

One lifetime's not long enough. It's what I tell him now. I've thought much about what life would be without him. He's almost left me for heaven too many times.

There was a nasty bout with pancreatitis mid-twenties and a relapse a few weeks later that boomeranged us back to the ER and another hospitalization. Our mid-thirties uneathed a cancer diagnosis that ran wild amongst a wiley second grader and two pre-schoolers. It was a touch-and-go month of hospital beds I prayed would not be a deathbed. Never mind the actual treatment that half kills.

And in those eleventh hour vigils enveloped by the organic smell of infirmity and strangled fear, I planned. I thought of mortgage payments and college tuition, a late start career and single motherhood, and made a morbid plan.

How would I live without him? 

And my thoughts were pragmatic because the practical was urgent and I couldn't bear the sentimental. But he is more than his paycheck, his stern daddy voice, and horsey rides for a house full of three-feet-tall laughter.

And I think of these things now, while he's healthy and lingers longer with me. He winks when no one watches, and for a moment, although we're five, it's just he and I hanging by a glance in mid-air. I hear him breathe life's rhythm beside me, steady and quiet through the nights. He hugs from behind when I'm anchored to a sinkful of suds, and I feel his palm on my middle holding me strong. I am filled when he eats from my dishes and am heady with the smell of him is in my sheets.

These are the things that make me know two things for certain when two-become-one are finally parted by death.  I will be but half, and one lifetime will have not been near enough.


Take Home: Are there defining moments in your marriage that caused you to take stock and stop taking your mate for granted?

 {A repost}

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So Many Reasons Why

So we represent Christ's love
in everything we do.
From the mundane to the marvelous,
our lives are supposed to proclaim Christ.
When you review your marriage and life, what do you see?
It should be Jesus,
and that should be reason enough,
 but God often gives us even more reasons
to do a great job in our marriages.


I have three.
And in about ten years I'd like nothing more
 than to have a few grand–er reasons.


Another reason?
I've invested more than half my life in time, effort, late nights,
conversation, prayer, working it out, saying I'm sorry,
forgiving, making it right, going gray, getting fat,
vacations, learning to ski, duets, phone calls,
wet beds, swimming, getting lost, funerals,
bike rides, graduations, births,
 travels to foreign countries,
early mornings, worries, lean times, holidays,
 cancer, slammed doors, fever, new life in Christ,
and tears on the front porch steps together holding hands.


I count it a privilege to continue for a lifetime.
In fact, I've been known to say
one lifetime's not long enough.

Count your reasons.

They're all — all of them — worth getting it right.


31 Days Family from Dawn Gonzalez on Vimeo.
{This post contains a video, in case you're reading in email or a reader.}

Take Home:
Is your family's past and future worth it?
(It is to Jesus.)

Lyrics:
Do They See Jesus In Me

Is the face that I see in the mirror
the one I want others to see?
Do I show in the way that I walk in my life
The love that You've given to me?
My heart's desire is to be like You
In all that I do, all I am

Do they see Jesus In me?
Do they recognize Your face?
Do I communicate Your love, and Your grace?
Do I reflect who You are
In the way I choose to be?
Do they see Jesus In Me?

It's amazing that you'd ever use me
But use me the way You will
Help me to hold out a heart of
compassionate grace
A heart that Your spirit fills
May I show forgiveness and mercy
The same way You've shown it to me

Now I want to show all the world who You are
The reason I live and breathe
So You'll be the One that they see
When they see me


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ultimate Analogy

God makes an analogy with marriage, too.  Let’s look at it.
It really begins at the beginning of chapter 5 of Ephesians with “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma … .” Then Paul digresses into some other (important) stuff, and then picks back up with his beginning ideas with some instructions for wives, and then some for husbands and ends with this at the end of verse 29–32: "…just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.  … and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."   (emphasis added.)


You know what God intends for our marriages? That they look like Jesus’ love for the church that involved selfless sacrifice to rescue the damsal in distress.  The husbands get to portray Jesus, and the wives get to portray the church, the bride of Christ.
Even in the bible, it’s a lot like a fairy tale. There’s a hero Prince Charming who rides in on a white horse,  saves the day, and gets the girl. Riding off into the sunset is the abundant life we get right now and when we reach the horizon, there is a castle in a paradise called Heaven.
There really is happily ever after. And our earthly marriages are supposed to demonstrate that reality every day until He comes (again) to save the day and get the girl and ride off into the sunset.
Our marriages are supposed to be about God and the future oneness we will experience with Him in a way that is more complete than just merely having the Holy Spirit reside within (as if that isn’t already enough.)
But that’s just who God is. He gives good gifts, and He gives them lavishly and endlessly upon his Bride. Because his love is a jealous love and an extravagant love, and a perfect love that casts out fear.
It’s a love that is patient, and kind, and not boastful or envious. It is not proud or provoked. It does not act unbecomingly or selfishly. It doesn’t keep score (I guess because we’re on the same team and the devil is defeated). His kind of love for his bride bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things. It never gives up or caves in. His love never fails. He loves us happily ever after.
God is our hero and loves us with an everlasting love and don’t you want to be a part of that?!
We husbands and wives get to perform the starring roles and attract an audience to come to the show and hope beyond hope and prayer beyond prayer that they, too, will come to participate and not just be spectators.
We in our marriages are supposed to be a spectacle, center stage, that is romantic and woos people to Jesus and salvation and toward happily ever after and after and after and even after that without end.  We have a very important job as joint–heris of Christ as husbands and wives.  It’s really not about us after all. We get top billing in order to tell the gospel story and bring all honor and glory to Him.

It’s about Jesus and the passionate love that drove Him to a despicable cross in order to rescue fallen us from the bonds of wicked sin so that we could be completely forgiven and know his gift of grace and wear his royal robes and ring, and belong to Him and be one with Him.
You, husband, were worth it. You, wife, were worth it.  He doesn’t then put us on the shelf as a trophy to look good. He places us by his side to be co–regent and co–laborer to declare his goodness and his endless mercies and to summon every other subject of fallen humanity to the throne of grace and receive sonship into his kingdom.
Take Home: Why on earth would we bicker pointlessly about what role we have to play, or anything for that matter, when we should be spending our time on earth pointing to Christ with the roles we get to play?
Is your marriage about you or Jesus Christ?

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