Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

How One Amazing Couple Found Their Mission

Auston and Ashton Samuelson lived in California in a city where there was a high concentration of homeless persons. God gripped their hearts in a distinctive way. They felt convicted to do something and began to work with their local Union Rescue Mission. 

The thought first came to Austin when he voiced to Ashton, “What if there was a restaurant that donated a meal for every meal purchased?” They concluded that someone should do just that.

Two years later, the Samuelsons began Tacos 4 Life, a restaurant that provides a meal to families in need for every taco purchased. Tacos 4 Life are now located in Arkansas, Texas and North Carolina with multiple locations. They have supplied more than 13.8 million meals for needy children and families. 

This is just one story of one couple finding their co-mission in marriage, something they were both passionate about, felt called to by God and then walked it out in a practical way. If you are married, what is your marriage mission? Every married couple needs to know why they are married. It’s a simple question, but sometimes a missing ingredient in marriage. 

Your marriage mission is the glue of why you are called together. Maybe it’s a business or a small group that you lead together. Maybe it’s serving at your local shelter or maybe it’s praying for your neighbors and inviting them to your home for hospitality. There can be multiple missions found within your marriage call. Those missions speak to purpose and answer the “why” of your commitment together.

You can start by writing down everything that you do, everything that you prioritize in your lives. Then include what would you like to do, what you dream about doing together. Write that down. Take those things and begin to create a marriage mission statement/paragraph for yourselves. You’ll be glad you did.

One couple we know placed their marriage mission statement on the mantle of their fireplace for all to see. It’s a daily reminder of why they are married–for them, for their children and for anyone who enters their home..

Standard
Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Latrodectus Mactans (Black Widow)

There is a black lady wearing a red colored hourglass on her back. She’s experiencing her wedding night and her husband has displayed a bit of machoism while she dances for him. She longs for a family. So, when the lovemaking is complete between the two and she is convinced that she’s pregnant, she plunges a dagger of poison into her groom, only to then consume her husband’s body. 

Gross you say? Yes, but very real in the life of a female black widow spider. You now know why she’s called the black widow. That’s also a name we ascribe to women who kill their husbands. 

Were you aware that women are guilty of 41 percent of spousal homicides? That figure is far higher for women than men. The reasons are primarily related to some form of abuse. 

Female Black Widow

Further, the highest statistics of murder among teenage boys is when they end the life of their mother’s abuser, typically a live-in boyfriend. Abuse has devastating effects on the family, the community and the society. The cost of abuse with medical bills, trials, incarceration and family poverty will extend into the tens of thousands of dollars per family unit. 

But abuse costs far more than dollars. It causes emotional and spiritual damage. It damages marriages and the children with scars that can last a lifetime. Abuse can be blatant causing a black eye or broken ribs or it can be subtle, breaking the emotional fortitude and will of another. Abuse can occur when one withholds financial provision from another or when one constantly puts their spouse down with derogatory comments. 

Like the dance of the black widow spider, abuse waits to strike at the most vulnerable times. It can be a family’s best kept secret slowly drawing the life out of each and every member. It can cause family members to give up, become depressed or hopeless that life will ever change for them. 

Quite often, the sin of abuse follows to the third and fourth generation (Dueteronomy 5:9). It becomes a generational sin. The very thing a child hates his father for is the very thing he becomes and the cycle of abuse continues. Why? 

Here’s an answer: perhaps not the only one, but an accurate, vital one. Ephesians five reveals this answer when it states, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church…to present her…as radiant. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

He who loves his wife, loves himself. How could one possibly abuse the one they are called to love as Christ loved? One answer: self-hate. Abusers hate themselves and out of that self-hate they hurt and abuse others. There is a way to end this cycle and that answer is found in the book of Galatians. 

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) Jesus took the curse of abuse on the cross and died to break its power and ability to follow in the family line. 

If you have never prayed this verse over yourself and broken off the curses from past generations, do so today. There is nothing more vital than the cleansing of the blood of Jesus.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Experiencing a Lack of Sexual Intimacy in our Marriage

Sex is a gift given to marriage by God. We dream about it before marriage and fight off every urge during engagement. We can barely keep our hands off of each other. Saying “I do” should not disrupt this godly desire.

However, so many marriages are sexually starved today. And because sexuality is about intimacy, that also means, in many cases, intimacy is missing. 

Intimacy is about friendship, communication, laughter, emotional closeness and fun together. It’s about holding hands, saying “I love you” and still kissing one another goodnight. But when sexual intimacy leaves a marriage, so do many of the intimacies mentioned above.

Why? There are any number of reasons. Just to mention a few: business; anger; withholding love; not sharing deeply; criticism; control and others. One area that I have often heard in the counseling office is that the partner with the lower sex drive actually controls what happens or does not happen in the bedroom. 

Every day couples make decisions about finances, the children, their jobs, ministry, the bills, the house but they’re not discussing their sexual lives. It’s either controlled by one or somehow has become off limits and you know not to bring it up. Your sex lives as a married couple are not to be controlled by one of you–that’s unhealthy to any marriage. In fact, unilateral decisions of any kind can affect your marriage negatively.

When one partner has to lie in bed night after night dealing with rejection, the silent treatment or a nightly headache, that partner is also wondering what is wrong with them. They are wondering why their life mate is not attracted to them. The human soul needs to connect relationally and within marriage that same soul needs the sexual intimacy factor so there is not a repeated disconnect.

Too often in this area of marriage one partner is only thinking of themselves, their desires and their feelings. They’re thinking, “I’m not in the mood” or “Do I really want to take the time it takes?” or “I’d rather just go to sleep.” Have you stopped to think about your partner, their thoughts and their desires?

If one of you is being vulnerable enough to discuss these issues in marriage, it is time to listen. Do not become defensive or push them away. Be there for one another. Listen without defensiveness. Have it on your heart to serve one another. 

And here’s a secret. Even when it is inconvenient or you’re not in the mood, initiating lovemaking can take you there. And when you experience a wonderful time together you’ll be closer, talk more and experience more intimacy in every area of your relationship. 

This act of love given to us by our heavenly Father is a recipe for a closer, healthier, deeper appreciation that builds a greater desire to meet the needs of the one you are one with.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Help! I’m Married to Someone Who is Opposite of Me!

Do you see yourself as different or opposite from your spouse? Welcome to everyone’s world!

Let me provide for you a window into our early marriage.

Steve, loved to go to bed late. Mary, loved to go to bed early.

Steve, loved to have a devotional time in the evening. Mary, loved to have a devotional time in the morning.

Steve’s into trying new things. Mary, sticking with what works.

Mary, no debt is good debt. Steve, good debt is investment.

Mary, loves to give. Steve, loves to save.

Steve, embracing change. Mary, change comes more slowly, purposefully.

Steve, face the conflict. Mary, conflict is to be avoided.

Mary, everyone is a friend. Steve, friends are selected through trust over time.

You get the picture; we’re different. But here’s the thing about that difference, neither way is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is when we attempt to change our spouse to be more like ourselves because we’re “right.”

Social scientists tell us it takes five to seven years for a marriage to “settle.” I would define settling as becoming mature enough to no longer try to change my spouse but rather to embrace them for who they are and for how God created them. 

You see, maturity helps us to understand we need that difference in our lives.  Yes, we fight and argue about it initially (immaturity), but when the revelation hits us, we soon discover that we are far more powerful, far more rounded, far more complete together than separate, embracing our differences. 

Too often the thought is, “We’re just too different to continue this marriage.” The fact is, God brings to you the person who is not like you so that you can grow and change and then discover how you are to love, respect and accept this person.

Unfortunately, too many persons, husbands and wives, think that power and control can force change for the better. Power and control will never provoke change for the right reasons because a spirit of power and control will also need the threat of negative consequences. The spouse who threatens causes more anger in the relationship.

Love and acceptance sees the difference as a good challenge. Then it sounds something like this: Mary is Steve and Steve is Mary because Steve and Mary need the differences the other brings to the relationship. 

This perspective will cause us to focus on the strengths in our spouse’s life rather than the weaknesses. This perspective will help us to walk in humility knowing we need what our spouse brings to the marriage. This perspective also helps us to not see our spouse as the one who holds us back but rather the one who provides the appropriate caution or pause. And this perspective is going to bring a healthy balance and sometimes compromise to who we are and to who we are becoming.

Today, almost 48 years later, things look a little different.

Steve likes to go to bed early and so does Mary.

Mary loves early morning devotions and so does Steve.

Steve and Mary embrace change together.

Mary’s love of giving has won over Steve.

Mary embraces investment even with some risk and Steve smiles.

Everyone loves Mary more than Steve because Mary is still everyone’s friend.

Steve is more selective about addressing conflict and Mary still dislikes it.

But the greatest of these is love.

Standard
Challenge, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

God’s Creative Plan Vs. the Counterfeit

God’s plan has always been that sex remains within the boundaries of marriage. Many years ago, I heard someone say that God’s creative plan also has a counterfeit: sex before the commitment of marriage and no sex afterward. 

So, who actually enjoys the best sex and the most sexual frequency? There was an interesting book some years ago called, The Case for Marriage. The authors (Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher) stated, “Married people have both more and better sex than [sexually active] singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally.”

If that’s true, why is it true? They state four reasons: proximity – a long-term contact with greater investment – exclusivity, a mutually agreeable sex life and emotional bonding – caring for one another outside the bedroom. I would add to that list: knowing each other – likes dislikes and how to serve one another in the bedroom along with the fact that it is the safest sex. Sexual encounters are dangerous encounters. They may be full of excitement initially, but they can be full of worry and anxiety thereafter.

What are some reasons as to why sexual intimacy is inhibited? Well, here are a few:

  • Over scheduling and self-depletion
  • Lack of communication
  • Selfishness, not serving one another
  • The lack of non-sexual touch
  • Pornography
  • Not planning intimacy
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unresolved conflict
  • Not connecting spiritually
  • Not respecting each other
  • Not maintaining your attractiveness
  • The lack of affirming and complementing each other
  • A history with “intimacy anorexia”*

What will actually build intimacy?

  • Praying together
  • Sharing the workload at home
  • Date nights
  • Weekends away
  • Reading helpful books
  • Seeking counsel
  • Nonsexual touch
  • Communicating the desire
  • Scheduling sex

Scheduling sex? Yep! We schedule every other life event; why not develop a schedule for intimacy? A schedule helps us to prepare mentally. It helps us to not have our intimacy stolen from us. It helps us to connect and to keep at bay those small arguments that can turn into something larger. Sex is a gift from our Creator and it’s given by Him only to the husband and wife to enjoy. 

*A term Dr. Doug Weiss coined. It is defined as the active withholding of intimacy to one’s spouse.

Standard
Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Women

Lust: Men Viewing Women; Women Viewing Men

Why is it that women get blamed for causing men to lust and why is it that men are blamed for pressuring women to dress provocatively? We’ve all heard it expressed one way or another that a woman should be able to walk down the street without clothing and not catch a lustful eye or be blamed for “asking” to be attacked sexually. Of certainty, no right-thinking man wants to experience this and no self-respecting woman should even consider or desire this. 

The key words written above are “right thinking.” Regardless of how someone dresses, we are responsible for our thoughts and imaginations. We say “yes” to lust. Every excuse that men use, i.e., she chooses to dress provocatively, is just that–an excuse for a wandering and often sinful mind.

If a woman does not know who she is or whose she is and if she chooses to dress with the lust-filled attention of men in mind, then that reflects her lack of self-love and self-respect.

Either way, it is our choice to monitor our thinking and take responsibility for our choices.

With that established, we love attacking the other sex for our problems, not taking responsibility for our own fallen nature. Of course, this issue is not new. In Genesis three, the man blamed the woman and then the woman blamed the serpent for disobedience to their Creator. Taking responsibility for our own eyes seems to be something we tend to avoid when it’s easy to blame another. 

We are admonished to not be a “stumbling block” to another and we know the “lust of the eyes” to be one of the three sins that can provoke other sinful issues. (See Romans 14:13 and I John 2:16.) We crave what we cannot have. It’s a part of our brokenness and the fallen nature we walk in. There is a multibillion-dollar industry built on the lust of the flesh called pornography.

But I don’t just want to talk about the problem or simply expose it. I do believe there is an answer. That answer begins with taking responsibility for ourselves, no matter how a woman dresses or what a woman perceives that a man wants from her and other woman. 

In the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery was being stoned to death – a fatal outcome. In the New Testament, there is a much higher expectation to not even look at another with an adulterous thought. Jesus gives us a higher goal to reach than the Old Testament law does. The Jesus standard is to catch the thought before it becomes an action. The reason? Jesus never looked down upon any woman or man. In His teaching there was no lesser sex; both were equally important, equally valued and equally responsible. 

Jesus is the second Adam. (See I Corinthians 15:20-22.) He is the One who broke the curse of Genesis chapter three. How do we know this? Galatians 3:13 states, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” 

We can stop blaming one another because of the second Adam, the One who came to heal us of our lustful nature, redeem us from the curse of the law by dying a curse for us. He has come to heal the lust of the eye and the pride of life that so easily entangles us.

Standard
Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Singles, Women

Boundries for Our Marriage

Leaders often ask my wife and I about boundaries in marriage and it truly is an important question. With the help of others, I took some time to list those boundaries in this blog for you. My desire would be that they are helpful guidelines for you and your spouse as you think about boundaries and integrity within your own relationship. 

Priority number one is daily time with God. We also have a devotional time as a couple nightly.

We practice doing our best to go to bed together and not getting in the habit of watching TV all evening.

We are careful about the number of evening meetings during the week.

We pray about and are careful about the number of requests to say “yes” to, e.g., boards, parachurch ministries, clubs, school board, township meetings, political office, etc. While all of these can be great, they can also rob us of valuable time together.

We work hard to not allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from us.

We do our best to eat dinner together. This was especially important when our children were at home with us.

We could not meet with or relate to everyone as they saw their need. We learned to say “no” so we could say “yes” to the relationships we felt were most important.

We committed to take a weekly sabbath and family day for down time, rest and play.

We take time in prayer together each morning for our family and others on our heart.

We judiciously engage in time to cover schedules, keeping one another abreast on daily whereabouts and always letting our spouse know if we’ll be later than planned.

I committed to not traveling in ministry/work away from the family for more than 7-10 consecutive days. While away, I would check in frequently with my wife.

When possible, take a traveling friend or mentor if your spouse is not traveling with you.

When in another nation or area, being careful to not travel alone, tour alone or place oneself in any possible vulnerable situation. 

We would take several weekends away each year as a couple. Our goal was once a quarter, but that didn’t always materialize, especially with a young family.

We dated our children. They had individual time with parents, and in that way they understood their parents going on a date. 

Since our children are raised, we take a week of vacation together every year.

Both of us remain accountable to our direct overseers. I meet monthly while my wife meets two times per year. 

Taking a two-month long sabbatical every seven years was life-giving to me, our marriage and family along with refreshment and refocus for my work.

I guard my heart and mind with internet use, TV and movies. I practice zero tolerance with pornography and the like.

As a pastoral counselor doing individual counseling with someone of the opposite sex, I required the counselee to have a friend, an overseer or accountability partner with them.

I try to be extremely wise and careful about riding in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex or being in a public place (restaurant) alone.

I am cautious about praying alone with someone of the opposite sex because of the intimacy of prayer.

What would you add to this list? Please find your personal boundaries and at the same time find accountability and integrity within your lifelong marriage relationship.

Standard
Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Cracks in Your Foundation

Foundations hold buildings upright. Foundations go deep into the soil below frost lines. Foundations are necessary in buildings, in family relationships, in work places, in communities and in marriages.

Good foundations keep the forces of nature from creating catastrophic damages to structures and those structures keep people safe. Foundations help set direction and establish capacities. You need a strong foundation for your marriage and your family. 

Marriages that begin on faulty foundations like living together, lying about former relationships, hiding sin or hiding debt will most assuredly face major challenges in the early years. 

What is one practical, real-life item that will keep your marriage and family foundation strong? 

                                                                    INTEGRITY

Integrity helps build a high capacity, low stress and highly successful relationship foundation to marriage. One lie, one close to the truth statement or one compromise can begin to cause cracks in your foundation. Once a crack begins, it tends to become worse and eventually compromises the whole foundation. You can place temporary fixes on the cracks, but they will ultimately weaken.

To see all that God has for you and your relationship, each and every crack must be thoroughly repaired to a noncompromising state. In order to enjoy the blessings of God upon your family, you’ll need honest confessions and then forms of care for healing.

Good foundations in marriage allow for the growth of integrity, the forgiveness of when we do it wrong and the hope for a better future. Maintaining a good foundation means maintaining one’s integrity in all things without compromise. 

Tell the truth, confess your fault, stay humble, forsake pride and walk in honesty before your God and life mate.

Standard
Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

National Divorce Day?

Did you know that “national divorce day” is the first working Monday of the year? Divorce attorneys report the highest incidents of divorce filings occur on that day.

Once the papers are signed, they can now go on with their lives. It’s easily accomplished with a small, very small printed newspaper article declaring publicly a divorce granted and legally filed in the county courthouse. The “I do” has effectively turned into “I don’t.” Their homes are separate; their children have two beds and two dressers.

In this couple’s mind, it is the end of arguments, trying to get along, counseling and late night, knockdown, drag out, heated disagreements. It is the end of trying to make decisions together. It is the end of needing to consider the other in any and every decision. They also think it’s the end of hurtful, emotionally charged words and sarcasm. And no more ridiculous faces of disgust to look at.

But it’s not over! It’s never over as long as the two shall live. The kids will go back and forth and it will take an inordinate amount of communication. The lack of attention to detail and facts concerning any relational connection will still be present. There will still be the unkind words and demeaning facial expressions. Anger will be present and it will cause further heated discussions over kids, over activities or weekends and over money.

Still present will be the emotional upheavals, tears and ongoing loss. Holidays will be especially difficult and extended family will suffer as well. 

Then, just imagine bringing new dating relationships into this mix. It is a scheduling nightmare day in and day out. Children crying and saying, “I want to go to mommy’s house.” Parents crying and trying to bring some kind of new normal to their children. More counseling. More doctor visits because of more stress. More stress because at the end of the day it’s all up to you. There is no longer a spouse to lean on and to share the load. Your life is so totally different you barely recognize it. 

You’re single again. What does that even mean, look like, feel like? You’re not 19 or 20 years old. Wow, how life has drastically changed!

No wonder God stated in His word how much He hated divorce (Malachi 2:15, 16). He knew how destructive it would be. He knew how difficult and hard on a family it would be. And He knew the brokenness involved in each and every divorce. Being alone again is no dream-filled panacea. Not every relationship can be repaired or even should be, however; it sure is worth trying and praying toward that end.

Standard
Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Men, Parents

Your Father’s Faith and Christmas

Did you have a father that passed on his faith to you? If so, you were one of the blessed ones. There is no perfect dad, but if you had a dad that shared the Christian faith with you, taught you to pray, taught you God’s word and walked his talk, you were blessed beyond measure. 

Dad’s want to see their children smile and laugh as they open their well thought out Christmas gifts. Perhaps they saved all year in order to purchase that bike or doll house. Maybe they sacrificed and went without something for themselves just so their son or daughter could be blessed with the gift of their dreams. Dads and moms want to bring joy to their children, especially at Christmas time. 

Christmas is also a time to remember those who are less fortunate. Perhaps you filled one of those Christmas boxes as my wife did and were excited about Samaritan’s Purse distributing it to a needy child. Or maybe you are going caroling with your small group to the elderly neighbor who has few visitors. Perhaps you bake cookies and give them to your friends and neighbors, letting them know how much you appreciate them.

Whatever the season brings, it’s a time to think of others who are going through a difficult period. Did you ever hear this story from Senator John McCain’s book, “Faith of My Fathers”?

On Christmas Day, we were always treated to a better-than-usual dinner. We were also allowed to stand outside our cells for five minutes to exercise or to just look at the trees in the sky. One Christmas, a few months after the gun guard had inexplicably come to my assistance during my long night in the interrogation room, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw him approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me. Again he didn’t smile or look at me. He just stared at the ground in front of us. After a few moments had passed he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together. But he never said a word to me nor gave the slightest signal that he acknowledged my humanity.

We have so much to be grateful for. Remember those who protect you and keep you safe, those who deliver your mail, those who remove your trash, those who teach your children and those spiritual leaders who pray for you. It is a season of giving because God gave His Son to you. 

Draw a cross in the dirt (or the snow) and let your light shine.

Standard